Microsoft announces Vista minimum requirements

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Microsoft Corp. has launched a Web site outlining the minimum hardware requirements for the next version of the Windows OS, Windows Vista. Apple hasn't announced its intentions for Vista and Boot Camp, but preliminary indications suggest that Intel-based Macs will make the cut.

The move comes less than a week before the company will host its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle. At the show, which kicks off Tuesday, Microsoft and hardware manufacturers are expected to show how Vista will run on a variety of machines, as well as showcase add-on technology built to enhance the OS.

On the Microsoft “Get Ready” Web site, the company has outlined the requirements for running both low-end versions of Vista or higher-end versions that take advantage of the OS’s new Aero graphical user interface capabilities.

The company differentiates between the two by calling the former a “Windows Vista Capable PC” and the latter a “Windows Vista Premium Ready PC.”

Hardware requirements for a Vista Capable PC are a modern processor with a speed of at least 800MHz, 512MB of system memory and a graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.

A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC has a good deal more requirements. It must have at least a 1GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor, 1GB of system memory, 128MB of graphics memory, 40GB of hard drive capacity with 15GB free space, a DVD-ROM drive, audio output capabilities and Internet access capability.

It also needs a graphics processor that runs Windows Aero, which Microsoft defines as a DirectX 9 class graphics processor that supports a Windows Display Driver Model Driver, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware and 32 bits per pixel.

The graphics processor for Aero also must meet the following requirements for graphics memory: 64MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor less than 1,310,720 pixels; 128MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions from 1,310,720 to 2,304,000 pixels; or 256MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions higher than 2,304,000 pixels.

Windows Vista system requirements have become a matter of particular interest to Mac users since Apple released Boot Camp, a beta program that enables Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP. Apple has yet to comment on its future plans for Boot Camp, but it’s widely assumed that the software will be updated to run Vista once Microsoft releases the new operating system — enterprising users have already gotten development versions of Vista working on the Mac.

The hardware specifications outlined by Microsoft are consistent with Apple’s Intel-based Macs, however. Both ATI and Intel, who manufacture the graphics systems used in the new Intel-based Macs, indicate that their graphics hardware is Windows Vista-compatible. A Mac with upgraded RAM also falls in line with Microsoft’s specifications for a Windows Vista Premium Ready PC. Visit Macworld’s Windows on the Mac: What you need to know for more details about Boot Camp.

Microsoft began working with hardware partners several months ago to prepare customers for Vista’s release. In April, PCs with stickers saying “Windows Vista Capable” became available in stores, letting customers know what hardware can be upgraded to Vista once it is available. Microsoft does not plan to do the same with the Windows Vista Premium Ready designation, recommending customers ask a retailer or manufacturer about PCs that meet those requirements.

On the Get Ready Web site, Microsoft stressed that purchasing a Windows Vista Capable PC does not mean customers will get discount vouchers for Windows Vista. They still must purchase an edition of the OS for full price when Vista is available.

In March, Microsoft said the consumer release of Vista would be delayed until January 2007, though business customers will have access through Microsoft volume licensing to the OS before the end of the year. Since Microsoft is missing the busy Christmas holiday shopping season with Vista’s general release — which had been an important target for selling the new OS — analysts are predicting that the company may release Vista even later than January.

Peter Cohen provided information used in this report.

This story, "Microsoft announces Vista minimum requirements" was originally published by PCWorld.

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