Microsoft releases free beta for Windows 7 upgrade advisor

While simpler than Vista adviser, it fails to tell users one potentially key detail

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday released the beta of a free app that helps users determine whether their PC is powerful enough to run the upcoming Windows 7 operating system.

The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor gives a user's PC a pass/fail grade in four areas and checks to see whether there are any compatibility problems with hardware devices such as mice or printers or with applications.

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The Advisor, which is available for download, requires PCs running Windows XP SP2 (with .Net 2.0), Vista, or release candidate versions of Windows 7.

The Advisor software can also be run on Intel-based Macs under virtualization to test for Windows 7 compatibility.

It tests whether users' PCs meet the minimum requirements of:

  • A 1GHz CPU
  • 1GB of RAM for a 32-bit Windows 7 and 2GB for 64-bit Windows 7
  • 16GB free space for 32-bit Windows 7 (20GB for 64-bit)
  • A graphics card/chip powerful enough to run the Windows Aero graphical user interface

Microsoft says users should plug in all of the external devices that they want to check for Windows 7 compatibility.

Unlike the Vista Upgrade Advisor, the Windows 7 Advisor does not recommend a specific version of Windows 7 to users based on the results of the scan. Windows 7 comes in six versions in the United States, though Microsoft is emphasizing two main ones: Home Premium for consumers and Professional for companies.

The Advisor also does not tell users whether their computer can handle Windows 7's new XP mode.

That compatibility feature requires PCs equipped with hardware virtualization. Intel Corp. and AMD Inc. slowly began releasing CPUs equipped with hardware virtualization more than three years ago. But some PCs shipping today, including many netbooks, lack either Intel VT or AMD-V.

Users wanting to check compatibility with XP Mode can download a free third-party utility called Securable.

Intel users can download a different free utility, while AMD users can download yet another one.

XP users whose PCs pass can buy upgrades to Windows 7, though they will still need to do a clean install of Windows 7. Vista users can buy and do an in-place upgrade to 7 that does not require a clean install. Generally, any PC that can run Vista should be able to run Windows 7, too, according to Microsoft.

Indeed, pre-release versions of Windows 7 have been widely praised for running faster and requiring less powerful hardware than Vista.

However, one test by PC World this week concluded that the overall improvement will be barely noticeable to most users.

This story, "Microsoft releases free beta for Windows 7 upgrade advisor" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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