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Will My Old Computer Run Windows 10?

Hi Leo; I have an old HP computer with Windows Vista. What do I need to do, short of buying a new computer?

As with so many things … it depends.

I’ll review what’s necessary to run Windows 10, and then we’ll examine a couple of alternatives.

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Minimum requirements

The first thing to do is see if your computer meets the minimum requirements for Windows 10. You’ll find the full list here on the Microsoft web site.

Windows 10 Desktop The short version listed there includes the requirement that your computer have:

  • A 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster CPU1
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM
  • A 32GB or larger hard disk
  • An 800×600 display.

Now, let’s be clear, those are the minimum requirements. In fact, I’d call them the bare minimum. Windows 10 may work, but will it work well? I’m guessing not.

I would much prefer to see just about everything doubled:

  • A 2 gigahertz (GHz) or faster CPU
  • 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM
  • A 64GB or larger hard disk
  • A 1920×1080 display

If your computer meets those requirements, and especially if it exceeds them, upgrading may be an option.

You should be able to download Windows 10 and run the installer to have it confirm that your computer is compatible.

Consider a switch

If your machine doesn’t meet the minimums for Windows 10, you might consider a switch to Linux.

There’s a learning curve, and the software you currently have for Windows will not work, but the concepts are the same, the interface is similar, and there are lots of free alternatives for many popular software packages.

This is mostly a personal preference thing — are you up for the switch? It is definitely “geekier” than Windows 10.

I generally point people at Linux Mint. You can see the minimum requirements for the latest release here. Interestingly, their minimum requirements aren’t that different than Windows 10.

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM
  • A 15GB or larger hard disk
  • A 1024×768 display.

While those, too, are the bare minimum, my experience with Linux is that it still tends to run well(ish) in low resource situations.

If your machine doesn’t meet even those requirements, then there are most definitely other distributions of Linux around that require less. You can check this roundup for a variety. Puppy Linux is one I’ve played with in the past and seems quite capable. Quoting from its Wiki: “People have succeeded in running Puppy with a 333MHz CPU and 64MB. However, having 256MB RAM and a 512MB swap file is more realistic.”

Do nothing

The final option, albeit less popular, is to do nothing.

Yes, you’ll hear dire warnings from people (including me) about the ramifications of no longer getting security updates and the like, but honestly — as long as you practice excellent security habits and the software you care about continues to run, it’s an option.

Let’s face it, we regularly see people running Windows XP, and their world hasn’t collapsed.

Just make sure you’re backing up regularly.

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Footnotes & References

1: There are some additional requirements on the processor type, but by and large, if it’s new enough to be fast enough, it’ll probably meet those requirements. Check the Microsoft page for more.

37 comments on “Will My Old Computer Run Windows 10?”

  1. I would go even further Leo. No less than a 2ghz processor, even though Win 10 works fine on laptops with 1.5ghz processors. I wouldn’t go less than 4 gigs of ram ( and that can even be a challenge ), but 8 gigs is my minimum personally. Hard drives, and SSds are cheap, so no less than a 500 gig mechanical, or a 128 gig SSd. As for the display, it just does not matter. Sure , an HD monitor would be great, but Win 10 will display perfectly fine on almost any monitor, even those old sqaure ones, lol.

    Reply
  2. The CPU can be the ultimate show stopper.
    My P4 is lacking some features needed for Windows 10, even if it’s a 2.8GHz with 2 Gb of RAM. It’s a dinosaur pre-hyper thread, single core CPU. Time to get a whole new computer.

    Reply
  3. From 11/2003 until 09/2018, I ran XP and only switched to 7 after purchasing another computer. The location of many features I use were moved and/or altered, but, to date, I have not experienced a single improvement attributable to the OS. The new computer is, of course, far superior, but, again, that is not the OS. Were it possible, I would, without a second of hesitation, revert to XP, but my tech of 22 yrs. is of the opinion that can not occur. Any thoughts as to that possibility?

    Reply
  4. I bought, at an estate sale in perfect condition, an HP desktop computer which had Vista installed. This was in 2015 and I tried about 20 different Linux distros and settled on Mint. I tried Zorin, which also has the appearance of old Windows, but prefer the look and feel of Mint better. I also run Mint on a Dell 2-in-1 laptop which came with Windows 8.1, then downloaded the free Windows 10 version, and eventually something caused my touch screen and trackpad to malfunction — no matter what I attempted to remedy. So I loaded Mint three years ago and don’t have that problem. Before making the switch, burn several Linux distros and run them in Live Mode to see if you like them. Of course, you can install one, run it which will be faster, and if you don’t like it install a different distro since they are FREE. Linux Elementary fairly mimics MacOS if you are also into a Mac.

    Reply
    • He didn’t say “RAM,” he said “drive,” and he was talking about insufficient space for an update. This all seems to imply that he was talking about hard drive capacity and not RAM. If course at this point hard drive capacities are in the terabyte range, and RAM is in the range that he mentioned.

      Reply
  5. I have been running WIN 10 Pro for three years now on a Dell Dimension 5150 which I purchased in 2006. It came with Win XP. I believe it failed the compatibility test, but I tried Win 10 anyway and it works fine.

    Reply
    • I had the opposite experience with a friend’s 6-year-old Acer Win 7 PC. At that time, MS still provided a program you could run to assess compatibility for Win 10. The program said it would work, but when we tried to do the install, it hung. After several attempts, plus calls to Acer and MS, we gave up. Fortunately, I had made an image of her Win 7 system and was able to blast that back. She continued to run Win 7 for a couple of years and has now purchased a new Win 10PC. (She wasn’t adventuresome enough to go with Linux)

      Reply
  6. I don’t see Windows 8.1 mentioned as an option. I have had Windows 8 until one day they just forced the 8.1 on me, after I had declined to “upgrade” for months I think. I had been thinking of getting a new laptop but have been hearing about all the trouble with Windows 10, and so am grateful for my 8.1 trouble free. What am I missing?

