Yesterday I installed Windows 7 Professional on an older PC – it dates from 2001 or possibly 2002, and has a Pentium 4 1.8Ghz on Intel’s 845 chipset. Only 768MB RAM is installed – generous for XP in those days, but below the 1GB minimum spec for Windows 7.
I thought I would try it anyway. It turned out that Windows 7 installed without complaint – I believe you have to go down to 512MB before setup actually protests – and I was impressed with how smooth the process was. There is a Creative Audigy soundcard installed; and after logging on for the first time, Windows automatically downloaded an update which got this working. Device Manager shows no errors other than a “PCI Input Device” which I suspect is the joystick port on the Creative soundcard. A cheap USB wireless card was recognized first time, and the add-on USB 2.0 card also works fine.
I am also impressed by the performance. I stuck on Office 2007, ran up Word and Excel with a couple of documents open, and looked in Resource Monitor:
This shows 274MB still available; at this level of use, the machine is not under any pressure.
It is not fair to make a direct comparison with XP since it had been installed for a while and would have built up a bit of cruft. However, Windows 7 is subjectively slightly faster, if anything, and you could not say that for Vista on the same machine.
I am not recommending that anyone runs Windows 7 on a below-spec machine, but I found it interesting nonetheless.
I’ve also been pleased with the in-place upgrade I did on my laptop, a 2006 Toshiba M400. This machine is much younger of course; though at three years old laptop batteries tend to die and sometimes it is hard to justify the cost of a replacement. This one is running so well that I have replaced the battery.
I am sure the industry is counting on Windows 7 to drive sales of new machines. There is another angle on this though, which is that old machines that were not much fun with Vista may be rejuvenated by a Windows 7 installation. Extending their life is good for the balance sheet as well as for the environment, so I am all in favour.
Yet another angle on this is that there is more incentive to go through the pain of reinstalling the operating system for Windows 7 than there was for Vista. I suspect this means that we will see rapid adoption, exceeding most expectations. For developers, that means it will pay to support Windows 7 features like the new taskbar sooner rather than later.