Since the release of Windows Vista in late 2006, the minimum requirements for Windows desktop versions have stood still. Windows 10 launched in 2015 could technically run on a system using specifications as far back as the introduction of the Pentium 3, with exceptions. Over the past decade, Windows has added more requirements to its CPU instructions relating to security. Windows 8 included additional requirements such as NX, Prefetch, LAHF/SAHF, SSE2, and CompareExchange128. This has affected Windows 10 compatibility with processors released as far back as 2009.
Microsoft Increases RAM Requirements for Windows 10
One hardware element that has remained the same is RAM, until now. Recently, a hardware requirement section showed up on Microsoft’s MSDN Hardware Components guidelines page. Most of the information specifically targets OEM’s building future hardware for Windows 10. Previously, the minimum amount of memory required to run Windows 10 was 1 GB. You can still do this, but the experience is undesirable for mainstream usage, even for 32-bit versions.
Surprisingly, Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 has a minimum requirement of 512 MBs of RAM. Unlike desktop versions, Windows Server can be modified for specific roles in an organization that does not demand the resources of a desktop operating system, such as File and Print Server. Windows 10 expanded the RAM limits in desktop versions, increasing from 512 GBs to a whopping 2 TBs on premium business editions such as Pro and Enterprise.
With the upcoming launch this summer of the next major revision of Windows 10, dubbed the Anniversary Update, Microsoft requires hardware partners enable defaults such as TPM 2.0. The Trusted Platform Module is a security chip, which provides defenses against malicious software. The chip normally is built into business class desktops and notebooks.
What Does This Mean for Your Computer?
Existing systems running Windows 10 or previous versions of Windows will not be affected by this decision. Users who purchase new devices later this year, will not be affected by the new changes either. Most budget PCs and laptops these days usually come with a minimum of 6 to 8 GBs of RAM.
It’s worth noting that there are other changes for Windows 10 Mobile, too. Those changes mainly deal with screen size requirements. You can see the full list of changes for Windows PC and Mobile on this MSDN page.