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Vista on a budget

There's no need to spend hundreds on a new PC to enjoy Vista. Your current system should be more than capable – and a simple upgrade could make it even more so.

This article appears in the December 06 issue of PC Advisor. Available now in all good newsagents.

Should you upgrade your current system or buy a brand new one? It's a question everyone should ask when it's time for a refresh, but I wonder how many people seriously consider both options. My suspicion is that most take the easy – and more expensive – route and buy a new computer. We hope to challenge that in the December 06 issue of PC Advisor.

Upgrading one or more of the components in your PC needn't be a major headache. It's an option that more people than ever should look at over the coming weeks with the release of Vista just around the corner.

You've probably read so much about the captivating Aero user interface, the promising Windows Defender security tool and the strategically placed Sidebar during PC Advisor's Vista coverage that they seem a bit old hat now. You've heard it all before – and Vista's missed several release dates before, so why get excited this time?

Well, the Microsoft executives I've spoken to over the past month were extremely confident that the product would be ready to launch to businesses in November and to the rest of us in January. This means that for the first time in the long history of Vista you finally have a decision to make: should you switch to the OS? And if so, when and how?

Anyone using a Windows XP machine can carry on doing so for several years before Microsoft's support runs out, but the temptation to join the brave new world of Windows wizardry will be with you every time you switch on your PC. And Microsoft hopes to pile on the pressure with a huge marketing campaign – the cost of which will run into hundreds of millions of dollars – over the next few months.

The software giant expects to shift 200 million copies of Vista in the year after its launch. That's a lot of PCs, but it's going to be a lot of software-only upgrades, too. Many people will reject the latter, fearing that the added cleverness in Vista will run properly only if they dig deep and buy a new PC. But that's not necessarily the case for most people, particularly those who have bought a new system in the past 18 months.

This month's Get your PC ready for Vista feature saves you the bother of working out whether your PC is up to the task, outlining Microsoft's hardware recommendations, and digging a little deeper to see how restricting your system to the minimum specs will affect the new OS.

While we've angled the feature towards the hundreds of thousands of Brits expected to make the switch, it's an upgrade guide in the traditional sense, too. If you're quite happy with your current version of Windows, but fancy a bit more grunt, consider installing a new graphics card, more memory or a replacement CPU using our step-by-step advice.

If you've decided a new PC really is the best solution, take a look at our all-new PC charts categories. The charts are broken down into price-point categories. Gone are the so-called Superbudget PCs and in come sub-£500 systems and so on. The lowest price is an incredible £380 ex VAT. All but two of our lowest-price systems match Microsoft's requirements for Vista. So even if you're not planning to install it now, you could do so later on. The choice is yours.

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