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The system requirements from Microsoft about Windows 7 outline a minimum 1 gb for a 32 bit installation.

Does anyone have any advice, tips, success or failure stories about trying to get it running on a older machine that doesn't meet the outlined requirements?

Example cases; would 768mb work but be annoying to use, 512mb be really difficult to install, 256mb not even worth trying?

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I had Aero running on an Atom, integrated graphics, and 1GB ram. – RCIX Sep 10 '09 at 12:39
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Windows 7 scale really well to low-end hardware. I have installed Win 7 x32 on a Pentium 4 Celeron 2.2GHz with 384MB memory, and it was perfect for basic tasks like Office, iTunes, Web, etc etc.

Win 7 has been optimized quite thoroughly, and most user experience states that they are pretty impressed with how well performance scales across different hardware.

Give it a shot - any machine within the past 5 years should work well.

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And hey, right now Win 7 is free to try out for 90 days anyway! Download the Enterprise version and give it a whirl to see how you like it.… – caliban Sep 5 '09 at 13:45
whether it makes sense to buy a $100 OS for an old clunker that's worth $20 at a yard sale is a different story altogether :) – Molly7244 Sep 5 '09 at 14:37

There is one reference on Windows Seven 7 Runs Flawlessly on 512MB RAM.
And a 512MB VM installation reference.

Another local question reference -- it is about selecting x32/x64 for a 2GB RAM system though.
Also if you feel interested an Atom 1GB RAM install: Windows 7 - What I saw in 15 minutes

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I have to admit I haven't installed Windows 7 on 512MB, but have a few 2008 R2 servers in VM's running 512MB without much hassle. – BinaryMisfit Sep 5 '09 at 13:27
i'm sure some boffins will make windows 7 run on 64 MB if they only tweak hard enough. just as it is possible to run XP on a downclocked 7 MHz CPU with as little as 20 MB RAM. :) – Molly7244 Sep 5 '09 at 14:22

In fact people have done

W7 runs on a P2 with 266MHz CPU, 96MB RAM & 4Mb graphic card ! i have done 3 tests: 2 successfull… 1. 128 MB RAM 2. 96 MB ram

See here Running Windows 7 on a Dinosaur if you don't believe it yourself

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Does Vista/Win7 work on the original (586) Pentium? – kinokijuf Jan 26 '12 at 22:19

The installer fails to install if the machine has less than 256 MB ram.

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I believe it (also) refuses to install if the machine has less than ~384 MB. – Reuben Sep 7 '09 at 6:26

I have installed W7 on 512MB systems several times - works just fine.

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