Doesn’t Windows 8.1 require more hardware than Windows 7? (Series: Windows 8.1 for Business)

Click here to find the Windows 8.1 Enterprise EvaluationLogically, it makes sense.  Forever it seems whenever any software company comes out with a new version of their product, the added features and functionality require extra hardware.  In the case of operating systems, that seems especially true.  Software vendors are always trying to build their solutions not to fit today’s hardware, but what hardware will be available tomorrow – trying to forecast what the hardware specs will look like for the mass market in order to take advantage of hardware “state of the art” when their software finally goes on sale. it should follow that Windows 8.1 requires more hardware (memory/cpu/disk) to run than Windows 8.  And Windows 8 required more than Windows 7.  And Windows 7 required more than Windows Vista.  And… you get the idea.

“And what if that’s what I believe?”

You’d be wrong.  Sorry.

For the purpose of this article and our comparison, we’ll just take the basic hardware aspects of a typical PC: Processor, Memory, Available Hard Disk Space, and Graphics Processor,

Windows Vista*

Windows 7

Windows 8 & 8.1






1 GB System Memory

1 GB System Memory

1 GB System Memory

Disk Space

40GB + 15GB for install

16GB (32bit) or 20GB (64bit)

16GB (32bit) or 20GB (64bit)


DirectX-9 & WDDM

DirectX-9 & WDDM

DirectX-9 & WDDM

* Windows Vista Home Premium or better.

There are of course other considerations that may require additional specialized hardware to support specific new functionality or features such as enterprise-class BitLocker or Client Hyper-V.  Click the OS Names in the table above to go to their respective hardware requirements pages.

But.. do you notice something interesting in that table?  Other than the disk space requirements (which actually went DOWN when going from Windows Vista to Windows 7), the requirements are all exactly the same!  And considering the fact that Windows Vista was released to the world on January 30, 2007, we’re letting you run the latest and greatest PC operating system on hardware that could be 7 years old!

So as you can see, the hardware that you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 on very likely will run Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.  Myth = BUSTED

“But wait a second… Doesn’t Windows 8.1 require a touch screen?”

Nope.  In fact, my friend and coworker Keith Mayer addressed that very question just yesterday in his post for this series.

“What about screen resolution?  What’s required?”

That’s a valid point.  Minimal screen resolutions do differ a little.  That’s one of those “if you want to take full advantage of the capabilities of the OS” sorts of issues.  If you have a really old monitor that can’t do anything better than 800×600, then you’re probably already suffering with Windows Vista or Windows 7, and the Windows 8 won’t work with anything less than 1024×768.  Something to consider, for sure.

“What about performance?  Can I expect my PC to be faster or slower with the newer operating system?”

Ah.. that’s a very subjective topic.  “Your mileage may vary”, mainly because everyone has certain things that they wish would be faster, as well as various things that many of us unwittingly do to our systems that actually slow them down over time. 

The good news is that there has actually been a lot to improve the performance of Windows and the things that we typically find we’re waiting for.  A perfect example is system startup or shutdown; one of the most obvious time-wasters in older operating systems.  Even with technologies such as sleep and hibernate available, the majority of people still prefer to shut their computers down completely at night or when they’re not using them.  So a lot of focus was given to improving this aspect of performance in Windows 8 and beyond. 
For an exhaustive walk-thru of how this was done in Windows 8, check out this article on the Building Windows 8 blog: Delivering Faster Boot Times in Windows 8

Bing it!For even more well-documented examples of performance improvements beyond Windows 7, check out all the great content via this bing search: “windows 8 performance improvements

And for good tips and tricks on how to optimize your performance in general, check out this article: Optimize Windows for Better Performance

So in conclusion – If you were thinking that you’ll need to buy new hardware to replace what you are already happily running Windows Vista or Windows 7 on in order to get most of the benefits of Windows 8.1, now you can hopefully see that a simple OS upgrade is another option.

If you’re interested in evaluating Windows 8.1:

If you’d like to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 (which includes the free upgrade to Windows 8.1), check out the Windows Store.

And if you’d like to donate $1000 towards sending your favorite IT Pro Technology Evangelist to Microsoft TechEd , contact me through this blog and I’ll send you my mailing address. 
(My Mom always said, “It never hurts to ask.”) Smile

This article is part of our March 2014 series of blog articles entitled “Windows 8.1 for Business” by your Microsoft Technology Evangelists and guests. 
For the full list of articles in this series please visit the series landing page:

5 thoughts on “Doesn’t Windows 8.1 require more hardware than Windows 7? (Series: Windows 8.1 for Business)

  1. I just wanted to add that I just put 8.1 on a 6 year old "Vista Basic" machine, and it runs SO FAST now. I was extremely skeptical that it would have any benefit, but now I am considering slapping 8.1 on about 6-8 extremely low performance machines. The trick is, if users were having hard time with slow computers from boot up for email, basic java web apps, and 365 web apps on XP or Vista, that SAME EXACT hardware with no (hardware) upgrade whatsoever will FLY on windows 8.1. Thanks for doing/hosting these, they have been a blast to read.


  2. I concur about hardware specs…have at home an old Vista era PC that I upgraded to W7 pro. Was getting to the point I was looking to replace the PC. Upgraded to W8 Pro (and then of course to 8.1) and it was like a new machine. Boot time faster, everything faster, etc. W8 is (now turning techie) W7 that is less bloated. If all anyone can focus on is the Start Screen, they are missing out on all the power user features…which there are many. And for enterprise, there are some great enterprise level features that don't exist in W7, that ARE part of W8(.1). It's a no brainer to upgrade.


  3. Considering the typical hard disk is 500GB or greater, the disk space difference is a minimal issue. The minimum of 1GB of RAM is ridiculous. I tried Win 7 with 1GB of RAM and it was very slow. Going to 2GB improved things. 800*600 is the minimum amount for Win Vista/7 but there are a number of screens that don't like that resolution or even 1024*600 [on some netbooks]. I have a dual boot Win 7/8.1 and I needed to use a "fix" to get higher than 1024*600 to click on "OK" [or whatever] for some screens. BTW, Win 7 & 8.1 works nicely on a netbook with 2GB of RAM and a SSD. 🙂


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