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Microsoft’s Windows Vista comes in a variety of editions, all with differing hardware requirements. Prudent planners will use inventory tools to assess the Vista-readiness of existing PC hardware.

eWEEK Labs expects Vista to enter the enterprise mostly on new hardware that will likely be certified Vista-capable. Even so, IT managers shouldn’t let the “certified” stamp prevent existing hardware from joining the fun. Indeed, the bulk of PCs in use today are tall enough to take a ride on Vista.

Vista officially requires at least an 800MHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 512MB of system memory, a graphics system capable of Super VGA 800-by-600-pixel resolution, a 20GB hard drive with at least 15GB free, and a CD-ROM drive.

eWEEK Labs has successfully run Vista betas on PCs that didn’t meet these minimum recommended standards, but these systems won’t provide many of the Vista “experiences”—Microsoft’s somewhat breathless euphemism for new features. To use the three-dimensional-capable Aero Glass interface or the enhanced security of BitLocker drive encryption, for example, PCs will need to have advanced graphics cards and the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 1.2 chip, respectively.

To provide the full Vista experience—and to be labeled a Vista Premium PC—a system must have at least a 1GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 1GB of system RAM, a graphics card that is DirectX 9-capable with WDDM (Windows Display Driver Model) drivers and at least 128MB of graphics memory, Pixel Shader 2.0, and a 40GB hard drive with 15GB free. Vista Premium PCs also must have speakers and Internet access.

As we’ve made clear in the reviews that tracked Vista’s progress, few business users need a 3-D user interface. This leaves processor speed, hard disk free space and the amount of system RAM as the most realistic measures that IT managers should use to determine the Vista-readiness of existing PC stocks.

eWEEK Labs evaluates the final code of Vista. Click here to read what the Labs found.

Before the end of 2006, PC inventory toolmakers will be releasing new reports that IT managers can use to assess their PCs. LANDesk Software will release a service pack for its Management Suite, for example, with new reports that can process inventory data to show the readiness of PCs to run Vista. Altiris also is set to release new reports that use collected inventory data to show IT managers what—if any—edition of Vista their machines can be upgraded to.

These tools and a score of others are well-understood by IT staffers and are almost certainly a part of any managed network. If an organization does not have an inventory collection system, now is the time to implement one. It’s also a good idea to talk to IT staffers who were on board for previous Windows upgrades—ask them what strategies worked best last time around, and tell them to brush up on their migration tricks.

We also recommend that IT managers make time to review their inventory collection routines. It’s easy to drop slow-changing hardware information from regular collections, but if Vista is on your company’s horizon, it would be wise to add it back into the fold.

It’s also a good idea to dig into PC hardware lease agreements. What is the timeframe for the next refresh? What provisions have been made for in-place upgrades of newly acquired equipment from XP to Vista?

Organizations that anticipate a rapid adoption of Vista should use inventory tools now to get the most accurate picture possible of the readiness of current equipment to support a Vista upgrade.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

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