Using Windows 7 on Older PCs (1)

When you encounter a Pentium 4 computer running contemporary applications or acting as a server, chances are the computer is running on Linux.  Breathing new life into old computers has been the exclusive domain of the Linux operating system because it demands little on computer hardware, has robust security such that you can eschew resource hungry anti-virus software, and most of all, because it is open source and free.

It is a commonly held belief that one cannot do useful work on older PCs running the latest version of Windows. Windows Vista made this observation almost gospel truth but Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, may shake up this thinking. Feedback from pleasantly surprised testers, as well as expert reviewers, agree that for the first time, the latest Windows version is faster than the one it is replacing.

A group of PC enthusiasts went as far as installing Windows 7 on computers way below the minimum specs recommended by Microsoft. Testers based on the blog and forum site Neowin.net, reported some success with a Pentium 3 laptop with 256MB of RAM while others were able to run Windows 7 on a Pentium III desktop with 512 MB of RAM.  Objectively speaking, one’s computing experience depends a lot on the software installed as well as the type of work done on the machine. Older computers running Windows 7 for word processing or electronic mail will be able to do the tasks mentioned quite well but the same machine used for gaming will cause the computer to hang. Other testers got unexpected results as well. Windows 7 was faster than Windows 2000 on a Dell laptop and on an IBM ThinkPad, Windows 7 performed better than Vista.

The bloat that came with Windows Vista was such that it ran poorly on relatively modern machines. Microsoft did an admirable job with Windows 7 that when installed on computers 2 or 3 generations older than current machines, a lot of work, as long as the goals remain modest, is actually doable.

One significant impact Windows 7 will have on computing is that it will delay the obsolescence of IT equipment. Soon after when Vista was introduced, it became obvious that the operating system requires so much on computer hardware that GreenPeace released an article on e-waste and the deluge of perfectly working computers entering the scrap pile just because it couldn’t meet Vistas’ specs.

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