Windows Vista brings a lot of new features. Instead of describing all new features brought by this new operating system – like new programs that now come with the OS –, we will describe only those that are related to PC hardware.

Vista can be found in six different flavors: Starter (sold only pre-installed on new PCs on underdeveloped countries), Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise (sold only in high volumes to companies) and Ultimate. The difference between them is price and supported features. They can also be found in two versions, full and upgrade, which is cheaper but requires you to have an original copy of Windows XP.

In this tutorial we will be also saying on which versions each new hardware-related feature can be found – not all versions have all new features. The only version that has all new features is the very expensive Ultimate version. So, the decision regarding the version you should buy must also be based on the features you want to have and not only on pricing. For average Joe finding the correct balance between price and features is probably the highest challenge of this new version of Windows.

All Windows Vista versions (but Starter) are available in 32- and 64-bit versions, but only Ultimate edition comes with both DVDs inside the box. All other versions come just with the 32-bit DVD and you need to call Microsoft support department and ask them to send you the 64-bit DVD if you want it. We strongly encourage you doing so, since this is a right you have.

Of course you will need a CPU with 64-bit extensions in order to install this version – all new CPUs have this feature. The main difference between the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions is the total amount of RAM memory Windows can recognize. All 32-bit versions are limited to 4 GB (the exception goes to the capped Starter edition, which can only recognize up to 1 GB – when Microsoft announced this version they said it would recognize only 512 MB; they changed this probably due to the huge criticism they got), while 64-bit versions are limited to 8 GB (Home Basic), 16 GB (Home Premium) or 128+ GB (all other versions – note that Microsoft does not say exactly how much RAM memory these versions are able to recognize, they only say “128 GB and above”).
Also only Business, Enterprise and Ultimate versions can recognize more than one CPU socket. Microsoft said “socket”, so we are assuming that all versions recognize more than one CPU core.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.