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  • Is Your PC Vista Ready?
    The next phase of Windows
    by Donal Hinman
    It's a brave new world—Microsoft has released Windows Vista, their latest and greatest in the desktop experience. By now you've probably seen or heard plenty about it. If you think you're ready to upgrade, you still need to ask yourself: "Is my PC ready for Vista?" Read on to learn some of the basics you need to know.

    Does your PC have the right stuff?
    First, let's get started with a little introduction. If you haven't done so already, take a look at the new Windows Vista and see what you think. While Vista is the name of the next generation of the Windows operating system, there's a new, slick desktop environment in it that's been granted its own identity—Aero.

    And if your curiosity is piqued, check out Microsoft's Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to get an idea of what you'll need from your computer to handle this 8-cylinder powerhouse of an operating system. For a little more of a breakdown of computer requirements, Microsoft has also set up a page to let you know What is a Windows Vista capable PC.

    Hardware compatibility
    Armed with this knowledge, you'll want to take a look at your PC and be sure you've got at least the minimum hardware requirements. While RAM and processor speed are important, even more so for accommodating the spacey, new 3D Aero is having a suitable graphics card. If you haven't given much thought about image, video and other graphics qualities before, now's the time to know: Not all graphics cards are created equally. Although there are dozens of manufacturers of graphics cards, chances are your PC has one in place from either ATI or NVIDIA, two of the biggest producers in the world of desktop computing. If you need to upgrade your card, have a look at their sites to get an idea of what's available to do the deed.

    Of course, if your PC has its graphics card integrated in the motherboard, then that's a whole different kettle of fish. If that's the case and you just can't make it to the next day without getting Vista, then it's likely you're going to have to do some major upgrading—up to possibly getting a whole new PC. Which brings us to a significant question: Is it really worth it?

    Not to cast a dark cloud of doubt over the whole thing, but it would be unwise if a note of caution was not brought in at some point. Although Windows Vista has been put through the mill and back again for rigorous testing, the fact is no operating system is absolutely perfect for every computer right out of the gate. For example, even if your PC already has the right stuff in hardware, it may be necessary to upgrade the drivers that kick start all those cool gizmos under the hood. That's a pretty simple matter, but worthy of attention to avoid headaches and other personal trauma.

    The best words of advice from the IT pundits, bloggers, and other charming know-it-alls is to wait a little while. See how Vista fairs in the real world for a few weeks or months before your approach. Let the expert and daring shake out the bugs.

    And, of course, there's the matter of expense. New operating system, new computer—ba-da bing, ba-da boom! But that's something only you can decide.

    EarthLink software compatibility
    As an EarthLink member, you probably have questions about Vista compatibility with EarthLink-specific software. Don't worry, "We're on the job!" To ease you into things, we've set up EarthLink Windows Vista News for information and direction.

    If you are upgrading to Vista, we recommend you download our new TotalAccess for Vista. While this version of TotalAccess does not include all the same features as our version for Windows XP, it will help you configure an EarthLink connection to the Internet and give you access to our Task Panel.

    We will be releasing full-featured, new & improved EarthLink Software later this year, which will handle everything Vista has to throw at it. And an all-new Protection Control Center will be coming out by this summer, which will not only be Vista-compatible but will include more features and greater ease of use to maintain your safety and privacy online.