No Mary Jo, cheap PCs will run Vista!

No Mary Jo, cheap PCs will run Vista!

Summary: Any product that Microsoft brings out generates a high level of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Windows Vista (or Longhorn as it was called before that) has created a greater frenzy of FUD than any other product that I can recall. One myth that just won't seem to go away is that some sort of super PC is needed to run Vista. Garbage!

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TOPICS: Windows
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Any product that Microsoft brings out generates a high level of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  Windows Vista (or Longhorn as it was called before that) The idea that a $1000 PC won't run Vista is total nonsensehas created a greater frenzy of FUD than any other product that I can recall, probably because it's been in the development pipeline for a number of years.  The latest bit of FUD is a transcript of an IM conversation published by Mary Jo Foley (thanks to my blogging colleague Ed Bott for uncovering this one):

MR. Biz: vista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC
MR. Biz: EVER
MR. Biz: maybe a $1500 PC, but that one doesn't exist Yet
MR. Biz: there aren't cheap dual cores yet
MR. Biz: price point is still around $2000
MJF: u are right

The idea that a $1000 PC won’t run Vista is total rubbish.  The Windows Vista build 5536, the current pre-RC1 build, is a pretty good benchmark for what the Vista release will be like and that will run on PCs bought 2 to 3 years ago which cost less that $1,000 back then.  Are we to believe that PC power has gone backward in that time and that PCs are now more expensive and less powerful than in 2003/2004?  Rubbish! 

As Ed pointed out, you can go to Dell and spend under $1,000 and get a PC that is guaranteed to run Vista.  Period.  However, it did get me thinking - what's the cheapest PC that I could buy or build that would run Vista?

A few weeks back I looked at how you could build a Core 2 Duo based PC for under $1,000, and by now the prices on many of these components will have dropped a bit.  Heck, the minimum spec for Vista isn't all that high anyway, take a look at this, which is the minimum spec for a Windows Vista Capable PC:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 800MHz
  • 512MB of RAM
  • A graphics system capable of supporting DirectX 9 (SVGA 800x600)
  • 20GB hard drive (with 15GB free - don't worry though, Vista doesn't take up 15GB, it just needs that much room to install!)
  • CD-ROM drive

And here is the official spec for a Windows Vista Premium Ready PC:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 1GHz (x86 or x64)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 128MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 40GB hard drive (with 15GB free - again don't worry, that’s just the space needed for installation)
  • A DVD-ROM drive
  • Note that BitLocker Drive Encryption also needs a requires a TPM 1.2 chip or a USB 2.0 flash drive

Personally, I think that the Microsoft requirements are on the low side and I've come up with my own "unofficial minimum-spec Windows Vista Premium Ready" PC requirements:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 2.0GHz (dual-core recommended)
  • 2GB of RAM for x86 (32-bit) systems, 4GB for x64 (64-bit) rigs
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 256MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 100GB SATA hard drive, 50GB free
  • CD/DVD burner

Shopping around, it's easy to find loads of Vista Capable and Windows Vista Premium Ready PC.  Prices vary considerably (and change almost daily), but I probably wouldn't go much lower than about $699.  This would buy a Systemax Venture Intel Pentium D 840 3.2GHz with 1GB DDR2 RAM and a 320GB hard drive (plus trimmings like a DVD burner, gigabit LAN and so on).

What about a "build your own" system?  If I was building a mid-range Vista PC I'd base that around a Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU ($369), a Gigabyte 945PL-S3 motherboard ($99), a Radeon X1300 video card ($90), 1GB of RAM ($60) and a 120GB hard drive ($65).  Even with a case, PSU and other bits, it's going to come in at under $800.  For $1,000 you could build a system that really moved, while for $2,000, well, that would get you something very sweet indeed (unless you threw your money away on something like Quad-SLI). (If money is more important to you than time and you’re prepared to do the legwork researching good deals, rebates, special offers, coupons etc you could build a Vista-capable system for $500!)

Before I end, I need to say one more thing.  There’s a big difference a cheap PC and an old PC.  A lot of this Vista FUD stems from people who want to use an OS costing somewhere over $100 (upgrade price) on an old PC that is totally obsolete when compared to PCs available today. Spending that kind of money on a two to three year old PC is just crazy.  If you want to run an old PC, stick with the OS that came with it or install a suitable version of Linux (which is free to download).  Don't expect Microsoft to come up with an OS that caters for technology that's not been sold for several years because, bottom line, most of their sales come from operating systems installed on new PCs, and come January, no vendor is going to be selling PCs that won't support Vista.  The customer wants the latest OS to take advantage of the additional power and features that their new PC offers, not be designed with legacy in mind.

