Thinking of a Computer for the holidays? Wait.

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In a surprise move which I’m sure the computer industry will take issue, Walter Mossberg, author and creator of the Personal Technology column in The Wall Street Journal advises consumers to wait until February to buy a new Windows desktop or laptop. The reason? Memory intensive and hard drive consuming Windows Vista is on the horizon, poised for release around January 30, 2007. In Microsoft time, that means the actual release could be months later.

Mossberg says it is possible to upgrade most new Windows PCs to Vista, but that “can be a tricky business…. It’s always better to buy a new PC that has been matched at the factory with the latest operating system. Waiting just another 90 days could save you a lot of upgrading aggravation.”

If you simply cannot wait and must have a new computer this December, Mossberg gives advice for those who are typical mainstream users, “not hard-core gamers or people doing intensive video production.”

Make sure your new PC has a sticker that says, “Vista Capable.”

But this sticker guarantees that it will work with only the stripped-down Home Basic version of Vista. If you want to be able to upgrade to the Home Premium version of Vista, which has the full user interface and other features, or to several other versions of Vista, look for a computer designated “Premium Ready.” Naturally, these latter machines will cost more.

Make sure the new box has at least 2 gigabytes memory. While Microsoft advises 512 megabytes for the stripped down version. If you want to run Vista with all the bells and whistles, go for 2 gigabytes. As far as the processor goes:

For stripped-down Vista, a processor running at 800 megahertz or faster should be sufficient, according to Microsoft. For full Vista, the speed rises to 1 gigahertz. For anything other than stripped-down Vista, I’d strongly suggest buying a so-called dual core processor, like Intel’s Core Duo or Core 2 Duo, which pack the equivalent of two chips into one.

Hard disk recommendation, for stripped-down Vista, 60 gigabytes should be sufficient. For the whole package? Mossberg recommends a 200 gigabyte drive.

If you are a Apple Macintosh person, Mossberg says go ahead and buy. The OS upgrade for the Mac, named Leopard, should not be as disruptive as the Windows Vista upgrade potentially will be. Plus, Leopard isn’t due out until spring, months after Vista’s scheduled release.

My first PC was a Dell with a 512 megabyte hard drive, and I was on top of the world when it arrived. I suspect those of us with XP will be fine for a couple of years, as Microsoft will not drop support for XP. However, sometime soon, it will be time for another switch.