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The things that are better left unspoken

a blog by Sander Berkouwer

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Meeting Windows 8’s minimum specifications

Windows 8 offers many advantages compared to Windows XP, Windows Vista and even Windows 7. However, to take full advantage of all the new features in Windows 8, the hardware you run it on needs to be equipped with specific hardware.

The list below details the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8-powered desktops, notebooks and tablets in detail:

  

Minimum specifications

Processor

Central Processing UnitBy now, you’ve probably heard of Windows 8 and Windows RT. Windows 8 is the familiar x86-based Operating System you’ve come to love and live with in the past years. Windows RT is a new breed of Windows, specifically designed to run on ARM-based processors.

At first glance, Windows 8 minimum requirements are equal to these of Windows 7. When you look closer, though, Windows 8 demands certain processor-specific technologies. First of all, the processor needs to support the Never Execute bit (NX-bit). It also requires SSE2. 

NX is the limiting factor here. named Execute Disable in the world of Intel and is available in its processors since the 64bit-capable 90nm Prescott-based Pentium 4 processors (February 2004). The technology, dubbed Enhanced Virus Protection (EVP by AMD is available since the Opteron (April 2003) and Athlon64 (September 2003).

Coincidentally, both Intel and AMD introduced NX in processors at the same time as their 64bit capabilities in mainstream processors. With the exception of some netbooks, all prospective Windows 8 machines are able to run the 64bit versions of Windows 8.

RAM

Random Access MemoryWindows 8 requires a minimum of 1GB of RAM. This requirement is equal to Windows 7, but, like back in the early days of Windows 7, when you want a Windows 8 machine to run smoothly when you use demanding programs, I recommend 2GB RAM.

When you’re running more demanding programs, even on rigs with 2 GB RAM, you’re likely to run into a performance bottleneck. When Windows needs to allocate more RAM than is physically available, it will use the page file on the hard disk. Since disk storage is slower than RAM, this significantly hits performance. Adding RAM solves this problem.

Also, ReadyBoost, a feature that has been around since Windows Vista, can be used. Instead of using the page file on disk to expand RAM, first a file on a flash drive will be used. Flash drives are most commonly faster than disk storage.  When using USB media, make sure it’s at least 256MB in size, USB 2.0 compatible and plugged into an USB 2.0 socket.

Display

DisplayWindows 8 is primarily designed for wide screens. Many of the New User Interface elements work particularly well on 16:9 aspect ratio and 16:10 aspect ratio screens. You can install Windows 8 on machines with screens with 1024 x 768 resolutions. These machines will run Windows 8 and will display Windows 8 Apps.

However, it’s a better idea to install Windows 8 on machines with screens with 1366 x 768 resolutions (and higher). When the screen offers at least 1366 x 768 pixels, you can use Windows Snap. With Windows Snap, apps (and the desktop) can be snapped to the side of the screen, allowing multi-tasking between Windows 8 apps and between Windows 8 apps and desktop applications.

Many tablets, that seem prime candidates for Windows 8 from a processor and RAM point of view, are unable to offer Windows Snap, due to their 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 800 resolutions and might offer a reduced Windows 8 experience.

Note:
Windows Snap can be enabled on lower resolutions using the Registry information here.

Video Card

Video CardWhile you might think you can finally reuse your beloved PCI-based S3 Trio64 video card, because it will be able to output a 1024 x 768 resolution, the video card will need to be compatible with DirectX 9.0 or higher. It will need to be Direct3D 9-capable and its manufacturer will have to support its card with a WDDM 1.0+ driver.

Many Nvidia cards are Direct3D 9-capable since the 6xxx series in 2004. ATI's DirectX 9.0 technology was introduced in 2002, released as Radeon 9500–9800, X300–X600, and X1050. As a rule of thumb, you can use your graphic card when it’s newer than 2004. Integrated graphics, like the Intel GMA 950, 3000, x3000, 3100 and 500 families, supported Direct3D-9 from 2006.

Note: When you plan to multi-boot or downgrade the machine to Windows 7, the aforementioned video cards will only make the system ‘Compatible with Windows 7’ and you will need to live without Aero Glass and Flip 3D on Windows 7 (features removed from Windows 8). To enable Aero Glass and Flip 3D, you’ll need a DirectX 10+-capable video card with WDDM 1.1+ drivers.

Everything higher spec’d will not benefit you in a significant way when you plan to merely use the Windows 8 interface. When you plan to play 3D games, however, a more sophisticated video card will make a good Christmas gift.

Hard Disk Space

Hard DiskMicrosoft recommends 16GB of free hard disk space for 32bit (x86) installations of Windows 8. For 64bit (x64) installations of Windows 8, a minimum of 20GB is specified. When you upgrade to Windows 8 from a previous version of Windows, you’ll need 7768 MB of free space on the system disk (the disk where the Windows folder lives).

However, depriving Windows 8 from disk space from the get-go, might become a sour decision after a while. It’s fine when you limit the disk space for test machines, but when you’re a few months down the line, you’ll no longer be able to download and install updates, due to low disk space.

Also, by default, Windows will create a hibernation file (when the system supports low power states and a page file. Providing a 20GB disk to Windows on a machine with 8GB RAM, will cause problems.

  

Still in doubt?

when, after reading the above five points, you’re still in doubt whether you system will be able to run Windows 8, use the free Microsoft Windows 8 Upgrade Advisor.

This tool can be used to scan your hardware, applications and connected devices to see if they'll work with Windows 8. It provides a full human-readable compatibility report at the end. Also, it will check your hardware to see if it supports certain Windows 8 features, like Windows Snap, SecureBoot and multitouch.

You can also use this tool to buy, download, and install Windows 8.

Further reading

Windows 8 system requirements    
Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant privacy statement 
Upgrade to Windows 8

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 12:59 PM by Sander Berkouwer

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