With three versions of Windows soon to be sharing the market, PC Advisor helps you decide which one to choose.
Windows 7 specs checks
Assuming you like the sound of Windows 7, will your PC be able to run it, or will you need to budget for a new one? The system requirements for Windows 7 are around the same as those of the machines in our current Top 5 £501-£750 PCs chart (see page 134). In other words, you'll need a dual-core processor running at 1GHz or faster, but you won't need to fork out for the latest and greatest machine on the market.
To be sure your hardware will be able to cope with Windows 7, it's worth testing your PC with the Performance Monitor applet on the PC Advisor website. If you haven't already done so, you'll need to register at pcadvisor.co.uk/account/register. You need to be logged in to activate the Performance Monitor tool. If you're already a registered user on our website, log in as usual, then go to your user profile and tick the box to allow the applet to run on your machine.
Given that Microsoft made a bit of a mess of letting customers know whether their PCs would be able to run Vista, it's sensible to check your PC's capabilities. If you're a Vista user, there's a built-in tool in the OS that can assess how well your machine is running in comparison with others. Head to Vista's Control Panel and click Windows Experience Index to check whether any item is hampering your system; the feedback shouldn't be treated as gospel, but it's fairly certain that the same elements will also prove to be a bottleneck in Windows 7.
See also: Windows 7 video guide
For desktop PC users, the choice of Windows 7 is almost a given. You can opt for Vista in the meantime, either within the Express Upgrade period in the run-up to Windows 7's launch or earlier. The system requirements are less exacting than for Vista, so having a sufficiently powerful PC shouldn't be an issue unless you intend to leap from XP to Windows 7 - nonetheless, we urge you to verify whether your machine will make the grade by testing it with the PC Performance tool on our website, as mentioned previously.
Laptop users who've discovered the joy of low-power portable computing on the dependable XP Home platform don't have such a clear-cut choice, but if the rumoured netbook version of Windows 7 becomes a reality, they should also find a relatively lean and stable OS to enjoy.