Can a hacked version of Windows 7 or 8 compete with Linux in terms of running on an old computer with minimal processing power?

Joseph Videtto December 17, 2012
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I work in a school with LOTS of VERY old Dell computers (OptiPlex 270’s – 256K RAM, and the requirement to run modern Antivirus software that takes up lots of CPU). Needless to say, the computers are occasionally used for internet access, but very little else.

It is my understanding that the IT group is reluctant to allow Linux for a number of good reasons, which include the security concern that Linux does not run the standard antivirus software selected and required by the IT group.

I was wondering if there’s a way to ‘hack’ a Windows operating system (I would like to say Windows XP, but with its impending ‘retirement’, I suppose I should say Windows 7 and 8) so that it is as effective as Linux in running on older hardware.

If so – where can I find explicit instructions on the Web teaching me exactly how to do this – what processes and utilities can I remove and still allow browsers and antivirus to run, because those are the only 2 things we expect from these old computers.

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  1. dragonmouth
    February 13, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    "It is my understanding that the IT group is reluctant to allow Linux for a number of good reasons, which include the security concern that Linux does not run the standard antivirus software selected and required by the IT group."

    Is it the IT group or some clueless school functionary that is insisting on Windows? I am sure that any competent IT staff would welcome the change from Windows to Linux. It is most often computer-illiterate administrators who insist on Windows "because everyone is using it" and/or "there is no support for Linux" or even "you get what you pay for. Linux is free, therefore it must be garbage". It is also possible that the school district is locked into a contract with Microsoft. I would not be surprised if it was a combination of all of the above.

    Be that as it may, Windows cannot be slimmed down enough to run efficiently on those PCs. Then you will have to install any applications that you may need. With Windows you will also have to contend with licensing issues. Microsoft does not take kindly to anybody altering their products.

    The only option you have is to install Linux on them. As posters have mentioned, you can use Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux or SliTaz Linux. If there is someone who knows Linux, they can build a bare bones distro tailored to your requirements using antiX Core Linux. Linux has two overwhelming advantage as it pertains to your case: all the software is free, no matter how many copies you deploy and any distro comes with all the applications you may need.

  2. Joel Jacob
    January 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Use Linux as it is safe from virus as there are less virus in Linux.

  3. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    December 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Well, the security concern is invalid, because although not running the standard antivirus softwares (of course! They're for Windows!) the OS itself is nearly immune to virus, which is the best deal since it's for browsing purposes. Since you'd use web browser for nearly everything, I think you don't need the 'newest, greatest' OS. Puppy Linux will do, or any Linux specially built to work with the cloud.
    If your IT group is that reluctant, then there are some ways of slimming down Windows:
    http://lifehacker.com/374376/trim-down-windows-to-the-bare-essentials
    http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/316422-slimming-down-windows-xp/
    http://windowssecrets.com/support-alert/how-to-slim-down-windows/

  4. Loenja Selter
    December 18, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    i would recommend Linux, but if that's not an option, a paired down version of xp might do.

    are you sure about the amount of ram?? 256k sounds VERY small, 256mb is still very small.

  5. Justin Pot
    December 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    It's a shame you can't use Linux, because Windows 7/8 isn't made with these machines in mind. If you set up a browser-only Linux system with strict rules about who has the root password malware will not be an issue. Drivers on the Windows side might well be, however.

    Having said that, if you can track it down, there is such a thing as Windows Starter Edition. It's a lightweight version made just for this. That's all I can think of, short of illegal lightweight versions of Windows you'll find on torrent sites.

  6. susendeep dutta
    December 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

    You can try to get a slimmed down version of Windows 7 as mentioned in the link below -

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/tiny-ssd-slim-windows-7-minimal-installs/

    You can also use RT Se7en Lite tool to customize Windows 7 and tweak it to run on low resource PCs -

    http://www.rt7lite.com/

  7. Ahamed Yaseen
    December 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Only oldest win xp requirement is 128 mb ram . Windows 7 and 8 requires 1gb ram....
    So u can use ubuntu and it will work smoothly or else use lightest antivirus....

  8. Fawad Mirzad
    December 18, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Windows 7 and 8 requires expensive hardware. i.e. at least 1 GB ram and higher graphics. Even you won't be able to install windows 7 on your PCs.
    What i recommend is to install a light Linux.
    Some versions of Linux like Ubuntu with unity desktop requires more powerful hardware than windows 7. so take care of your choice.
    In world of Linux OSes there are too many option. you may choose a Linux which have an active community which provides regular update and long term support and do note requires expensive hardware.
    It do requires a bit research.
    If you do not have time for research then i recommend this link.

    http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/best-linux-distributions

    It was really helpful for me

  9. Junil Maharjan
    December 18, 2012 at 4:48 am

    I would say stick with linux. it is safe and will run on older hardware.

    • Alan Wade
      December 18, 2012 at 8:13 am

      He cannot have Linux you donut!

      • Douglas Mutay
        December 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        Hahahaha...I could not help but laugh!

  10. Wouter Ruelens
    December 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Just convince the IT group that you don't need an antivirus application on linux! Almost all important servers run linux and I don't see the internet go down every day due to virusses!

  11. ha14
    December 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    you can try to slim Windows but since you are concerned with security and compatibility perhaps will not work for your school.
    How to slim down Windows
    http://windowssecrets.com/support-alert/how-to-slim-down-windows/

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