There are several options to extend the life of an older machine, depending on its capabilities.
As with so many things … it depends.
I’ll review what’s necessary to run Windows 10, and then we’ll examine a couple of alternatives.
The first thing to do is see if your computer meets the minimum requirements for Windows 10. You’ll find the full list here on the Microsoft web site.
The short version listed there includes the requirement that your computer have:
- A 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster CPU1
- 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM
- A 32 GB or larger hard disk
- An 800×600 display.
Now, let’s be clear, those are the minimum requirements. In fact, I’d call them the bare minimum. Windows 10 may work, but will it work well? I’m guessing not.
I would much prefer to see just about everything doubled:
- A 2 gigahertz (GHz) or faster CPU
- 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM
- A 64 GB or larger hard disk
- A 1920×1080 display
If your computer meets those requirements, and especially if it exceeds them, upgrading may be an option.
You should be able to download Windows 10 and run the installer to have it confirm that your computer is compatible.
Consider a switch
If your machine doesn’t meet the minimums for Windows 10, you might consider a switch to Linux.
There’s a learning curve, and the software you currently have for Windows will not work, but the concepts are the same, the interface is similar, and there are lots of free alternatives for many popular software packages.
This is mostly a personal preference thing — are you up for the switch? It is definitely “geekier” than Windows 10.
I generally point people at Linux Mint. You can see the minimum requirements for the latest release here. Interestingly, their minimum requirements aren’t that different than Windows 10.
- 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM
- A 15GB or larger hard disk
- A 1024×768 display.
While those, too, are the bare minimum, my experience with Linux is that it still tends to run well(ish) in low resource situations.
If your machine doesn’t meet even those requirements, then there are most definitely other distributions of Linux around that require less. You can check this roundup for a variety. Puppy Linux is one I’ve played with in the past and seems quite capable. Quoting from its Wiki: “People have succeeded in running Puppy with a 333MHz CPU and 64MB. However, having 256MB RAM and a 512MB swap file is more realistic.”
The final option, albeit less popular, is to do nothing.
Yes, you’ll hear dire warnings from people (including me) about the ramifications of no longer getting security updates and the like, but honestly — as long as you practice excellent security habits and the software you care about continues to run, it’s an option.
Let’s face it, we regularly see people running Windows XP, and their world hasn’t collapsed.
Just make sure you’re backing up regularly.
1: There are some additional requirements on the processor type, but by and large, if it’s new enough to be fast enough, it’ll probably meet those requirements. Check the Microsoft page for more.