If your laptop/desktop is running Microsoft Windows Vista OS (which most consumer computers that shipped beginning in January 2007 do), it already runs parts that meet the current requirements of Windows 7. If the laptop runs Vista, it will run Windows 7.
For non-Vista systems you can download the Upgrade Advisor to see if your laptop qualifies. To give you a little more detail, to run Windows 7 your computer must have the following:
- A processor rated at 1 Gigahertz or faster
Even if you bought a laptop in 2003, when the first batch of Pentium M processors (codenamed “Banias”) came out, Windows 7 appears to have it covered as well, as long as you have at least 1GB of memory, 16GB of hard drive space, and a DX9 graphics card. Even low-powered cheap desktop PCs will have at least a 1.6GHz processor these days, and likely have 2.0GHz or faster CPUs.
- 1GB of RAM (2GB for 64-bit Windows 7)
More memory doesn’t hurt either, especially with older computers that ship with 512MB. Memory modules are inexpensive, easily accessible, and can mean the difference between a clunker and Windows 7 bliss.
- At least 16GB of storage space (20GB for 64-bit Windows 7)
- A DX9-compatible graphics card, with the WDDM 1.0 driver
A laptop with an ATI or nVidia chipset is a really good sign that it’ll run Windows 7, but make sure you have the latest graphics driver handy. Windows 7 has native driver support for legacy nVidia and ATI cards. Updated drivers are just a precautionary step.
Even laptops going back 5 or 6 years can run Windows 7, and simple hardware upgrades can be made to ensure an optimal user experience. If your laptop can’t run Windows 7, it probably belongs in a museum. The majority of desktop PCs bought since 2006 should be able to run Windows 7 fine, particularly if you bought with future-proofing in mind. If your PC is older than 2004, then you should run the Upgrade Advisor to test your system. Microsoft’s tool will let you know if you need a minor upgrade (more hard drive space, more memory, discrete graphics), or if it’s a lost cause (too slow processor, older integrated graphics with no upgrade slot). Remember, there’s no shame if you keep XP running or maybe try out Linux to freshen up that old system.