Vista: The Upgrade

The Easiest Upgrade of All: Buying a Vista PC

Buying a PC before Vista? Look for an Express Upgrade logo.
Navigating the minefield of a Windows upgrade can be arduous. So arduous, in fact, that lots of smart people time their PC purchases around the release of a new Windows version: They simply buy a PC with the updated OS preinstalled and copy files over.

According to several major PC manufacturers we spoke with, including Alienware, Dell, Gateway, and Sys Technologies, you'll be able to purchase a PC with Windows Vista preinstalled on the same day that the software hits the shelves, which Microsoft says will be in late January 2007. All four vendors report that they'll make the switch immediately across their retail product lines.

If you can't wait that long, you can still have your new PC for the holidays and Windows Vista too. Many PC vendors, including Alienware, Gateway, and Sys, are offering upgrade coupons with systems sold this fall that entitle you to a free Vista upgrade in the new year. But watch out: If you opt for an Alienware PC with Windows XP Home Edition, for example, you'll be in line for an upgrade to Windows Vista Home Basic, which lacks the Aero interface. At press time, HP said its upgrades would be free, and Dell plans to offer free or low-cost upgrades from XP Home to Vista Basic (upgrades of XP Professional and Media Center Edition--to Business and Home Premium, respectively--will be free). So read the fine print. And remember: Any OS upgrade has the potential for pitfalls.

For more on Vista and the upgrade, see our complete Vista FAQ feature.

Scott Spanbauer is a PC World contributing editor and the Internet Tips columnist.

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