In this guide, we are primarily looking at Microsoft Windows based systems, though we do stress there are many other operating systems available.
At present, your options from Microsoft are their newest operating systems, Windows 7 and Windows XP.
Windows 7 and XP come in a variety of editions, but if you are using the desktop in a business environment, it is heavily recommended that you select a desktop with the "Professional" edition of your chosen operating system. Amongst other features, the "Pro" editions have additional networking capabilities which are essential in an office where the computers are connected to each other or a server.
Windows 7 or XP?
Many people are tempted to "stick to what they know" and choose a desktop with XP installed. While XP is an excellent operating system, and still used by the majority of businesses in the UK, we would recommend, if possible, moving to the newest version -Windows 7. This is because Windows 7 is the newest operating system from Microsoft and as such, it will still be supported by Microsoft and receive security patches for years to come. Soon, XP will not be supported by Microsoft.
32bit or 64bit?
You can assume most desktop's ship with a 32bit operating system. This is the standard, and unless it specifically states that the OS is "64bit".
The key reason someone would opt for a 64bit operating system is a 64bit OS can address or "see" more RAM.
For instance, if you installed 4GB of RAM into a Desktop with a 32bit OS, you would only be able to "see" and use around 3.3GB of this. A 64bit OS would see and use all 4GB.
You may now think, "if 64bit operating systems are better, why don't all manufacturers ship their desktops with these as standard?"
There are two main reasons they do not:
A: Most desktop users do not require more than 3GB of RAM and,
B: 64bit Operating systems are not compatible with all software. Please check with your IT administrator, or check the system requirements of your software to ensure your applications are compatible with a 64bit operating system before choosing a 64bit operating system.