If you’ve been holding out, then your next PC should be a Christmas present to yourself. When Microsoft rolls out Windows XP at the end of October, you’ll see a tremendous amount of hype – and for a change, it looks like the hype will be justified. It is a remarkable operating system, combining tremendous stability with some very appealing new features.

Windows XP will require a lot from your computer, however. If you have a new computer from a major manufacturer running Windows 2000, you’ll be able to upgrade easily – you might want some more memory, but otherwise you’ll probably be okay. In theory, Windows XP is designed so you can also successfully upgrade from Windows 98 or Windows ME, but you’re likely to find that your system falls short in so many ways that a new system is a better solution.

Here’s a memo from Microsoft that explains what it expects manufacturers to offer on new systems to qualify for a sticker that says “Designed for Windows XP.” You don’t need all this to run the OS, but it’s what manufacturers will have ready for you in the fall.

RAM: 128Mb required, 256Mb the realistic choice

Hard drive: 40Gb

Video card: 32Mb AGP accelerated

CD burner and DVD player

Four USB ports and two Firewire ports

Here’s an article that summarizes the system specs.

One very satisfying requirement: vendors are prevented from installing any software that runs on startup (other than antivirus software, which must be hidden from view). Perhaps you’ll be spared the desktops littered with forty or fifty icons that the manufacturers were so fond of for a while.

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