Just when you thought only Linux could revive old hardware

August 12th, 2009 | Tags:

IT purists have previously told us that if you want to run an operating system on lower-end hardware you need Linux, but it seems that the community is changing it’s tune.

Taken from Computer World:

What: Circa-2002 ‘white-box’ desktop bought off Craigslist for $25

Specs: 2.4GHz ‘Northwood’ Pentium 4 CPU, 1GB PC2100 DRAM, 120GB IDE hard drive (7,200 rpm), ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder 7500 graphics card

Windows Experience Index: 1.0

Performance: Don’t be fooled by the CPU’s respectable-looking clock speed: This computer is pokier than it looks. There’s no hyperthreading to help with running multiple apps, and the secondary memory cache is puny. Its PassMark benchmark score is just 329, barely higher than the Intel Atom N270 CPU (309) used in most netbooks. Also, Windows 7 refused to recognize any of the drivers I tried for my ATI graphics card (I’m using a standard VGA driver instead).

This 7-year-old ‘white-box’ desktop PC ran videos and productivity apps with ease under Windows 7. (Credit: Eric Lai)

Despite everything going against this machine, high-def YouTube and Hulu videos — even DVDs — all played with only a hint of a stutter. Compatibility with XP apps was no problem: My 9-year-old copy of Photoshop 6 and 12-year-old copy of Office 97 both ran great.

Comparison to other OSes: I ran Windows XP Pro on the other partition. Windows 7’s performance was nearly as good, even though XP had the big advantage of a working graphics driver. The biggest plus for XP Pro was in startup times: It booted in 1 minute, 25 seconds (1:25), versus 1:52 for Windows 7. But both shut down in about 30 seconds.

Recommend Windows 7? Windows XP Pro still responds more crisply when doing things like navigating menus and opening apps. Windows 7’s languid pace reminded me of Mac OS X. But like OS X, Windows 7 is also a lot prettier, excels at automatically handling device drivers (except for ATI’s, it seems) and includes Vista features like Media Center, BitLocker encryption and disk utilities such as format and partitioning, without the sluggishness. So I do recommend it.

Continued on Computer World