Tech enthusiast proves Windows 10 can run on 192MB RAM

nanoguy

Posts: 450   +4
Staff member

There's something to be said about Windows 10 being able to run (read: boot and open small apps) on very modest hardware as long as it has a compatible x86 CPU that runs at 1 GHz or higher, paired with at least 1 GB of RAM (2 GB for the 64-bit version). After all, Windows Vista launched with similar system requirements more than 13 years ago.

However, that doesn't mean that's the best it can do. In an experiment spotted by Tom's Hardware, Twitter user @0xN0ri -- who is an embedded systems enthusiast -- went ahead and did a useless but rather fun experiment to see how low spec you can go before Windows 10 is no longer able to work properly.

For simplicity, Nori ran the 32-bit version of Windows 10 1909 in a virtual machine using Oracle's VirtualBox software under Arch Linux on a Dell Inspiron 3670 desktop tower. Then, the 16-year-old tinkerer gradually reduced the amount of RAM committed to the virtual machine and looked at whether Windows was able to boot and make it to the desktop.

The first attempt was made with 512 MB of RAM, which is higher than what had already been achieved in the wild on a real machine with a Via C7 CPU running at 400 MHz (far below the 1GHz minimum requirement) and a measly 448 MB of RAM (technically 512 MB with 64 MB reserved by the system for integrated graphics).

The second try involved lowering the maximum allotted RAM to 256 MB of RAM, which booted just fine. At 192 MB, Windows 10 still made it to the desktop, and at 140 MB the virtual machine didn't make it to the login UI. Lowering that even further to 128 MB resulted in a glorious blue screen.

Interestingly, this was achieved without disabling services or "streamlining" the installation of Windows 10 used in the experiment. Some of you may have fond memories of tinkering with nLite to remove components from Windows XP or vLite to do the same to Vista, which had an insane memory footprint for the time it was launched, but could be reduced to allow systems with 256 MB of RAM to run just fine -- albeit with a lot of Windows components removed and using the classic interface.

Still, a real system like this would hardly be usable as the only things Nori was able to run was the task manager, command prompt, and file explorer, and slower than any of us would be able to bear. Booting Windows 10 with a low amount of RAM took several minutes, which is also far from ideal. But just like trying to run Windows 95 on the Apple Watch or an alternative smartwatch, geeks can't resist the temptation to do it.

And it's not just for the sake of experimentation, either. There's a popular YouTuber calling himself LowSpecGamer that makes a living from video tutorials on how to get PC games to run on the lowliest of the Windows machines that are out there by tweaking config files and modding the game until everything looks smooth and plastic.

If you don't like seeing Windows 10 starve on too little RAM and want to see the opposite of this ridiculous experiment, Linus Tech Tips looked at how Windows 10 runs on no less than 2 TB of RAM. And, of course, he also looked at how many Chrome tabs you can open on that before you reach the limits of both the hardware and the software side of things.

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ZedRM

Posts: 315   +172
It can run, run slow and you barely can't run anything. Wow.
The whole point was a novelty, no one expects Windows 10 to be useful running with only 192MB of RAM. However, Windows 10 running on an old single core Atom based netbook with 2GB of Ram? It runs surprisingly well. Granted, my netbook has an SSD, but still.
 

Dimitrios

Posts: 645   +463
The whole point was a novelty, no one expects Windows 10 to be useful running with only 192MB of RAM. However, Windows 10 running on an old single core Atom based netbook with 2GB of Ram? It runs surprisingly well. Granted, my netbook has an SSD, but still.
Even though I hate Windows 10 and INTEL cpu's my netbook like yours runs very well and I agree 100% with your opinion. I use mine to tune my 1999 Camaro or doing live runs while driving just to see how the car is doing. Never "crashed" with HP TUNERS software/hardware.
 

BSim500

Posts: 663   +1,335
"Run in 192MB RAM but system commit = 0.7GB" is not that impressive when everything grinds to a halt via constant swapping to disc 4x more than you have RAM to squeeze it into. Disable the swap file and it'll crash even on 1GB.

