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Will Windows 8 really perform on well on low-end hardware? Here's a test.

Microsoft says that Windows 8 should boot faster, require less disk space, memory and CPU resources than Windows 7. An old Asus Eee PC 900 netbook put these claims to the test.

The following is a guest blog by freelance editor and self-confessed keyboard geek Marco Chiappetta. Among the plethora of information regarding Windows 8 that Microsoft has so far disseminated, is talk about a handful of optimizations meant to streamline, speed-up, or otherwise reduce Windows 8’s footprint in comparison to Windows 7. So, I set out to put these claims to a real world test on my old Asus EE netbook.

MORE FROM MARCO: Why Windows 8 is Microsoft’s 'Apple-like' Slippery Slope

Although the minimum system requirements for the final release of Windows 8 have yet to be officially disclosed, other than to say they’ll likely be lower than Windows 7’s, Microsoft did set a minimum spec for the Windows 8 Developer Preview which was released a few month back. The minimum system requirements for the Developer Preview 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

Those are some paltry minimum system requirements in this day and age of octal-core processors, DX11 GPUs, and cheap RAM. But I digress.

According to what Microsoft has already disclosed, Windows 8 should boot faster, require less disk space, and the OS itself should consume less memory and fewer processor resources than Windows 7. That all sounds great in theory, but theory doesn't’t always translate very well into real-world results.

With that in mind, I set out to see how well the Windows 8 Developer Preview would perform on an aging machine that didn't’t actually meet the minimum system requirements—an old Asus Eee PC 900 netbook.

Asus EEE Windows 8

The Asus Eee PC 900 doesn't meet Windows 8’s minimum requirements, but it was able to run the OS anyway.  

The Eee PC 900 is equipped with a lowly Intel Celeron mobile processor, clocked at 900MHz, and anemic integrated graphics. The machine originally shipped with 1GB of RAM and 12GB of solid state storage for the OS, but has since been upgraded to 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. Regardless of the upgrades, the system’s processor and IGP are below Microsoft’s minimum recommended specifications. If the OS would even install on the machine, it would make for an interesting test of Windows 8 supposed, streamlined nature.

Well, the OS did install and work properly on the machine, save for one minor hiccup—there were no graphics drivers available, so I had to settle for the basic display driver included with Windows 8. Even still, Windows 8 runs surprising well on this diminutive machine. The OS, in its current pre-beta state, has a significantly smaller footprint than Windows 7. For example, a clean Windows 7 installation will consume roughly 13GB of storage space, disregarding the pagefile. Windows 8 used only 9.9GB. In terms of resource consumption, Windows 8 was also more spartan. After a clean OS install, Windows 8 started up with only 28 running processes and 435 threads; a clean Windows 7 install had 36 running processes and 515 threads. And even with only 2GB of RAM in the machine, Windows 8 used less than 20% of the systems available memory.

Perhaps the most startling change was in regard to boot times. Windows 7 took about 26 seconds to boot to a usable desktop on the machine. Windows 8, however, presented the login screen in only 10.5 seconds.

Many things are likely to change as Windows 8 gets closer to release, but even in these early stages of development, it appears Microsoft is going to deliver on their claims of a more streamlined, speedier OS.

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Read my other blog on Open Source. Follow Julie Bort on Twitter @Julie188

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