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One screenshot is worth a thousand words, in this case.  (Source: The Windows Club forums)
Hacker is eager to push the new OS onto a Pentium system next

Microsoft recently released a tool that suggests to users whether or not to upgrade to Windows 7, Microsoft's hot new OS.  However, it appears that the actual hardware requirements may be much lower than Microsoft's suggestions if you have enough determination.

A user on The Windows Club's forum has cooked up the ultimate low-end Windows 7 setup.  The user who goes by "hackerman1" has managed to squeeze a working, bootable Windows 7 install onto a machine with a blazing fast 266 MHz Pentium II processor, a whopping 96 MB of SDRAM memory, and a high-tech 4 MB video card. 

The enthusiast first used 128 MB of RAM, then pushed the total down to 96 MB.  A subsequent push for 64 MB proved too much -- Windows 7 needs at least 96 MB to function properly.

Not to be content, the user is now working on a new setup, trying to install Windows 7 on a Pentium I machine featuring a 166 MHz CPU paired with a 1 MB graphics card.  He's also considered trying to make the new fancy graphics wrapping -- Aero -- work on the Pentium II setup. 

Don't expect a quick install, though -- a Pentium III-based system install took 17 continuous hours, and the Pentium II install likely took much, much more.  The Pentium III based system boots in a mere 17 minutes.

While perhaps not very practical, hackerman1's quest/obsession with putting Microsoft's newest on some rather outdated hardware provides a nice illustration of the new OS's smaller footprint.  The new OS is reported to have consolidated processes, lowered memory requirements, and reduced install size from Windows Vista, allowing it to be installed on netbooks and other non-Vista-ready machines.

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The reason why this works
By Mistoffeles on 6/26/2009 4:15:07 PM , Rating: 2
This is only because MS finally learned something: Monolithic kernels are obsolete. Put as little as you possibly can into the kernel, and load everything else later.

This is what enables Win7 to actually load on a P-II (or even a 486 or 386), but you will not be able to load it on a 286 like some user suggested because Win7 requires a 32-bit processor (of course you aren't going to get 64-bit Win7 onto a P-II). It is quite possible that you won't be able to run it on a 386SX either, but that's just a guess.

Unfortunately, unlike Linux, you won't be able to DO much with Win7 on a P-II, whereas you could easily make that box useful (smart router, web server, DNS server, file server, etc.) running Linux or a similar OS that isn't bogged down by the requirement of running a full GUI at all times.

I'm actually surprised that this hasn't been mentioned before in the comments (or if it has, I missed it), unless of course it was edited out for some reason.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
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