Not an easy time to pick a computer

Windows 7
If you're shopping for a computer now, it may feel like purgatory.

Early reviews of Windows 7 are glowing, but Microsoft's new won't be available for at least three months.

Meanwhile, most computers on store shelves have , which had a bad reputation even before Windows 7 started making it look like day-old bread.

Buying a Mac is no longer an easy solution. Apple's also entering the homestretch on a new operating system that's set to come out later this year, presumably with new as well.

This situation is especially tough during the "dads and grads" season when millions of people usually buy computers for Father's Day or graduation gifts.

Microsoft is putting them in a quandary by releasing nearly complete test versions of Windows 7 that should give pause to anyone considering a new PC.

Vista has improved since its debut in early 2007 and it's working for 180 million people.

But Windows 7 performs and looks better. It's as if Vista went on summer vacation, lost its awkwardness and pimples, and came back elegant and poised.

So what are buyers supposed to do?

Here are a few options and tips that may help.

1. Wait for upgrade coupons.

To keep computers moving off the shelves, Microsoft and PC makers are likely to offer coupons for free and discounted upgrades to Windows 7.

They haven't said when this will happen, but it might be around August, in time for back-to-school sales.

Upgrade coupons were announced three months before Vista went on sale. Windows 7 is supposed to be on sale during the holiday season, so that suggests coupons in early fall.

Upgrade coupons won't necessarily be free, though. Some PC makers gave coupons with a 50 percent discount on Vista, and there were charges for shipping and handling discs.

2. Go ahead and run Windows 7.

If you're comfortable with the process, you can start running Windows 7 today. Many enthusiasts are doing this on their home machines.

A near-final "release candidate" version of the software is available free from Microsoft, but you'll have to buy a full version after it expires in June 2010.

Prices aren't out yet, but it will probably cost around $200 for a new consumer version or less for an upgrade from Vista.

You can even install Windows 7 on a partition on a big hard drive, so you can decide at startup whether to run it or Vista.

But this is complicated and potentially risky. Be sure you've saved your files and proceed with caution. Windows 7 is still test software and Microsoft advises people not to run it on a primary or essential PC.

3. Don't sweat it. Buy a computer when you need one.

You'll probably be fine with Vista if you buy a current, reasonably powerful system. You can upgrade to Windows 7 later.

Vista, with its "service pack 1" upgrade installed, is now a "very solid product," said Christopher Flores, Windows marketing director.

"I'll be the first to admit that we had Vista hiccups out of the gate -- drivers weren't ready, certain things weren't working," he said. "With Vista SP1, Vista performs really, really well -- extraordinarily well."

So why bother with Windows 7?

Flores said the new software is "faster, more responsive, much easier to use, more refined, more reliable."

If you buy a Vista computer now, thinking you may upgrade to Windows 7, you won't need a top-dollar system. Microsoft's line is that systems that can handle Vista can handle Windows 7.

The release candidate requires at least a 1 gigahertz processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM for the 32-bit version or 2 gigabytes for the 64-bit. It also needs a graphics processor that supports DirectX 9.

To be safe, I'd get a system with a discrete graphics processor, which is best for premium versions of Vista.

You can also check a PC's preparedness by downloading and running the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor" tool from

4. Wait for Windows 7.

This is basically the advice big companies are getting.

Last week, Microsoft Windows Senior Vice President Bill Veghte said companies gearing up for Vista should "switch over" and start testing the Windows 7 release candidate.

Consulting firm Gartner said the same thing in a May 13 report, advising companies that haven't started upgrading to Vista to skip it altogether. Even if it means delaying desktop upgrades by six months, it's worth the wait, the firm said.

Companies in the midst of upgrading to Vista should continue but plan to switch to Windows 7 in late 2010 or early 2011, it said.

"The Vista ship has pretty much sailed," said Stephen Kleynhans, co-author of the report. "If you're not on it already you might as well wait for the next one, which is , because it's just right around the corner."


(c) 2009, The Seattle Times.
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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments

May 21, 2009
An upgraded computer operating system is not the same as one with the operating system fresh installed. If you want speed and reliability, go straight to Windows 7.

As for Garner, who wrote an glowing (but ignorant) review of software I developed (apparently quoting our CEO) took them until now to tell companies not to upgrade to Vista? Big help, guys. When I see "Garner" on a quote, I immediately question what I'm reading.

May 21, 2009
A longtime Mac user, never a Windows fan, my iMac recently gave up the ghost. I began using a loaner Vista laptop. It has been a rock, and the smoothest Windows environment I've encountered.

May 21, 2009
Its funny how after all this i hear news that all computers at my university will upgrade to vista soon... after trying xp, vista and windows 7 its like a slap in the face that they would ever consider vista..

May 21, 2009
Gawd; this article is just Microsoft propaganda. If you want to be financially raped, then go and buy 7 when it's out. We can climb out of the Microsoft box, and begin using Linux. I suggest Linux Mint. It's free. It will always be free. Isn't it time we freed ourselves.

May 21, 2009
No propaganda - (although that is what you're doing hehe). As much as I have many issues with Microsoft, it so happens that most of the world runs on it, and they're asking themselves, what to do next. It's an informed article to those who subscribe to using Microsoft ... which is still a lot of the world.

May 21, 2009
How different is Vista from other applications. It seems to me that all other applications are almost equal despite the fact that some are very complex while others are very easy to use. What is the difference and How difficult is it for one to learn any of them?

May 21, 2009
A computer worm that has alarmed security experts around the world has crawled into hundreds of medical devices at dozens of hospitals in the United States and other countries, according to technologists monitoring the threat. Pls beware of computer worms.

May 21, 2009
Theres a good reason only less than 2% of the public market share is running Linux (excluding servers). And that is, no one wants to use Linux.

May 21, 2009
Theres a good reason only less than 2% of the public market share is running Linux (excluding servers). And that is, no one wants to use Linux.

Lol, yes. The same can be said about Internet Explorer - why everybody uses it. I remember my friend said, that he was a complete fool to have used that shitty IE for 4 years, because he didn't know that firefox coul be soo much better (until I showed it to him).
I think the same applies to Linux as well. Recently i have completely switched to Linux and deleted XP, So why didn't I do it sooner than 2009? Because I simply didn't know anything about this system - I was content with what I had. And after switching to Kubuntu 9.04 - I can say that I was the same fool as my friend, to have used that shitty OS full with viruses and no elegant solutions, such as universal repositories. Windows 7 must be drastically better than XP, if MS wish for me to switch back.

May 21, 2009
This article is just Microsoft propaganda about Windows 7. I will run XP until Windows 7 is replaced.

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