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Windows 7 Resurrects Celeron Desktop

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061With tons of hype and a multitude of screen shots being posted, I was eager to get some hands-on time with the Windows 7 public beta.   I decided to see how much damage would be done to my old Celeron desktop with a fresh install.   Although my desktop is not a mobile device, I wanted to see how Windows 7 would perform as I traditionally use this computer as a central hub for filesharing within my home network.   I was doubtful that I could even get the public beta to install because of the computer’s low specs, but the successful reports of Windows 7 on numerous netbooks kept me optimistic.

Specs of Celeron Desktop

  • Model: HP 531w (circa 2002)
  • 1.3 Ghz Celeron Processor
  • 512MB RAM (maxed out)

Performance

I won’t cherry-coat things by saying Windows 7 runs flawlessly on my old box; the Windows 7 index score is a lowly 1.7.   While Windows 7 was not built for computers 7+ years old, the fact that it installed smoothly and runs in a functional state is impressive.   I simply popped in the DVD, followed the prompts, and wah-lah.   I was surprised how all of my devices were recognized and configured correctly immediately following the installation.

Windows 7 functions well enough that I will consider installing the full version when it is released.   Although large video playback is minimal at best, web surfing, emailing, blogging, wordprocessing, and watching videos on YouTube are fully functional.   It’s objective to state, but Windows 7 appears and feels to run as smoothly as Ubuntu 8.10.   After adjusting the Windows appearance settings for best performance, simple actions like minimizing and maximizing windows became more fluid.   The real culprit for sluggish performance aside from the old Celeron processor is the limited 512 MB RAM.   As the task manager shows, much of the physical memory is consumed.   However, I am impressed that the public beta works so well despite the computer’s age and memory limitations.experience_score

File Sharing

One of the trumpeted feature improvements in Windows 7 is Microsoft’s focus on home filesharing; Microsoft has made attempts to make home networking simple and less complicated for the average and novice user.   networksharingprefAfter establishing a homegroup, you’re able to select what type of files and media you’d like to share on your home network.   A unique password is generated by Windows for others to enter when they wish to access shared files.   The filesharing menu shown at right illustrates how simple it is to make your media and documents available on your home network.   Windows 7 filesharing shows great promise in sharing with and integrating mobile devices and other computers in the filesharing process.

User Interface

The Windows 7 user interface is a welcomed improvement over XP and Vista.   Microsoft has created an intuitive computing experience that novice and expert users will appreciate.   What once took four or five clicks through several menus now takes two.   The true power of Windows 7 is in the search bar.   Searching for things in XP felt cumbersome, slow, and produced invalid results, but Windows 7 search is a whole new ball game.   If you want to adjust Window’s appearance settings, typing in the word “performance” yields numerous, valid results.

Windows 7 finally feels easily customizable.   Included with the public beta are many beautiful themes that truly change the look of your desktop.   Unlike XP’s limited themes, changing a theme in Windows 7 is simple and makes your desktop feel personal.     As other OS X fans have said, I must admit that Windows 7′s eye candy is enough to make me consider becoming a PC again.

How does Windows 7 perform on your old hardware?   Share your experiences in the comments and check out Rob’s InkShow of Windows 7 on an LS800 Tablet PC.

As an educator and school counselor, Matthew is an advocate for using technology in the classroom and passionate about exposing students to technologies that will empower them in their future careers. Follow Matthew on Twitter.

10 Comments

  1. GoodThings2Life

    01/17/2009 at 7:41 am

    Nice post, Matt… since my home computers are on a domain, I wasn’t able to test the Home Groups functionality, but it’s nice to hear from someone that it really is simple to use and it’s also nice to hear that W7 runs at all, let alone well, on such limited hardware.

  2. Aaron Axvig

    01/17/2009 at 8:11 am

    I also installed Windows 7 on a quite old computer, a 1.83GHz Pentium M with 512MB RAM. It ran pretty well. I wrote a little about it: http://cs.axvius.com/blogs/aaron/archive/2009/01/12/windows-7-performance.aspx

  3. ChrisRS

    01/17/2009 at 9:20 am

    News of reasonable performance of Windows 7 on low powered computers is encouraging. Apparently there are significant changes â€Ŕunder the hood”. It will be interesting to see if any of this performance improvement shows up on Vista SP2.

    It appears that many XP capable computers, which do not operate acceptably under Vista SP1, are able to operate acceptably under Windows 7 Beta. It is reasonable to conclude that Vista is not yet successfully optimized. Hence, the question “Is WIndows 7 Vista SP2?”

    It appears that the Windows 7 upgrade will not be available for computers running XP. This allows Microsoft the two opportunities to reward early adaptors of Vista:

    1. Provide a very low priced upgrade path ($35 to $50).

    2. â€ŔFix” Vista with SP2. This would include the â€Ŕmeat” of Windows 7. That is the increased stability, increased speed, smaller footprint, and fixes, such as the larger virtual keyboard (which is necessary for smaller screen sizes — sold with Vista).

    Under scenario 2 the â€Ŕsizzle” would be in the Windows 7 upgrade, which could be priced more in line with previous upgrades.

  4. M@rc

    01/17/2009 at 6:57 pm

    I’ve install Windows 7 on an old Compaq computer running a Celeron 1.2 GHz with 512 MB RAM and a 64 MB of VRAM. As mentioned in this post, it’s running somewhat smoothly considering the hardware. I had no problem open 5 windows and surfing the net. However, 512 MB isn’t enough, if I open more than 5 windows it starts freezing and becomes slow. Anyway, I think that’s really a big improvement compared to Vista which barely run smooth enough (to my taste) on my Core 2 Duo desktop…. I guess M$ understood what they’ve been doing wrong and managed to get it fixed. Was it in time to prevent many people from buying a nice Macbook thought ?? I haven’t made the change to OS X yet. Still sticking to my good old XP and I think I’ll instead switch to Win 7 soon.

  5. RF-UK

    01/18/2009 at 12:11 pm

    I installed Win 7 on an old Dell Dimension 3100c Celeron 2.4Ghz, 80GbHDD, 2GbRAM. It installed ok. I also got a peformance score of 1.0 but this was due to the Graphics Card. Soundcard was not recognised. Resolution was also impaired. More strangely the network would see local PCs on the network but would not go on the Internet – Not sure why. This same PC ran Deneb Hackintosh very well. MUCH MUCH faster. And given the obvious hardware and driver problems. Today I have just installed Ubuntu 8.10. And everything works start out of the box, and its very very quick.

    I am still looking forward to trying on Win 7 somemore, possibly when I have more time to play around.

  6. Virtuous

    01/19/2009 at 2:41 pm

    I highly doubt Vista SP2 will run as quickly as Win 7. There would be no incentive for Vista users to upgrade to 7. Vista SP2 would have to be essentially an entirely new OS to be equivalent to 7.

  7. Gis Bun

    01/21/2009 at 6:25 am

    Not surprised Win7 found all the hardware. Why shouldn’t it? It’s not like the hardware is new.

  8. Andy

    01/21/2009 at 2:15 pm

    “Wah-lah?”

    Dude…

  9. Macroman

    01/23/2009 at 2:58 am

    That’s great article. I wouldn’t dream about using new Windows on my old machine. Now just upgrade this 512 RAM and we can go more smoothly ;)

  10. W7

    01/30/2009 at 3:16 am

    I’ve found Windows 7 runs better on my aging centrino laptop than Windows XP does. I think if I bump the ram from 512>1024MB then it should improve even more (which is great, considering it’s only a beta!).

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