Topic: Windows

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51 comments
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  • Any way you look at it, you have to pay a premium for hardware to run Vista

    Yes, hardware is getting cheaper, so what you pay for Vista hardware today will be less than what you paid for XP hardware when it came out.

    But, so what, you can get hardware that runs XP (or Linux) very, very well for under 300 bucks and they do not need (or want) any more in the enterprise.

    And, I just got a $400 laptop that runs Ubuntu very, very, well. Faster, more memory, better video, larger hard drive than my last laptop that cost $850.

    So hardware prices have come down, but Vista is still a hog.
    DonnieBoy
    • Really?

      Like I said, come January, all PCs shipped by the big names will support Vista.

      "But, so what, you can get hardware that runs XP (or Linux) very, very well for under 300 bucks and they do not need (or want) any more in the enterprise."

      True, and I's sure that XP will still have a long arc beyond Vista.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Not All PCs

        This sub $100 PC http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6828123924.html will not run Vista. The Chinese Municator http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6301677114.html (Another sub 100 PC that uses the Chinese made Godson 2 chip) will not be Vista ready ever.

        Oh yes the OLPC will never run Vista either.

        BTW those two products I just pointed out cost less or just slightly more than the software upgrade price to Vista.
        Edward Meyers
        • I bet they won't run plenty of other software too ...

          Think about it, what really takes the grunt? The OS of the apps? Compare Vista to Photoshop or a video edit package or even a game (Oblivion, say) and Vista doesn't seem like much of a hog.

          Alongside the curve made by Moore's law is another curve that shows how software demands on the hardware increase as time goes on.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • The more resources the OS takes

            The less resources you have for games, video editing, or whatever.

            Vista seems like a huge hog to me compared to the alternatives. Compared to it's percieved functions, by the user, the OS will perform worse on the same hardware as XP and even worse than ME did, asuming a user had the same hardware and upgraded to all three OSes.

            However with that said the new hardware requiremnts for Vista will increase the cost of the average PC. This is a huge problem as the PC market is already saturated at the current price points, which is why all the OEMs are having rough times right now. The people currently without PCs don't see the value in purchasing one at the current price points however they may consider one if the price continued to drop, to say under $100. With Vista requiring more hardware the OEMs can not drop the price point and stay in the black.

            Companies not selling Vista ready computers, but selling computers that can still perform tasks expected of a computer (Internet surfing, Word Processing, Basic games eg; Solitare, Email, Spread Sheets, etc) can produce the computer for under $100 and still make money.

            In fact we are already seeing this with the Smart Phone/PDA Market. People who never owned PCs do own smart phones/PDAs that have traditional PC functions.

            Also FYI Moore himself has even stated that Moore's law will at some point not hold true both due to economic forces and it is impossible (At some point the speed of a computer will no longer be able to be increased).
            Edward Meyers
          • Google should sell $100 flash based internet computers based on Linux.

            No hard drive needed, with all data stored online. Would have Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Gimp, GAIM, Google Talk, Google Earth, etc, . . .
            DonnieBoy
          • Heard of eBay?

            Take your US$100 to eBay and purchase a an ex corporate IBM/Dell/HP with xp installed.

            As to the software, it's a perfect list if you really wanted no choice at all. Hell, Gimp is a crappy copy of an even crappier graphic editor and I'll only use Firefox when it can render my website correctly (no probs with IE and Opera). But I can run all that stuff on my XP computer and have the choice to choose better apps as well.

            And the day I leave critical business data stored on someone else's servers on the Internet will be when they prise my client based apps from my cold dead hands ;-)
            TonyMcS
      • You still pay a huge premium for Vista hardware. the fact that hardware

        prices have come down does not change that. I for one believe that $100 computers are more important than supporting bloated operating systems like Vista (and paying the tax to inept companies like MS)
        DonnieBoy
    • Donnie, you are grasping at straws.

