Windows 7 is a stable operating system with several bells and whistles that will appeal to all PC users. But not all PCs will be able to handle Windows 7 and work well. Here's how to find out if your PC is ready before you download and install Windows 7.

The basic system requirements for Windows 7 are these:

32-bit: 1GB of RAM, 1GHz processor and 16GB of hard drive space. 64-bit: 2GB of RAM, 1GHz processor and 20GB of hard drive space. (For Aero visual effects you need a 128MB graphics card with support for DirectX 9.)

But we recommend that you delve a little deeper than that before taking the plunge.

Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor is a free utility that tells you if your PC is ready to run Windows 7. It scans your computer, checking internal components, external peripherals, and programs, and alerts you to potential compatibility issues. It also offers upgrade suggestions, such as which drivers to replace, should you make the move to Windows 7.

It's a good idea to run Upgrade Advisor, which takes only a few minutes, if you plan to install Windows 7.

After downloading and installing Upgrade Advisor, you'll see an opening screen that advises you to connect all of your external devices, such as hard drives, cameras, MP3 players, and so on:

Is Your PC Ready for Windows 7? This Tool Lets You Know

We ran the Upgrade Advisor on a 2-year-old notebook that with a 1.6GHz Intel Pentium T2060 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive. This system runs Vista sluggishly-no surprise given the 1 gig of memory-and based on initial reports from Redmond, we thought it might perform better with Windows 7.

The compatibility check took about 6 minutes and found a few potential issues. While the processor, memory, and hard drive met Windows 7's minimum requirements, Upgrade Advisor recommended that we download the latest driver for the Realtek Wireless 802.11b/g USB 2.0 network adaptor before installing Win 7. It didn't find potential conflicts with any installed programs.

Upgrade Advisor also pointed out that Windows 7 doesn't include web filtering (Windows Mail and Parental Controls), and it included a link to Microsoft's Windows Live Essentials site, where you can download the free Family Safety utility.

Upgrade Advisor runs on Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Service Pack 3.

See also: Windows 7 guide, part 1: installation

See also: Microsoft Windows 7 review

See also: How to install Windows 7 quickly and easily