Are you a Vista resister, still relying on trusty-but-crusty Windows XP? Thankfully, the wait for an updated operating system is almost over; Windows 7 will be released on October 22.

Compared with Vista, Windows 7 is a breath of fresh air. It has a slimmed-down footprint and runs on computers with as little as 1GB of RAM. Vista, by contrast, requires at least 2GB of RAM. The new OS comes with scores of new features, like Microsoft Homegroups, which makes it easy to set up a network and share music, pictures, and videos with other PCs. Anyone who has tried to network on Vista or XP will be surprised at the lack of geekery this now requires. (Is that snickering coming from the Apple peanut gallery?)

One caveat: You can easily upgrade from Vista but not from XP. If you are still using XP, you will have to buy the full retail version of Windows 7 and install it from scratch -- reloading your data and third-party software programs once Windows 7 is installed. So instead of upgrading your operating system, you may want to upgrade your entire PC. COST TO UPGRADE FROM VISTA: $120 and up. COST TO BUY: $200 and up.

For more on Windows 7's new features, see our online review at