For a practical sense, the article's "do you remember the old days when you disabled services and use nLite" comments are still more true than ever with not only RAM usage falling but security going up when you start turning off cr*p like Remote Desktop x3, Remote Registry, Secondary Login, Windows Remote Management, etc. I saw someone the other day disable a whopping 122x W10 services and it still ran fine highlighting just how much non-core bloat there is in it (Connected User Experience & Telemetry, Data Sharing, Downloaded Maps, Retail Demo Service, the old Encrypting File System (non Bitlocker), GameDVR, Windows Media Player, XBox *, etc). It never ends.

All Microsoft had to do from the start was offer consumers an LTSC based de-cr*pified version (call it "W10 Ultimate") and they wouldn't have half the "W7 holdout" problem they currently do.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,421   +2,024
There is no reason for Windows 10 to require better hardware than Windows 7 or even Vista. If it's gonna be better than it's predecessors it should run faster then them. Performance is top priority for any operating system, it's up there with security. One way of improving performance is making it lighter so that it can run easier on weaker hardware. The fact that Windows 10 can even be ran on 192MB of RAM is a good thing.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 6,925   +5,212
It's been said for a long time that programmers always write for the next generation processor; suggesting they were lazy and would not be economical. This one appears to defy that, unless of course you consider how much junk that Windows loads at start up. I guess you have to give them credit, they have figured out how to jam 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound sack ....
 
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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,283   +1,065
It's been said for a long time that programmers always write for the next generation processor; suggesting they were lazy and would not be economical. This one appears to defy that, unless of course you consider how much junk that Windows loads at start up. I guess you have to give them credit, they have figured out how to jam 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound sack ....
It was basically forced on the devs since this was to be a [forced] upgrade. Their goal was a billion devices, and it wasn't going to happen if it were only on new purchases. They had to code it for old hardware, and it shows how terrible it was by how many disastrous upgrades there were. Trillions of man hours were lost from doing this to us (just counting the upgrades alone). I wonder what the actual number of upgrades were willingly and happily done. I don't know of anyone IRL who doesn't hate win10 and what it's done (and still screwing up).
 

trparky

Posts: 706   +599
It was basically forced on the devs since this was to be a [forced] upgrade. Their goal was a billion devices, and it wasn't going to happen if it were only on new purchases. They had to code it for old hardware, and it shows how terrible it was by how many disastrous upgrades there were. Trillions of man hours were lost from doing this to us (just counting the upgrades alone). I wonder what the actual number of upgrades were willingly and happily done. I don't know of anyone IRL who doesn't hate win10 and what it's done (and still screwing up).
That's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that because Microsoft wants Windows 10 to run on as many devices as possible, they've had to shrink Windows down to do just that and in the process of trying to slim it down they've been running into major issues. It's easy to add stuff, not so easy to take things away from a massive codebase that dates back 30 years without it being a bumpy ride along the way.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,364   +1,626
I put a Mac OS on a VM in windows 10, then ran the mac, and put windows 7 on a VM, inside the mac, inside the windows 10. It installed, but BSOD's on reboot. Had it worked, I was going to put another VM and install mac inside the win7, inside the mac, inside win10.
I was looking for singularity....or destroying the world LOL.
 
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Yynxs

Posts: 544   +183
TechSpot Elite
I put a Mac OS on a VM in windows 10, then ran the mac, and put windows 7 on a VM, inside the mac, inside the windows 10. It installed, but BSOD's on reboot. Had it worked, I was going to put another VM and install mac inside the win7, inside the mac, inside win10.
I was looking for singularity....or destroying the world LOL.
Keep trying, Look for repetitive black cats. Be wary of meow mix.
 
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gamerk2

Posts: 381   +265
The tester might use NVME so the paging is so fast. most of users in the world using HDD
That's one area where a SSD of any type should help a bit, but at the end of the day you're doing so much disk IO the IO scheduler is probably the biggest limiting factor. We already know Windows does NOT handle these types of cases well.
 

ubronan

Posts: 49   +8
It can run, run slow and you barely can't run anything. Wow. My experience show that under 4 Gb the system swap too much and run very slowly. you can use 1 application at a time. fast ssd can help
I actually have a hp mini laptop running win 10 x64 with 1 Gb memory and it runs.
However M$ does not like that people create winlite versions at all, because all the bloat and spyware, adware gets killed by that.
There are a few version out in the more shady parts of the internet, but the question is are these safe to use..

