I have been preparing an older XP machine for Windows 7 recently, and it brings back memories from 2006/7. In fairness, the machine in question is a good performer running XP, but is in the bottom 20% of desktops according to PCPitsop. The processor is an AMD 1.6 mobile type, memory is 1.25gb, video is an ATI Radeon 9250 128mb, and the hard drive is an 80gb WD IDE, but this is the kind of machine which a user somewhere is going to try to upgrade to Windows 7. Running the Windows 7 Upgrade advisor, it passes the processor and memory, but fails the video card as far as Windows Aero is concerned.
Now this may come across as a minor issue, but one of the likeable things about Vista and to a lesser extent Windows 7 is the softer feel and look of the Aero desktop. The video card actually passes, if only just, on dedicated memory, but fails re full DX9 compatibility. A newer video card would get Aero onto the desktop, but it is probably not the smartest upgrade on a six year old machine. The hard drive is also a little small, and will not allow for much free space after installing the operating system and supporting production software. This will cause performance issues all of its own, especially if free space drops below 30%. Peripheral device drivers like webcams, printers, scanners etc will all need a driver upgrade, or worst case a replacement compatible unit.
Regarding software on the machine, most of it will work in Windows 7, but not quite all. Optical drive burning software of the same era as the machine is not going to work any more than it did back in 2006/7 for Vista. I did upgrade the original CD writer to a DVD writer, but the software supplied with the new unit was still a mix of Cyberlink’s DVD authoring programs and Nero 6 burning software. Now, I could buy a new DVD writer which comes with Vista/Windows 7 compatible software hopefully. If it did, it would be a cheap way to get the software because one is also getting a faster drive with a nice new laser. Other options include buying a cheap burning suite like Ashampoo, or going for a free one. The trouble with the free ones is that they tend to look nothing like the more polished expensive suites, and they tend to be less intuitive in use.
Windows 7 feels more sprightly than Vista and it is said that it does not require as much power to push it along, but make no mistake, older machines will need money spending on them just as they did back in 2006/7. Each user will have to decide whether it is viable to do so. If the decision to spend is a no-no, and there are compelling reasons not to spend on an older machine, then the only way forward is to buy all new. Do NOT fall into the same trap as many did with Vista. With the world economy the way it is, I can see any lessons learned by the OEM’s at the Vista release being shelved in favour of manufacturing machines which will again be underpowered in a bid to keep the prices down.
Underpowered = lousy performance if you didn’t already know, and lousy performance = bad computing experience..
In the interests of those who use the machine that I have been using as a reference above, I will leave it as it is, and run XP Pro SP3 for the duration of its useful life.