HP promises free Vista upgrades

All 'qualifying customers' will get a free two-DVD upgrade kit when the new operating system becomes available to consumers in January

HP is aiming to give Microsoft Vista a boost in the consumer market by offering a free upgrade to the new operating system to all customers who buy a new PC. The offer has a few strings attached but if you have a new HP computer or buy one soon, you get Windows Vista for free.

The first string is that the PC must have been bought between 26 October this year and 15 March, 2007. The second is that customers must pre-order Vista before 31 March, 2007 in order to qualify for the free upgrade.

Although Microsoft launched the business versions of Vista last month, the consumer version won't ship until January 2007. This offer means that people who buy a PC with XP Home edition can upgrade to Vista Home Basic, XP Professional Edition customers will be able to upgrade to Vista Business, and Media Center Edition customers may upgrade to Vista Home Premium.

Systems qualifying for the free upgrade are the HP Pavilion, Compaq Presario, HP laptop computers and HP Digital Entertainment Centres. Users must send in a proof of purchase, including a sales receipt or invoice and a Microsoft product key.

You will also need a PC or laptop that is Vista-capable, which Microsoft defines as having a processor that will run at 800MHz or faster, at least 512MB of RAM and graphics that support Microsoft DirectX 9. While it is not necessary to have more memory to run Vista, at least a gigabyte of RAM is recommended if you want to run features such as the Microsoft Vista Aero user interface. Microsoft also recommends a processor of at least 1GHz if you want to run Vista Premium.

The upgrade will be sent out on two DVDs, one containing Vista and a second with a set of drivers. Both DVDs will be free, but some people may find they need to pay for post and packing.

You can check here for details of how to get the upgrade, and find a detailed description of exactly what "Vista Capable" means here.