But there is no choice if you really want it to become workable, because in the current state its hardly usable. Except for what I do on it now... I use it for calibre to read my ebooks.
Even that is a pain todo so slow on a normal win 10 install.

There is actually no performance gain in either setup x86 or x64 both run equally slow.
For example when I start word on this mini it takes about 17 minutes before word is open, opening notepad++ takes about 2 minutes.

Of course I tried removing alot of the bloat/spyware M$ pumps into win 10 but every update most are put back by M$ almost every major update.
Again making this mini laptop so slow that its absolute not something you want to use every month.

Funny enough this mini can run x64 with ease so why intel crippled it so much is beyond me either.
This model is cpu is limited to 1 or 2 Gb of ram but is x64 capable ?!?!? lol think about that.

This article however is of course totally useless info because only starting windows means nothing
 
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DAOWAce

Posts: 307   +49
nLite or vLite
Those were the days.

Back when we actually had an (unofficial) option to remove useless Windows components and drastically slim down our installs.

...And then have them break when installing updates and service packs. Maybe.

Now with Microsoft having changed their update system for Windows 7 to be a monthly bulk thing where users can't opt out of any problematic updates, and Windows 10 being.. Windows 10, gone are the days of users being able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

But still, W8/10 was designed to run on mobile devices (at the expense of the PC UI), so it's not surprising it can 'run' on such low spec hardware.
 
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ubronan

Posts: 49   +8
Haha yes lol,
Their so called mobile devices where a fail because of the same issue as with the current win 10 too much spyware and unneeded crap.
So we are stuck with the crappy phone interface... brrrr
Without openshell I would be lost, they keep adding all kinda nonsense stuff and moving things from the best interface into garbage because those few tablet/phone users like it.
After I had read about the changes to win 7 I was thinking to switch over to linux again :).
But I might not be surprised that M$ is going to screw that up as well, now that they announced to work on that as well.
 
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DAOWAce

Posts: 307   +49
Without openshell I would be lost,
7+ Taskbar Tweaker
Open Shell (formerly Classic Shell)
OldNewExplorer

Essential software for me to even use Windows 10. Found the first two after trying to switch to Windows 7 (from Vista) and finding they removed the classic start menu and changed the taskbar for no reason. Also for W10: WinaeroTweaker and a whole bunch of "personalization", group policy and registry tweaks.

Still on v1703 because of the horrible changes they made to the Explorer UI in dark mode; no way to separate it from the entire system theme like it was in previous versions (think it happened in 1803? 1709 was full of bugs). Switching back to light mode sucks. Haven't found anything on the internet about people changing this, so I guess most people aren't bothered by it, but ironically trying to use it in dark mode hurts my eyes because of the terrible color contrast. Also Explorer being white for the last 20+ years of using Windows makes it even more of an unwelcome change.

Anyway, seems like every company decides to change its software's UI every so often for god knows what reason, upsetting numerous people and giving users no way to change anything. Disgusting that we're forced to deal with it.
 
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ubronan

Posts: 49   +8
Yes lol I tried that horrible dark mode as well and because I was pissed off, I reinstalled the old image :D.
So guess I was lucky I had made an image before I used it :).
I actually feel the same way at all these freaking no choices UI, steam and almost all others force you to use their fonts and their horrible stupid UI.
I can not even read info about games, because its hidden under their own stupid forced UI. But all of them seem to find it the holy grail, and worse is that if you want to go back to an older version without it, they do forced upgrades on the software.
I have used many tricks to get rid of their new crap, but after M$ 10 reboots they get auto updated back to the new crap again. Even my work tricks often no longer function any more.
I have had a bunch of scripts from work, because people there go berserk if they get a new version like this. But several of these scripts no longer work either.
So I am sure the ones doing support will get busy days with all this new crap.
M$ keeps making its OS for the new kids and do want to force the old users to do the same. I just heard from a friend that they actually do the same on win 7 as well.
So those who did not upgrade to win 10 and where happy are going to be in the same boot sooner than later.
 

ZedRM

Posts: 315   +172
Those were the days.

Back when we actually had an (unofficial) option to remove useless Windows components and drastically slim down our installs.
Still do. NTLite is a replacement by the same dev that made NLite.
Works wonders for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10. Beautiful thing.