We've got answers to your biggest Vista-related questions.
Should I upgrade from XP to Vista?
If your hardware isn't up to Vista's demands, you may want to wait until you buy a new PC. But if your system can handle it, consider upgrading if an elegant interface is important to you, or if you’re frustrated with XP’s security and networking features.
Which version of Vista should I get?
You definitely shouldn't get Home Basic. This version lacks the Aero interface and other features that make Vista compelling. Home Premium (around £200 for the full product) will do for most people who don’t need to connect to corporate servers. Those using their PC mostly for business will be fine with the Business edition ($199/$299 in the US). However if you want to connect to your company's servers during the day and record TV shows at night, you'll need to shell out for the top-of-the-line Ultimate (£249/£369). See www.pcadvisor.co.uk/windowsvista for up-to-date news and more of our Vista FAQs.
Should I buy a PC with Vista preinstalled or would a Vista-capable XP system with an upgrade coupon do?
Wait. While upgrading a Vista-capable machine shouldn't present any hardware problems, there may be other pitfalls. The coupon (which some manufacturers will charge you for) may not cover the version of Vista you're interested in. To get the best upgrade experience, back up your data and wipe applications off your hard drive, then reinstall them. And upgrading Windows is never fun. For more on Microsoft's coupon program, see the January 07 issue, page 30, or go to www.pcadvisor.co.uk/windowsvista.
Should I install on to a clean hard drive or simply upgrade my Windows XP machine?
Clean installs of Vista in which you first back up all your data and then wipe your hard drive or partition are much faster and less troublesome. Although you'll have to restore your data and reinstall all your applications after you finish, it's worth doing so to avoid the hassles that can crop up with upgrade installations.
Will my existing antivirus software work on Vista?
Probably not. Vista is sufficiently different from previous iterations of Windows that antivirus software written for the older versions almost certainly won’t work on it. However, all the major antivirus software vendors have announced plans for Vista-compatible versions.
I've heard all kinds of horror stories about the Windows Vista licence forcing me to buy another copy if I later upgrade my PC. Is this true?
No, it's not. Initially, Microsoft placed some pretty severe restrictions on Windows Vista usage if you upgraded your computer, but the company backed off after an outcry from hobbyists. Windows Vista licensing is now exactly the same as the system for Windows XP: you can transfer your licence to a new or rebuilt PC as often as you like, as long as you first uninstall the OS on your old system.
What if I don’t have a DVD drive? Can I still install Windows Vista?
Yes, but you'll have to request an alternative installation media from Microsoft. As we went to press, the company was still working out the exact details for this. For more about this, go to www.pcadvisor.co.uk/windowsvista for our full FAQs.
Can I back out of installing Vista?
Yes and no. If your upgrade fails (as several of ours did) Windows Vista will restore your previous Windows version automatically. But once Windows Vista is successfully installed, there is no easy way to return to your previous operating system.
If I choose the Home Premium version of Vista can I upgrade to Ultimate Edition later?
Yes. If you're using the 64bit version of the OS, you won't be able to switch to 32bit (or vice-versa) as part of the upgrade, but Microsoft plans to add a Control Panel applet that will allow you to upgrade to a more feature-rich edition of Windows Vista, using a credit card and an unlock code. Pricing and other details were still undecided as we went to press.
To get more in-depth answers to these questions, and to solve even more Vista-related queries, check out our unrivalled Vista forum at www.pcadvisor.co.uk/windowsvista and read these helpful tips and tricks (PDF).
This article appears as part of our comprehensive guide to Windows Vista in the March 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents. Click here to visit our dedicated Windows Vista forum.