Running Windows 8 on Low-End Hardware

According to Microsoft, its newest version of Windows can supposedly run on even weaker requirements than even Windows 7.

This is a pretty bold claim as the requirements in Windows 7 weren’t exactly asking for the world. Although official specifications are out yet, the WDP does have set requirements which are:

  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Considering the average PC these days has at least two cores, 2-6GB of RAM, and 1TB+ HD you can’t argue that the requirements are fairly low. You have to wonder, however if a 1GHz PC with 1GB of RAM will just run or run well.

Just yesterday I ran into an article about running Windows 8 on low-end hardware. In the article they tested an older Asus Eee PC 900 netbook, a pre-Atom netbook. The Eee PC 900 is equipped with a low-end 900MHz Celeron processor, 1GB of RAM, a 12GB SSD, and very basic integrated graphics.

The test machine was upgraded to 2GB and 32GB of Flash, but still didn’t meet the technical requirements for Windows 8 since it requires at least 1GHz processing speed. Despite this fact, the machine did install on the Eee PC 900 and work probably.

The only hiccup they encountered was the lack of proper graphics drivers so they had to chose the basic driver instead. Despite this flaw, the machine ran fairly well and even booted in just 10.5 seconds- versus about 26 seconds to boot up Windows 7.

Inspired by the Eee PC 900 test, I decided to bring out one of my older PCs and give it a try myself. I finally settled upon my old custom Pentium 3 rig that I stopped using in 2004. This machine was a very late model P3 and had a 1.4GHz processor which technically meets the 1GHz requirement.

It had just 768MB ofRAMin the machine, a 40GB HDD, and a CD-ROM drive. Knowing that I needed aDVDdrive, I pulled out the old drive and borrowed one from another one of my desktop machines (would have been easier if I had an externalDVDdrive, I know). The machine was also jazzed up with a GeForce 4 Series video card I got back around 2002 or 2003.

I wasn’t for sure what to expect from installing Windows 8, or even if I would have any success. After about an hour installation process, Windows Developer Preview was in fact running. I had to turn off all extras and use generic video drivers, but it actually ran somewhat reasonably.

Boot time took about 40 seconds, which was a long time but once everything was up and going most of the basic features were usable and not that sluggish. Popping up things like IE took about 5-6 seconds but once the window was open, browsing was as quick as any other experience on the net.

Although I doubt many people would want to update old Pentium 3 machines, the point of the test was to see just how flexible the operating system was in terms of hardware. Although the new OS is certainly targeting tablets and touchscreens you don’t need bleeding edge technology to enjoy Windows 8.

With the power of Windows 8 some of us might even be able to get a little extra life out of older notebook computers and desktops that we use as secondary machines. Better hardware obviously results in a better experience, but it’s nice to know that Microsoft has tailored its OS to work on a variety of different hardware types and speeds.

Have you tried Windows Developer Preview on older hardware? What were your results? Any comments about running on older hardware are welcome below.

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