Working with What You’ve Got

Security. When I hear this word it is comforting to me as it should be to you. Windows XP SP2 has been a very secure release for Microsoft. Windows Vista is touted to be the most secure release of Microsoft to date and I tend to agree.

But …

If you are thinking about rolling out Windows Vista in your corporate environment, you need to be aware of what impact and cost this will have on your company. Word on the street is that any computer you buy today will work well with Windows Vista: “well” being the key word.

As a decision maker, I am sure you do not want Windows Vista to work “well.” You want it to scream and perform above expectations. Let’s peel this onion and take a look at Windows Vista’s hardware requirements.

What it Takes

Threading or hyper-threading will allow Vista to run with greater performance. The release of Windows XP was met with huge success but very little of its operating system was threaded. With the release of Vista, threading is going to be prevalent throughout the operating system. Having a computer that can take advantage of this will improve performance but is not necessary.

Windows Vista will be much more graphic focused. Microsoft is trying to allow you to organize data visually for greater productivity. They are also trying to position the user experience to rival that of Apple OS X Tiger and who can blame them? (Personally, I love the Tiger interface.)

But, what does this mean to your company? It means that you can run Windows Vista in three different flavors: with a classic Windows XP look; with a pared down version of Aero Glass, which is Microsoft’s description of their new interface; or you can run it with all the bells and whistles because you have the appropriate hardware to support it.

Having these versions is great for the corporate environment as not everyone has a budget to upgrade and replace computers when Windows Vista ships. You can choose a look similar to Windows XP but gain the security and performance that Windows Vista has to offer.

In order to run the full graphical user experience with Vista, you are going to need at least a 128 megabyte display card; if your pockets are deep, run a 256 megabyte display card to get ideal performance.

As far as memory is concerned, you will want to have at least 2 GB of memory for a 64 bit computer running Vista or a 1 GB of RAM for a 32 bit computer.

In your corporate environment, you probably are running integrated drive electronics (IDE) hard disks with speeds of 7200 RPM and 2 MB cache. With Vista, it is recommended that you run serial advanced technology attachment (SATA) drive with a 8 MB cache and native command queuing (NCQ).

This will give your system a jolt in performance. In addition, having a DVD writable drive will be beneficial as Vista will write both DVD and CD’s without the installation of third-party products. Again, this is not necessary; your current hardware will suffice.

I believe as Windows Vista evolves, you will see some if not all of the hardware requirements change but that is understandable. What I am trying to show is that moving to Windows Vista can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be.

Decisions, decisions …

It is like building a house. You can have the bones of the house for a certain price but if you add crown molding, natural stone, etc. the price goes up. Of course all of these things are pleasing to eye but if you just want the newer construction with better efficiency it provides, the extras do not matter.

Will the house work for you without the bells and whistles? Yes, just as Vista will work for you without all of the major upgrades to hardware. Certainly, you will benefit from more memory and bigger and faster hard drives, but it really isn’t necessary unless you decide it is.

What we really want is a safer and more secure environment to feel comfortable. You can keep your current hardware and upgrade Windows XP and then choose to run either the classic Vista user interface, which looks like XP, or run a pared down version of Aero. And in the end if you have the money for the bigger Aero Glass house by all means the eye candy is certainly pleasing.

In my next column on Windows Vista, I am going to break down the proposed Windows Vista product editions so you can be informed on what edition best suits your needs.

Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group and a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, and, now, CIO Update. He the author of “The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook” and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.