System Requirements and Pre-installation Routine

System Compatibility

No, this has nothing to do with computer dating. Before buying or downloading, you should make sure your PC meets the program’s Minimum System Requirements. Sometimes just called Requirements, they’re written at the bottom of every software listing in our online software store. You can also find them on the back or bottom panels of most boxes or disk cases, usually in really tiny letters. They tell you what standards your system has to meet to be able to run that piece of software.

These requirements typically include which version of Windows, what speed processor and how much RAM you have, and then hardware requirements (CD-Roms or CD-burners, DVD players or burners, printers, monitor settings, video or sound cards), and the amount of hard disk space you’ll need to make this program work.

Many modern programs also list Recommended System Requirements. You can think of these standards as what your system should have to run that program well. If you meet the Minimums but not the Recommended list, the program maybe taxing a component of your system. The program may run slowly or you may not be able to use all of its features. You may need to shut down all other running processes before you start this program. Basically, it’ll run on your system, but it could run better.

You can find your version of Windows, processor speed, and amount of RAM by right-clicking the My Computer icon and looking under the General tab. Older versions of Windows are laid out differently, so if you don’t have a My Computer icon, start at the Control Panel and look for an icon labeled along the lines of System Properties.


Find the amount of hard disk space available in your system by double-clicking My Computer, Right-clicking your C: drive, and choosing Properties.


Under the General tab, you’ll see the amount of free space left on your hard drive.


To find out how much RAM you have available at any given moment, hold down Control, Alt, and tap Delete. Give it a second, because hitting this combo twice will reboot or shut down your PC, depending on your settings. The Windows Task Manager will appear.

Under the Performance tab, you’ll see Physical Memory, Available. This is the number of kilobytes of available RAM you’ve got. Divide by 1000 to bet the Mb of available RAM. The more programs you have running, the lower the amount of available RAM.


To see if your system meets hardware requirements, go to the Control Panel and click the Systems icon. The System Properties window will appear. Go to the Hardware tab and use the Device Manager to see the complete list of hardware on your system.


Before installing software, it’s a good idea to do an extra round of the usual maintenance tasks. Think of it like vacuuming the carpet before moving in a new couch. It’s going to be easier now than afterwards. In this case, it may also prevent some common annoying installation problems.

First, check that your antivirus and antispyware program definitions are current and scan your computer to make sure it’s clean. Following the carpet analogy, cleaning up the mess once the couch is in the room will only take longer. Of course, you’ll want to scan any download for viruses or spyware before opening or installing it.

Second, if you haven’t done so in the last week or so, run Disk Clean (or ScanDisk for older Windows versions) and follow it up with Disk Defragment. This will make more disk space available and arrange it in larger, uninterrupted chunks.

Now that you have all the usual cleanup done, you’ll want to set a Restore Point. This way, if something goes wrong during the installation, you can tell your computer to put things back to the way they were in this squeaky clean moment. I wish I could set a “Cleaned up” restore point for my living room, but this is where the couch analogy falls apart.

To set a Restore Point, XP users can go to the Start menu, All Programs. In the Accessories group of programs, go to System Tools, and choose System Restore.


The System Restore Window will open. Choose Create a Restore Point and click Next to follow the Wizard through the process.


Give it a name that you will recognize later on, like preDownload1, replacing “Download1” with the name of the program you’re installing.

You’re almost ready to start that installation. Power down and reboot your PC, and then turn off all your unnecessary running programs. I mean all of them, including all the programs in your startup menu (ME and 2000 directions) and your screensaver. Before removing items from the Startup menu, I’d recommend taking a notepad and writing down the file names of what had been running. This lets you put 1 or 2 of them right back in the starting lineup if you notice problems with other programs after your new installation. (There’s a tool that promises to make this a
bit easier coming up in next week’s Download!)

To shut down your screensaver, right-click on your desktop and choose Properties. Under the Screen Saver tab, Choose None. Click Apply, then OK.


Finally, while you’re installing your new program, take the time to read each window of text carefully before clicking OK or making choices. I don’t want to tell you how many calls we get each week about easily-prevented installation problems. Usually, it’s someone who installed the extra demo or trial-period software rather than the official program they bought. Sometimes, they installed both but the intended program won’t open without the installation code for the demo software. So if you’re offered demo software along with a program, I’d suggest you only install the program you bought.

The other big cause for down-the-road problems is not writing down serial numbers or registration info exactly (case-sensitive, dashes or spaces, etc.) as you go. You may need them to re-install that program onto a new PC later, for example.

~ Chris Fisher

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