    Reply
    • If Windows 8.1 works, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade for use now, but there are advantages to upgrading. On January 10, 2023, Window 8.1 will stop being supported and will become more vulnerable to malware. Windows 10 will be supported for the life of your computer. If you don’t expect your computer to last beyond the end of security updates, then it’s probably not so important. I still use a 9 year old laptop which originally came with Win 7 which I upgraded to 10.

      Reply
  7. I’m running a 10-year-old machine with Xubuntu. A couple of years ago I added an SSD as the boot drive, and the performance is just fabulous. (The original hard drive has mostly music and videos.)

    I can connect to the systems at the office and do maintenance chores in the evening. I use Chrome, Libre Office, Gpodder (for podcasts), Skype, VLC and many more. The most recent installation was Sweet Home 3D.

    For me, the biggest issue with old computers is memory. One GB is going to be marginal, no matter what OS you use.

    Reply
    • I have a 9 year old laptop running Windows 10. I installed an SSD and it starts up cold in less than a minute. It feels as fast as my 9 month old computer.

      Reply
  8. Having built my own computers for years (since CPM days), Microsoft considered me an OEM for XP, which I still use and get regular updates in spite of their notice updates were discontinued in 2014. PC Pitstop still offers protection for XP. I did buy a Win 10 on a Christmas sale last year, tried it, but did not like the interface, as Microsoft must think it needs to completely revamp how things work every time they come out with their next iteration. The 10 now sits disconnected in the corner.
    I do have a Linux Mint computer which I love, and would probably use it only, but for some reason I just can’t ‘program’ it for multiple monitors. Suggestions would be appreciated.

    Reply
  9. I am running Windows 7, currently, but want to go to Linux. Do you know is there would be a problem with me downloading Linux, while still having Windows 7 installed?
    Hank

    Reply
    • Downloading of course is no problem — it’s just another file.

      INSTALLING it, however, is more of a problem. By default it will REPLACE Windows 7 and erase all files. So at a minimum get an image backup first.

      A more complex alternative is to partition your hard disk, assuming there’s room, and install Linux to that partition, and set up dual boot (you choose which OS to boot into each time). But it is more complex to set up.

      Reply
  10. My main laptop is a 9yr old asus W7 which had its harddrive containing the C drive replaced several months ago with much bother as the tech had no idea what he was doing. So the W7 version he put on it is goodness knows what. It sure has some funny bits to it!
    I’m concerned about the lack of security after Jan’20 when support ends for W7.
    But I already hate using W10.
    I have the previous laptop which ran XP3 now running Linux but I don’t use it much. It was supposed to be exclusively for my pictures but their volume has already surpassed the old Toshiba’s capacity and slowed it down particularly when doing editing.
    Now I’m thinking of doing the same thing with the asus, making it just for photos since it has close to 1000gB storage plus I can put an ssd in it for even more speed and capacity.
    But still, what do I buy to replace it that will look and act like W7 for my daily puter?

    Reply
  11. We have 8 HP Pro 3130 MT Computers that will not upgrade to Windows 10. We download and install the upgrade and at the last minute we get the error, “Something went wrong” and it reverts back to Windows 7 32 bit.

    HP is of no help. They will only say they are not on the approved list.

    Reply
  12. Leo, in addition to CPU/RAM/Hard Drive, etc, you should probably mention driver support – that can be a deal breaker. A few years ago, waited patiently for MS to advise me when the free Windows 10 upgrade was ready to install on my Lenovo Thinkpad T400 – then installed it and found there was no Win10 driver for the Intel WiFi network adapter, causing multiple BSD events and loss of WiFi connectivity. Too late, I checked the Lenovo website to find that model does NOT support Windows 10 – and still doesn’t. Lesson learned.

    Reply
  13. I have a 13 year-old machine running Win10. The only issue is that it hasn’t updated in a long while because of compatibility issues. But other than being a little slow it runs mostly fine.

    Reply
  14. I have installed Windows 10 on several PCs, including several Dell Latitude from 2011. Works just fine and speedy too. My experience is that a SSD is necessary but will speed up almost any old laptop.

    Reply
  15. I have a fairly high end Dell with 8.1 and went to the MS site for “preparing to upgrade” to W10. I followed every instruction to the letter and tried the upgrade. It cranked for +one hour and then stopped with the msg, “Upgrade unsuccessful, restoring to original version”.

    Over a period a week did this over and over with failures. Okay, I understand stuff happens but WHY couldn’t the message explain WHY it failed? I could have fixed it.

    Reply
  16. Just finished updating 3 Win7 laptops and one Win 8.1, all successfully, with the exception that (ironically) the newest machine (Asus) although connecting to wifi no problem, will not connect to internet. This seems to be a known issue for some machines, and having tried all the various online/forum proposed solutions still stuck with a working offline brick. Any solutions anyone?

    Reply
  17. Great article, Leo. Thank you! I just got a brand new SS 2TB drive for my very robust 10-year-old desktop and had W10 Pro installed. It’s good. Now what to do with an equally robust 9-year-old ThinkPad that has W7 Pro. I only need internet once a month to update my work software on that machine, so I think I will go with doing nothing for as long as that works for me. You solved my dilemma!

    Reply
  18. I’m running a Windows 10 1909 on a Sony VAIO laptop from 2007. Upgraded to a 500gb SSD. I’m doubling the RAM to 4gb, but it’s working well enough with 2. Took a while to resolve some driver issues but the OS runs as well as Vista did on the hardware. All the laptop components work. It’s currently my only PC with an optical drive.

    Reply

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