      You need to simply admit you are wrong and move on.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • To simply RUN Vista

        you are correct. To milk the fullest capabilities out of Vista, the he is correct. I'm sure you can run the desktop features with full Aero on a $700 PC sold today, I mean that's just glitz and flying windows, but what happens when other apps start using the Aero interface? Adrian's estimate of 2 GB RAM for x86 and 4 GB for x86-64 starts looking about right. And to get 4 GB in a system these days you need 2 GB sticks, and those are what, about $300 per stick?

        Also remember there are a lot of OEMs who still sell systems with 256 MB of RAM. The whole lot of them should be smacked in the heads.
        Michael Kelly
        • Isn't that true of all operating systems?

          You're right - but it's been true of all operating systems. More power = Better performance.

          You're right too that Vista will be the end of the PC with 256MB or RAM - not a bad thing.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • There's a difference between

            "better performance" and "acceptable performance". Any time you're dipping deep into the swap file for day-to-day tasks that's not acceptable.

            Also it does make sense to compare it to the competition. If Vista's requirements for acceptable Aero performance are higher than OS X or *nix + XGL, then it's an issue worth discussing.
            Michael Kelly
        • They make 1GB sticks

          You write: "And to get 4 GB in a system these days you need 2 GB sticks, and those are what, about $300 per stick?"

          Um, they make 1GB sticks pretty cheaply. And just about any modern motherboard supports four slots (2 pairs of modules).

          These days a quality 1GB DDR2 SDRAM stick is about $80.

          And of course you only need 4GB if you're running 64-bit Windows. Virtually no one needs to do that yet. If you buy a PC with 1GB in it already you can pick up another GB for under $100.

          Whoops, not all that expensive, is it?
          Ed Bott
          • Actually

            A lot of OEMS are selling computers with the FlexATX and MiniITX form factors now days. These Mobos tend to only have two slots.

            Whoops have to replace the MOBO and possibly the entire computer, as an ATX Board will not fit into a FlexATX or MiniITX case- Quite expensive.

            Many states and municipalities have passed/are passing E-Waste laws that prohibit PCs from going into the landfills. Many counties and cities even prohibit households from disposing of used equipment into the landfill. Under these laws the obsolete computer equipment (E-Waste) must be disposed of as Hazardous (Very costly) or recycled (Unless it is recycled through re-use it may actually produce more toxins and use more energy to recycle than to just make a new part- not to mention it also may cost money). This kills the option, in many cases, of reuse by just upgrading the Ram and upgrading to Windows Vista. Should Recycling/Disposal cost go on all those TCO studies?

            Why do you think businesses pressured Microsoft to produce a thin client version? (You can only get that version with Software Assurance and just about every light Linux has more reported functionality).
            Edward Meyers
          • This is what . . .

            People don't seem to understand. A LOT of people own systems that will NEVER be capable of running Vista. Mine could, but when you add up what I'd have to spend to get it to the point of running Vista without a lot of slowdown, I'd be better off buying a new PC. Not a lot of people can afford this. I can't. Most people who simply use their PC's for Email, etc, will have a hard time understanding why they can't buy software for their PC's anymore. My Dad is one of those. He finally bought a new pc 2 years ago from Dell. The prior one was a packard bell running WIN98 1st ed. It wasn't until he tried to put a program on the packard bell that would let him make patterns for his woodworking, that he came to me wanting help. I ended up having to tell him that he would have to spend a minimum of $450-$600 just to buy a system that would run the program he needed.

            There was nothing wrong with his computer. It could have run the program e wanted with ease, except for the fact that it wouldn't run in 98. The company didn't even take that into account. It was a $20.00 program. BUt he ended up spend about $580 or so just so he could have XP run at an acceptable speed to him to run this progam. He could have spent a LITTLE less on the PC, but I had to tell him that he should buy something a bit more powerful, just in case . . .

            Now I have to tell him that he may have to buy ANOTHER system, just to move to Vista? Granted, he could just ignore the market and stay with what he has, but what happens when he needs another program for his hobby, and it will only run in Vista?

            I, for one, am getting more than a little tired with the tech industry telling me that I need to buy a new system every 2-3 years. I can drive a car for 10+ years without worrying that I'll need a new one every 2 years or so. My parent had a Washer (Maytag) that lasted them over THIRTY years before it finally got to where it couldn't be repaired (Dad had to replace the motor. ONCE.)
            My wife and I had a TV last us almost twenty years without any major problems with it. Why cna't they do the same with a computer?

