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Vista and old computers – will they get along?

August 18th, 2006 by André Nogueira

Vista is a brand new OS, but most people still have old computers. Will these handle Vista or is XP all they can take?

I had a 5 year old computer lying around, so I thought I’d use it to test Vista. It has a Pentium III CPU at 1Ghz, 768 Mb of Ram and a Geforce 5700 LE 256 AGP 4x graphics card.

Home Premium Build 5472 takes only 39 minutes to install – 36 minutes from the time it starts copying files to the time the login screen is presented, and another 3 minutes until it finished logging in for the first time. Subsequent logins are pretty fast, so I guess it’s building the profile and user preferences when you login for the first time.

Using all the default settings and programs (ie I didn’t disable any program or service) Vista runs pretty well – as well as XP, if not a bit better. Using all the average applications (IE, Office 2003, Messenger, etc) doesn’t create any problem, and it’s very responsive. I didn’t try any processor intensive applications mainly because I couldn’t think of any an average user is bound to use – suggestions are welcomed! I could try games, but modern games won’t work well even in XP because of the old CPU.

With the Geforce 5700 LE I have all the eye candy enabled and working – Aero Glass with transparencies and Flip 3D. Again it doesn’t slow the computer down in any way and the system continues to be very responsive and fast.

Live TV in Media Center works fine in Media Center 2005 with one tuner enabled, but Live TV in Vista’s Media Center still isn’t working well – I can hear the sound, but I get at most 5 or 6 frames per second. It’s been getting better with each build though, so I hope Media Center will work on this computer by the time Vista RTMs.

Windows Search and the Sidebar also don’t pose any problems – they were both enabled and running the whole time, and Windows Search worked quite well.

Comparing this to my laptop – a Centrino 1.6 with 512Mb of Ram and an ATI 9700 64Mb – I have to say this 5 year old computer wins hands down.

Although the laptop has a much better CPU, the old desktop has the advantage of having more video memory and more RAM – the two things that really count in Vista. 64Mb of video memory isn’t enough for Vista – even though it works, 128 is HIGHLY recommended. Same thing for the 512Mb of RAM – either you disable a lot of services and applications (Windows Search, Sidebar, etc) or 512 simply isn’t enough.

Keep in mind that these are still beta versions of Vista and that not everything is optimized, though – 512 is not enough now, but might be acceptable when Vista RTMs. Vista’s performance has been increasing with each build – Beta 2 wouldn’t even run properly on this 5 year old computer, and build 5472 is as good or even better than XP!

So the bottom line is, you won’t need a new computer to run Vista and use everything it has to offer. This computer had 512Mb of RAM and a Geforce 2 MX 400 graphics card, but for less than €40 I was able to buy used parts and make it “Vista-ready”. I also had to buy a new 300 watts power supply unit – unfortunately the new graphics card was more than my 230W old power supply could handle!

Have you tried Vista on older computers too? Let us know about your experience! 🙂

Posted in MS News, Reviews, Windows Vista | 2 Comments »


This entry was posted on Friday, August 18th, 2006 at 2:20 pm and is filed under MS News, Reviews, Windows Vista. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


2 Responses

  1. Brodie J Says:

    Great test mate, sorta surprising in my eyes after what we have all heard.

  2. Bryan Says:

    Vista will run on older hardware than even that 1.6GHz laptop. I’ve got 5472 running on everything form a P4 521 to a P3 @ 550MHz. As slong as it has SSE2 support and 400+MB of ram, it’s do-able. Just don’t expect to be the quickest thing out there.

    Proof old hardware and vista do get along:
    http://www.computersoc.com/download.php?id=559