Essential upgrades for Windows XP

For those about to upgrade to Windows XP: We salute you. Seriously, if you have questions about what this next OS from Redmond will require, Steve Pittsley has you covered.

A new operating system requires a new computer system, right? That’s sure what the manufacturers want you to believe. In reality, however, computer systems that were designed as higher-end Pentium III configurations should be able to run Windows XP with little or no modification. While the performance of these older systems will suffer when you load Windows XP, you can rest assured that your newer Pentium III system will be able to handle the latest and greatest operating system that the folks from Redmond will soon be offering. This Daily Feature will help you plan by showing you what the hardware requirements will be for Windows XP when it is released.

The processor requirements for Windows XP
When discussing hardware requirements, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the microprocessor. This makes sense because if the system’s CPU doesn’t meet the minimum requirements set forth by the software vendor, your only option is to replace it, which might also require a new motherboard. This oftentimes leads you to wonder whether it’s more cost-effective to purchase a new computer system or simply upgrade the motherboard and processor. The answer to this question is purely personal, although I always love a reason to buy a new high-end system.

There is no doubt that having a top-flight system will enable Windows XP to give you outstanding performance. However, you can get decent performance from a high-end Pentium II computer. Microsoft’s main processor requirement for Windows XP is that its clock speed be no less than 233 MHz.

While this means that you could install Windows XP on your Pentium II 233-MHz system, I don’t recommend doing so. Microsoft recommends that you use a computer system with a processor that is at least 300 MHz, but I recommend that you use one that is no less than 500 MHz. This 500-MHz minimum recommendation is especially important if you want to use an older system such as an Intel Celeron or AMD K6.

RAM and Windows XP: A match made in heaven
As you already know, adding more memory to your computer system will usually enhance its performance. Microsoft recommends that, to run Windows XP, your computer system should have no less than 128 MB of RAM, although the minimum amount that is required by the new operating system is only 64 MB. I consider both of these amounts low and recommend that your system have at least 256 MB of RAM. Windows XP sports some outstanding features, and to take advantage of them, your system will need a lot of RAM.

A year ago, RAM prices were rather high and upgrading your system’s RAM would have cost you approximately $1 per megabyte. Since then, the stock market has collapsed and the price of RAM has never been lower. Upgrading that computer under your desk to 256 MB of RAM should now cost you well under $100. Even if you have a brand-new system that uses DDR RAM, you should be able to find a 256-MB module for less than $100. At these prices, RAM should not be an obstacle when you want to upgrade to Windows XP.

Wrap up
The rest of the Windows XP hardware requirements should not present much of a problem. Your hard drive must have a minimum of 1.5 GB of free space. The video adapter must be Super VGA or better and be capable of displaying resolution of at least 800x600. And, finally, your computer system must have a CD-ROM or DVD drive.

I’ve been using Windows XP for a couple of months now, and my AMD Athlon 1-GHz system has run well with the new operating system. When you are looking for a new system that will be compatible with Windows XP, make sure that it is compliant with Windows 2000. Until the Windows XP-ready systems are made available, you should look for the Windows 2000-compatible sticker. If you purchase one of these systems, your hardware needs should be satisfied when you decide to take the plunge and upgrade to Windows XP.

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