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Did you know that there are as many as six different versions of Vista?
Starter Edition for third-world markets.
Enterprise Edition for the Corporate office.
Home Basic is similar to XP Home.
Home Premium includes Media Center.
Business is similar to XP Pro
Ultimate is, as it suggests, all of the above.
Here's Microsoft's upgrade info. [microsoft.com]
For those that may not want a new machine, is your XP-based machine capable of running Vista [microsoft.com]?
It's probably worth reviewing the hardware requirements for Vista [microsoft.com] before running the tool.
A Windows Vista Capable PC includes at least:
A modern processor (at least 800MHz1). 512 MB of system memory. A graphics processor that is DirectX 9 capable.
Windows Vista Premium Ready PCs
To get an even better Windows Vista experience, including the Windows Aero user experience, ask for a Windows Vista Capable PC that is designated Premium Ready, or choose a PC that meets or exceeds the Premium Ready requirements described below. Features available in specific premium editions of Windows Vista, such as the ability to watch and record live TV, may require additional hardware.
A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC includes at least:
1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor1. 1 GB of system memory. Support for DirectX 9 graphics with a WDDM driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)2, Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel. 40 GB of hard drive capacity with 15 GB free space. DVD-ROM Drive3. Audio output capability. Internet access capability.
In my experience, these minimums are really the absolute minimums to run an upgraded OS. It's really not worth skimping on processor speed or RAM.
Don't get caught out by the description of the hardware capability. A Windows Vista Capable PC will be the minimum to run Vista. A Windows Vista Premium Ready PC will give you better Windows Vista capability, including Windows Aero.
If you want to get a PC today, make sure you receive an Express Upgrade [microsoft.com] to Windows Vista. This is available from the participating manufacturers listed on the page above. Needless to say, all the majors are on there.
I hope this has helped you understand what's available for your system, or whether you whant to upgrade to get all the whiz-bang features of Vista. [microsoft.com] Happy upgrading.
Another school of thought, aside from the upgrade method, is to wait until machines with Vista installed become available. I know that a lot of the tech writers are pushing this angle. The thinking is to let other people be the guinea pigs for this new OS.
I'm of a mixed mind on this issue. I have put off hardware purchases specifically for this reason. However I do have machines that are already Vista ready, and I am seriously considering an upgrade on some of them.
The Starter Edition will only be offered in certain markets. For the majority of people here that won't even be an option.
The Enterprise Edition would be something that your corporation would be licencing from MS directly. That again wouldn't be an option for most people here.
That narrows down the selection quite a bit. The majority of the market will be looking at 4 versions of Vista.