Using Windows 7 on Older PCs (2)

Two PC enthusiasts are trying to do the unthinkable -install Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, on computers 2 or 3 generations older than contemporary PCs. We will find out how they did, whether they were able to squeeze something useful from these computers or was it just an experiment doomed to fail from the start.

Our first enthusiast has a 7 year old, secondhand desktop bought for 25 dollars with the following specs:

  • 2.4 Ghz ‘Northwood’ Pentium 4 CPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 120 GB IDE hard drive
  • ATI Radeon Graphics card

Despite the impressive speed rating of the CPU, the absence of hyperthreading which is useful when opening multiple applications and a miniscule on-board processor cache results in a PassMark benchmark score of 329, just points higher than what most netbooks with an Intel Atom CPU get. The ATI graphics card was not recognized by Windows 7 forcing the test unit to run in standard VGA mode.

It was way beyond expectation to see the old machine performing quite respectably with Windows 7. High definition YouTube videos played smoothly and DVD movies finished without a stutter. More than that, ancient applications like a 9-year old copy of Photoshop 6 and a 12-year old copy of Office 97 worked perfectly on Windows 7.

The computer was dual-booted with Windows XP. The older OS performed better on this machine because it had the drivers that made the ATI graphics card work but the difference was not much. The only item that was significantly different was boot-up time with XP doing it in 1 minute 25 seconds while Windows 7 finished just 27 seconds later. Shutdown for both OS’s was 30 seconds.

Enthusiast # 1 highly recommends Windows 7. The absence of a driver for the ATI graphics card may explain the languid pace Windows 7 took to navigate menus and open application windows. However, Windows 7 introduces modern features like the Media Center, BitLocker encryption and utilities like disk formatting and partitioning.

For better performance, enthusiast # 1 recommends installing a graphics card instead of using the on-board controller. Other tips include turning off most visual effects and disabling search indexing. If possible, enthusiast # 1 suggests maxing out RAM.

Enthusiast # 2 has a low-end notebook with the following specs:

  • Compaq notebook with a 1.4 Ghz mobile processor
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 60 GB hard drive
  • Intel on-board graphics card

Enthusiast # 2 is already highly experienced with Windows 7 having installed the OS on more than 50 computers. Among the more than 50 units, the computer with the lowest spec was his friend’s 4 –year old Compaq Presario 2200.

This user has a better computing experience with Windows 7 than the Windows XP Home Edition that came with the laptop. He was able to install the OS in 24 minutes, and boot-up time took a minute and 14 seconds. Hardware detection proceeded smoothly and the installation disk came with all the required drivers.

Like enthusiast # 1, YouTube videos played smoothly. Although MediaCenter ran fine, it placed a huge strain on the system.

Since he already installed Windows 7 on more than 50 PCs, enthusiast # 2 feels that the difference between Vista and Windows 7 is as clear as night and day. Most of the owners of the PCs he installed with the new OS love Windows 7.

In order to get better performance from older computers, enthusiast #2 suggests running only five applications at a time.

One comment

  • First of all hats off to the effort taken. I found many of the systems failed under this type of tests with Windows Vista. Daring to go with Windows7 for the test is welcome one.

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