We love challenges at ITProPortal.com which is why we've decided to see how low Microsoft's Windows 7 Ultimate could go. By low we mean, what's the most antiquated, slowest piece of technology that will run Microsoft's shiniest and most up to date operating system.
For today's challenge, we first chose an AMD Duron system with a 750MHz processor. It's not that we couldn't go slower, it's just that we DIDN'T find anything else even on Ebay (ed: if anyone has an old Pentium 2 or even Pentium Pro system handy, send it to us).
The system which we got of Ebay is roughly nine years old (just as old as IE6) and was manufactured by now defunct Evesham Technology. It is a fairly robust model and the Duron 750Mhz that powers it itself is roughly equivalent to a Pentium III 550/600Mhz. or a Celeron 700MHz.
(Interestingly enough, the original Asus EEE PC netbook, the 701 which was released back in October 2007 had a Celeron M processor underclocked at 630MHz).
We attempted, unsuccessfully, to downclock it, an option that was not present on the BIOS of the Microstar motherboard that came with it. The system came with 640MB memory, which should be more than enough to make Windows 7 run fairly easily.
Add to that the fact that there's a DVD drive, a "large" hard drive (20GB), a dedicated video card, more than enough USB ports and even a network card and you have a pretty decent PC. There's even the original Windows 98 Second Edition sticker hanging around.
Installing Windows 7 Ultimate on the system was a doodle because of the DVD drive and was achieved in around 52 minutes without any issues encountered with the drivers - missing only those for the sound cards - even though the parts were almost one decade old.
It found the 100MB Iomega Zip drive as well as an antiquated 56K fax/modem (remember these?).
The computer was quite responsive when starting default applications like pinball or notepad. This was undoubtedly due to the amount of memory which reduced the amount of hard disk swapping significantly.
Using default settings, the computer was not able to complete the Windows Experience index benchmark, saying that it could not measure the system memory performance. We changed the visual effects, opting to get the "best performance" rather than "best appearance" but to no avail.
We did make things slightly more complicated though by removing the a 512MB memory module out of it. With 128MB memory to play with, Windows 7 understandably found itself gasping for air, a fact made even more painful because of the sluggish hard disk drive.
The performance of Windows 7 Ultimate on an AMD Duron 750MHz pleasantly surprised us, not least because its predecessor, Microsoft Vista, proved to be awful at running on low-power computers. It also provides with a glimpse of how Windows 7 could perform on a platform that's specwise is similar to a smartphone rather than a full fledge netbook.
Next stop is a Cyrix/IBM PR233 system, that's equivalent to a Pentium I 233Mhz. Wish us good luck on getting this one to run.