How to Check if Your PC Is Ready for the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive

The Oculus Rift and Valve’s HTC Vive require some powerful PC gaming hardware. Not sure if your PC can handle it? Both Oculus and Valve provide tools that will quickly check if your PC is up to snuff.

As a general rule, unless you built or purchased a high-end gaming PC recently, there’s a good chance your PC actually isn’t ready for virtual reality. Be sure to buy or build new PCs with these hardware requirements in mind if you plan on getting into VR.

Check Whether Your PC Can Handle the Oculus Rift

To test whether your PC is ready for the Oculus Rift, download the Oculus Rift Compatability Tool and run it. The tool will check your PC’s hardware to ensure you have a sufficient graphics processor, CPU, RAM, and number of USB ports to support the hardware. The tool will also test if your motherboard’s USB controller is good enough, as there seem to be issues between some older motherboards and the Rift.

If your PC doesn’t pass, the tool will tell you what the problem is–maybe you just need to upgrade your graphics card, if you’re lucky. If you do have to upgrade your hardware, see the last section of this article for the minimum requirements.

See If Your PC is Ready for the HTC Vive and SteamVR

If you’re more interested in the HTC Vive, download the SteamVR Performance Test application through Steam. While Oculus’s tool just compares your PC’s hardware against a database, the SteamVR Performance Test tool will actually run a benchmark to see if your PC can render virtual reality content at 90 frames per second, and whether it can do so at the recommended level of graphical quality.

This tool is helpful even if you pass the Oculus test, as it will give you some idea of the graphical quality you can expect with smooth performance in virtual reality games.

Minimum Hardware Requirements for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

If your PC passes the above tests, you don’t need to worry about the hardware requirements. But you may want to look at the exact system requirements if you plan on purchasing or building a PC that can handle virtual reality.

The required hardware is largely identical between the two headsets. These are the minimum requirements, so faster hardware is always better. But you will need at least:

  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 for the Oculus Rift, Intel i5-4590 or AMD FX 8350 for the HTC Vive (This AMD CPU may work with the Rift anyway, but Oculus doesn’t officially list any AMD CPU as supported.)
  • RAM: 8GB for the Oculus Rift, 4GB for the HTC Vive
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.3 video output for the Oculus Rift, HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 for the HTC Vive
  • USB Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports and 1 USB 2.0 port for the Oculus Rift, just 1 USB 2.0 port required for the HTC Vive (though USB 3.0 is supported and may provide a better experience)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 is required for both headsets. The Oculus Rift requires the 64-bit version.

Watch out for laptops. Due to NVIDIA’s confusing marketing, a laptop with “GTX 970M” or even “GTX 980M” isn’t fast enough for virtual reality–that “M” means its a lower-power laptop card. A few laptops include desktop-class graphics, such as MSI’s VR-ready notebook with GTX 980 graphics inside. Just make sure it’s a GTX 970 or 980, not 970M or 980M.

If you want to get a PC with virtual reality in mind and don’t want to build it yourself, Oculus is advertising “Oculus Ready PCs” and HTC is pushing “Vive Optimized PCs” that you can purchase from brands like Alienware, Asus, Dell, Falcon Northwest, HP, and MSI. These are guaranteed to work well with the associated headset. NVIDIA also provides a list of VR-ready PCs with NVIDIA graphics.

Neither the Rift or Vive supports Mac OS X or Linux, unfortuntaely. Despite that fact that Valve makes its own SteamOS gaming operating system based on Linux, Valve hasn’t even bothered announcing a timeline for SteamOS and Linux support. These headsets are Windows-only for the foreseeable future.

Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.