Case In Point: Navigating The Upgrade Minefield

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Windows 7: Good News for Existing Systems

When Windows Vista shipped, users rapidly discovered that older systems bogged down running the new OS. They needed better graphics, or a faster CPU, or more memory. As the Vista service packs hit the street, hardware requirements eased a bit, but Vista is still something of a system resource hog.

Windows 7 is different. If you’ve built a system within the last two years or so, you don’t need to upgrade your PC hardware to run Windows 7. Period.

If your PC stretches back to the Pentium 4 / Athlon 64 X2 era, you’re probably still in good shape. Windows 7 supports platform technologies with built in drivers going back a few years. I haven’t tried to get Win7 running on an older Pentium III box, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it worked. I did install Windows 7 on a
1.6GHz Atom based system with 2GB of DDR2-667. Performance was surprisingly brisk for web browsing and light duty office use.

Where you might run into issues is if you’re still using older printers, scanners or web cams, as drivers may be hard to find. Most Vista drivers do work under Windows 7 – but I’ve run into situations where the drivers may work, but the installer package won’t run.

Still, you generally won’t have to upgrade your hardware to run Windows 7 if you have a reasonably current system. That’s a refreshing change from what happened with Vista.


Windows 7 Taskbar With Larger Preview Panes

What About 64-bit?

If you plan on moving to the 64-bit version of Windows 7, you may want more RAM if you’re currently running on 2GB, but the hardware requirements otherwise are no heavier than the 32-bit version. Even if you stick with 2GB, you should still see good performance if you don’t run a large number of simultaneous apps. You do, of course, need a 64-bit capable CPU, but those have been around for a few years now.

Moving to Windows 7 from XP

This is a tougher nut, because you will have to do a clean install. This may incur additional costs – for example, you may need to spring for the full retail version (or a full OEM version) of Win7 rather than the upgrade version. Of course, if you’re running XP on a much older system (more than three years old), it may be time to upgrade your hardware anyway. So use the excuse of moving to Windows 7 as a justification to upgrade your hardware as well. But if you’re running on XP just because you wanted to avoid Vista, and your hardware is fairly new, you probably won’t need to update your hardware.


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