There is very little advantage to getting Windows 7 over Vista.
In fact, if the laptop website does not have Windows 7 drivers and software you may run into issues.
It's perfectly feasible to install Windows 7, and you can often use Vista drivers if there are no Windows 7 versions.
If installing Windows 7 (I wouldn't):
1) borrow a copy of Windows 7 64-bit to test
2) run Microsoft updates
3) everything works? Good to go. If not, you may need to look for additional drivers or software (again, look to the software site for that laptop, but don't install drivers for things like Internet etc if it already works)
This is what you would install:
Windows 7 Premium 64-bit OEM (about $100 at NCIX or other site)
*After completing updates and installing programs you should create a backup using software such as Acronis True Image and make regular (monthly or less) backups.
**You absolutely do NOT install Windows XP on a laptop designed to run Vista. Also, Windows 7 has a superior memory management system to both XP and Vista. XP is so old it no longer receives Microsoft security updates.
There is absolutely NO REASON to install XP on a modern computer, anyone that says so does not know what they're talking about.
A hard drive upgrade may improve speeds. For example, the Western Digital 500GB Scorpio Black is a lot faster than many other hard drives (about $60). you can simply CLONE the software.
Windows 7 will work much better than Vista on that laptop and Windows XP will be even faster. You may have a problem with drivers though, you will just have to try it and see. But anything will be better than Vista.
Windows 7 64-bit. People keep saying XP will run faster and that is completely incorrect. The speed will be basically identical for most things, however Windows 7 has many security and other benefits too long to discuss here.
And again, XP no longer receives security updates from Microsoft.
You will not likely find a single benefit to XP, and in general it will work fine but Windows 7 will work better and will be future compatible with Microsoft updates and other software designed to work better with features it has that XP does not.
^ Yes, XP does still receive updates, for the next few years. And if he would install 7, he would want 32-bit because he has only 2GB of RAM. I mean he could install 64-bit but 64-bit is intended for computers with more RAM, etc.
I don't get why PhotonBoy is saying there will be very little advantages. there are quite a few advantages to 7 over vista. 7 Uses less power, better optimized power usage, better self-cleaning functions (boot + registry) and generally will run nicer.
I would recommend against using the 64bit install. Especially not on a laptop that old. It may make it harder to find drivers. Luckily the same drivers for vista will almost always work on windows 7.
I second that Windows 7 is greater than Vista (especially on a dated laptop) and I like a lot of the new features in 7 and Vista over XP.
This will easily rock Windows 7. I had it on my 1.8 GHz 1GB RAM laptop and the only thing that made me get rid of it was the fact that I didn't need it and preferred Skype 3.8 which doesn't work in Win7. It will be fast. Just switch off a few BS services and it will be even faster.