Yet another test is how badly we can hurt a computer. I actually did this several years ago, when Windows 95 came out, and and I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about.

So, one Saturday morning in late '95 I got the CD, popped it in and tried. The machine it was running on was:

The Install happened while I was out mowing the lawn. This took about 60 minutes to do, and when I came in, it was at 40% completion. I had cut the installed options down to a bare minimum, but I guess it still had a lot of data to copy. I left it and rode my bike somewhere.

When I returned some time later, it was ready to go. The 4 meg of RAM is had was basically enough to just get the Virtual Memory system running, so the entire system was running off swap.

Cold-Booting the system to a usable state took about 7 minutes. The Start Menu took about 20 seconds of disk access to display, and starting up Netscape Navigator 1.1 took about 2 minutes. You don't even want to know how long it took for Word Perfect for Windows took.

You think this is bad? Once, me and a friend once managed to get Windows NT 3.5 running on a 386sx/16...

Why on earth am I telling you this? To illustrate the point that system requirements put forth my many companies are lying documents that are not worth the dead-tree carcas they're printed on. With the exception of games, hardware requirements are, by and large, hardware suggestions with the exceptions of drive space and architecture requirements (e.g. 16-bit vs. 32-bit).

In this case there was no reason that I couldn't use a 386 because even though the manual said it required a 486, we all know damn well that there is nothing so different from a 386 to a 486 that would be show stopping.

In all but a few cases, then, Hardware requirements == Hardware Suggestions. A Pentium 4 may be a metric assload faster than a 386, but there is almost nothing (save SSE/MMX) that the Pentium can do that a 386 can't do, just a hell of a lot slower. Granted that you won't have the "user experience" they talk about, but it will work. This is a tenent of good design.

Except now, for Microsoft.

Starting with Windows 2000, when they said you needed a minumin of a Pentium 100, they were serious -- not because there are any features that require it, but because they check for it, and it won't install without it.

Go Figure.

I heard that software companies make these requirements in order to prevent people from calling tech support and saying things like "Windows is too slow!" or "Why don't DVD's play well on my spankin' new 486?"

Another interesting case is Mac OS 8. The setup requires that you have a 68040; however, the utility "WishIWere" lets you bypass the requirement and install it on a 68030.

To bypass the system requirements that Windows (not sure about Windows NT or 2000) imposes, just start the setup program using the /nm command-line argument.

Much of this info taken from

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