            The answer lies, I'm afraid, in greed. At least an Apple running OSX, (which I don't own one, BTW) will be able to use the upgrade that comes out. I'm sure that their are people running an original OSX machine from when they came out that can quite happily run the latest update to their OS. Why can't MS do the same? This is one PC owner that is getting VERY TIRED of the need to buy the latest piece of equipment just to run what I need to run. . .
            jlhenry62
      • This is really quite simple, Vista PCs are cpu/memory hogs and will cost a

        lot more. Hundred dollar computers will be an important market segment in the future.

        At some point, we need to try to make a more efficient OS so that we can actually get better performance with about the same memory and processing power, at much lower price points, say $100.
        DonnieBoy
        • More efficient OS? one exists!

          "we need to try to make a more efficient OS so that we can actually get better performance "

          Actually one already exists: Linux!

          People and vendors just don't tap into that resource as much as they really need to. Especially since Linux can be slimmed down to just about anything you want it to be (commandline, low grade 2d UI [win 3.11 era], high end 2d UI [XP era]).

          Heck, people go here: http://www.mandriva.com/en/community/mandrivaone

          This ISO/CD will run the OS fully off the CD (without installing to the HD) and it runs very well on my Celeron M 1.3 ghz /256mb RAM Thinkpad right off the CD. Warning though, OpenOffice loads a tad slow due to it also running off the CD.

          Admittedly it won't have all the bells and whistles of the full DVD ISO of the distro but it does have all the main functions like Firefox, OpenOffice, thunderbird, GIMP and the like.

          It uses the KDE 3.x UI so windows users can feel very much at home.

          I've specifically followed Mandriva (formerly Mandrake) so I have a strong knowledge of it's history over the past 6-8 years and am fully aware of how easy both it and Linux are now for moderate PC users. Lighter users (they can turn it on and use solitare/Internet Explorer) can adapt as well.

          Take the plunge and give it a try! What will you lose? some network bandwidth for a few days and a >$1 CD? or if your deeply interested, a >$10 DVD?

          Also before anyone tries to flame me for being a ABM-er or a FUD spreader, I actively use Win XP on my laptops and desktop, sadly due to the fact I'M a power gamer LOL! If it weren't for that fact, I'd be using Linux almost exclusively. That and/or having VMware w/ a Windows client for the rare instance i needed it.
          Jericho_z
          • Jericho_z is right .

            Mandriva linux happens to be my first choice for a Linux Distro . It's extremely easy to use , and there are myriads of software apps that can be used on it . I prefer P.L.F. (Penguin Liberation Format} with Mandriva Linux , it's my choice . Second in line would be Kubuntu for P.P.C. All I am saying is there are choices . If you want to stick with Windows XP and not go the way of Vista , try this application at http://www.crystalxp.net/bricopack/en.htm it does not require any kind of hardware upgrade . What it will give you in turn , is the Windows Vista GUI , heck try the other Bricopacks , you can even try the Longhorn GUI . All free , compliments of the Open Source Community .
            Intellihence
  • finally, a good post about this subject

    Over last several weeks I have seen tons of posts and blogs
    about Vista and its PC requirements and all I am seeing is Vista will not run here
    Vista will not do this.
    Booo hoooo Vista will not run on my 10yo PC... That's it I am moving to Linux #@$#@%$%%$^ and so on and so on....

    Every time I am reading this I just want to scream to this people to Just GROW UP!!!!
    I have been involved with computers for 15 years, I came from 286 PC with 2Mb or Ram and 6Mb HD (I know some people here remember even earlier configurations)
    But, the point is technology changes and fast, software dose too, we need to move on at our own pace. we can not always expect that new hardware will work with old software and vice versa
    if it can it's a bonus. you can not build a new engine with 20,000 HP and expect to use it in a ford focus frame, unless we do some modification to the frame so it can handle the stress.
    with computers it even more difficult to fit old tech into new body without sacrificing the performance and ability that have been introduced with the new designee.

    My take on this is :
    if I need the faster and more robust Pc I go and buy a new one. OR go an Upgrade route to get there. if New OS give me something I need I will upgrade, otherwise I will stick with what I have.
    If money is the issue then I will go with what fits in my budget period.
    vbp1
    • You sum it up well

      "My take on this is :
      if I need the faster and more robust Pc I go and buy a new one. OR go an Upgrade route to get there. if New OS give me something I need I will upgrade, otherwise I will stick with what I have.
      If money is the issue then I will go with what fits in my budget period."

      Well put!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes