Chris Pietschmann

husband, father, hacker, entrepreneur, futurist, innovator, autodidact

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Cheap PC - Build a Vista Premium Ready system for under $500 including the OS

People keep talking about how Vista (w/ Aero enabled) will only run on high-end systems, and that everyone will have to buy a new computer in order to run Vista. Well, I have a laptop thats 3 years old (2.4Ghz Celeron, 512MB Ram) and it runs Vista ok without Aero glass enabled (because it doesn't have a capable video card). Based on that, pretty much any system that is 2 years old should run Vista (w/ Aero enabled) just fine as long as it has 1GB Ram and a video card that support DirectX 9.

Now to prove that you don't need a high end system to run Vista with Aero glass enabled, I decided to spec out a system for under $500 including the OS that will handle Vista just fine.

For a total cost of $493.93 you get:

Case - $29.99 - Black ATX-Mid w/ 500W power supply - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16811217014

Motherboard - $72.99 - MSI 945GM3-F - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16813130060

Video Card - $49.99 - BIOSTAR GeForce 7100GS 512MB (256MB onBoard) GDDR2 PCI-Express x16 - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16814141048

Processor - $57.00 - Intel Celeron D 352 3.2Ghz Dual Core - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16819112211

Memory - $64.99 - G.SKILL 1GB DDR2 667 - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16820231126

Hard Drive - $69.99 - Western Digital Caviar 250GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s- http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E16822144417

CD/DVD - $28.99 - LG 18x DVD±R Super-Multi DVD Burner - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16827136108

Windows - $119.99 - MS Windows Vista 64-bit Home Premium OEM - http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16832116204

I know, I didn't include shipping. With shipping it comes to a total of $522.44.

Now, before you complain about about the lower end specs, let me explain a little as to why I chose the items that I did:

  • Motherboard - The motherboard does support the Intel Core 2 Duo, so later on down the road if you wanted to upgrade your system to make it faster, all you'll need to do is buy a faster CPU.
  • Memory - I only included 1GB to stay on the cheap and Vista does run just fine with 1GB. The motherboard supports up to 2GB and the Ram I included is 1GB on a single stick. So, to add more Ram all you need to do is buy another 1GB stick.
  • Video Card - I chose a PCI-Express x16 video card instead of including a motherboard with integrated graphics so that you could upgrade it at a later date. I also chose 256MB of onboard Ram because I know that Vista and alot of games will run just fine on that.
  • Vista 64-bit - The reason I chose the 64-bit version of Vista over the 32-bit version is because all the newer CPU's are 64-bit (including the Celeron D that's listed abov) and this way you'll be sure that the operating system is able to use the CPU to it's fullest potential. Also, the Data Execution Protection (DEP) support in the 64-bit version is better that in the 32-bit version. This will give you better protection against buffer overrun exploits.
  • Vista Home Premium - The reason I chose Home Premium over Ultimate is because Ultimate is $70 more and the average user will be able to do absolutely everything they need with Home Premium.


As you can see, I put alot of thought into specing out a system. The biggest point i keep in mind is the ability for the system to be upgraded. I don't like buying a complete new system every couple years either.

Wow! Now, that's a cheap system that will handle Windows Vista with Aero glass enabled, and it's the 64-bit version too! And guess what? It's very upgradable too!

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