The official recommended minimum specification for Windows 7 was revealed earlier this year, and the demands of the new operating system aren't high, with a 1GHz CPU and 1GB RAM the bare minimum.
Of course, when it comes to official minimum specifications, we've been burnt before. With Vista, for example, Microsoft lists the "recommended system settings" for Home Basic as 512MB of memory, a 1GHz processor and a 32MB graphics card.
Anybody who uses Vista will know that those are a joke - you can't reasonably run Vista in less than 1GB of memory and you're much better off with 2GB.
The good news, however, is that Windows 7 can run reasonably on its recommended system specs, and should work just fine on any new laptop you buy - including Atom-based netbooks that currently run XP. As long as the computer has at least 1GB of memory, you should be fine. We'd still recommend something over the base specs, of course - 2GB of memory will make a big difference, as will a graphics chip with at least 256MB of memory.
A 1.6GHz Atom processor or faster should do well, and a dual or quad-core chip (including the Atom 300 series) is something we'd recommend, since Windows 7 includes multi-threading improvements over Vista.
Driver support in Windows 7
One of the big issues for Windows Vista at its release was its driver support, with an unacceptably large number of devices not working with the OS at release.
You can be pretty confident that any notebook computer you buy this year will have its hardware supported in Windows 7.
Microsoft says it is working hard this time to get better driver support out of the gate, and says its goal is that 90% of all existing systems will have a full driver complement available for the OS at launch. The advantage it has this time is that it's not rewriting the driver model for Windows 7.
At the time of writing, we hadn't heard official confirmation of this, but if you're looking to buy a notebook this year before the release of Windows 7, ask your notebook vendor if they will offer a free upgrade to the OS when it's released. It was a common tactic with Vista and it's possible we'll see a repeat of this. Check with the shop before you buy.
Minimum specs for Windows 7
• 1GHz processor (32- or 64-bit)
• 1GB of main memory
• 16GB of available disk space
• Support for DX9 graphics with 128MB of memory (for the Aero interface)
*For more information on Windows 7 and your laptop, be sure to read our Laptop buyers guide in this months (June) edition of PC Authority.