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I've just seen a clean Windows XP Home Edition installation crawling on a Celeron with 666 MHz and 128 MB of RAM (and sufficient video card and HD). There were no software installed, just SP3, all Windows Updates, and Avast Free Antivirus. It was impossible to install anything else, the memory usage was about 250 MB of virtual memory, any attempt took ages and the installer process dies silently thereafter.

The installation was brand new, no viruses, no polluted registry, no other problem. The antivirus took under 20 MB. According to Microsoft, the system requirements are P233 (P300 recommended) and 64 MB with 128 MB recommended. So are they just lying or what is to blame?

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What are you trying to install? –  James Aug 26 '11 at 8:41
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Is the HDD an old one? some hard drives degrade performancewise over time. I'd try running a HDD benchmark to be sure. 256 mb is the least i consider practical these days in terms of ram –  Journeyman Geek Aug 26 '11 at 10:07
    
The virtual memory might not be configured correctly at a guess as I would expect it to try and allocate more than 250MB of virtual memory. It might be worth checking this setting. –  Richard Aug 26 '11 at 11:31
    
Microsoft didn't lie. What they list assumes nothing else is installed. Avast Free Antivirus is more then likely the reason your performance sucks. –  Ramhound Aug 26 '11 at 14:28
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closed as not constructive by random Aug 26 '11 at 12:59

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They are the minimum system requirements to run XP alone. no AV, no extras nothing else. And even then performance will be poor. thats why a lot of companies now put minimum and Recommended system requirements.

Also I've noticed that the orignial system requirements were OK for XP with no SP's or anything else but as more and more updates SP's etc have been added the extra features take up more and more memory leaving the original specs (which haven't been updated) redundant.

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Anti-virus software is almost always to blame.

The lightest anti-virus software is probably Panda's Cloud Anti-virus, although you will need an Internet connection. It works great with 256MB especially compared with Microsoft Security Essentials, NOD32, and others.

On such a weak system you probably don't want any real time anti-virus checking, only an offline solution would be remotely practical like ClamWin.

Anti-virus is almost moot as you wouldn't be able to run any modern browser due to their hefty resource requirements.

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I suspect the lack of memory is to blame.

Those might have been the memory requirements when the software was first released but subsequent updates (service packs and windows updates) would no doubt have increased the memory needed to run it.

edit see below, seems I was completely wrong and those requirements are still technically valid.

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I thought that at first but it seems that Microsoft are still listing the same requirements for SP3: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc507836.aspx –  James Aug 26 '11 at 8:40
    
@James: They actually do: "64 megabytes (MB) of RAM". –  maaartinus Aug 26 '11 at 8:43
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Wow, I both stand corrected and am amazed at the same time! –  Richard Aug 26 '11 at 11:29
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