With Windows 7 now available, hundreds of PC users will be upgrading their systems to Microsoft's new OS.

However, if your PC is still running Windows XP, it'll be more complicated than those running Vista. Microsoft's not offering an 'in-place' upgrade from XP to Windows 7, one that will leave everything in place and simply swap out the operating system. Instead its guaranteed to be tricky.

Fear not. We're here to help lower your blood pressure with answers to your questions about how to get your PC ready for when you pull the trigger on Windows 7 and finally, finally leave XP fading in the rearview mirror.

How do I know if my XP machine can handle Windows 7?

Use the 'Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor'. Download and install the advisor from Microsoft's support site, then run it. (Warning: You have to have .NET Framework 2.0 or later to run this on XP.)

Is my PC Windows 7 compatible?

The advisor will give you a bottom-line appraisal of your XP-based hardware: It will either green light the upgrade, tell you the machine won't make it as is, or spell out what you need to beef up.

The advisor will also mark those devices, both external hardware like printers and internal components such as the graphics chipset or card, that will require new Windows 7 drivers, and indicate whether those drivers are available.

What if I need more juice?

If you want to upgrade quickly, you may be hard pressed to find time to play with the hardware, but one thing you can do in a few minutes to make the machine more Windows 7 worthy is to add more RAM.

Microsoft says the minimum memory is 1GB for the 32-bit version of Windows 7, but recommends 2GB for "optimal performance" on the 64-bit edition. Frankly, those numbers are just crazy.

RAM is dirt cheap these days, and even if the new OS runs in just 1GB or 2GB, it'll run much better with 2GB or more. Punch it up to 4GB - the maximum for 32-bit Windows 7 - or beyond (for 64-bit) and you'll be livin' the dream.

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NEXT PAGE: How do I know whether my software and peripherals will run on Windows 7?

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