Installing or Upgrading Windows 8 : Windows 8 System Requirements - Hardware Requirements for Various Windows 8 Features

5/4/2014 1:16:21 AM

Personal computing is governed by two inexorable, and not unrelated, “laws”:

Moore’s Law—Processing power doubles every 18 months (from Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel).

Parkinson’s Law of Data—Data expands to fill the space available for storage (from the original Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available).

These two observations help explain why, when the computers we use are becoming increasingly powerful, our day-to-day tasks never really seem all that much faster. The leaps in processing power and memory are being matched by the increasing complexity and resource requirements of the latest programs. Therefore, the computer you’re using today might be twice as muscular as the one you were using a year and a half ago, but the applications you’re using are twice the size and require twice as many resources.

Windows fits neatly into this scenario. With each new release of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, the hardware requirements become more stringent, and our computers’ processing power is taxed a little more. Windows 8 is no exception. Even though Microsoft spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to shoehorn Windows 8 into a minimal system configuration, you need a reasonably powerful computer if you don’t want to spend most of your day cursing the dreaded hourglass icon. The good news is that Windows 8’s hardware requirements are nowhere near as onerous as many people believed they would be. In fact, most midrange or better systems purchased in the past year or two should run Windows 8 without a problem.

The next few sections present a rundown of the system requirements you need to meet in order to install and work with Windows 8. Note that we give the minimum requirements, as stipulated by Microsoft, as well as a set of “reasonable” requirements that we believe you need to make working with Windows 8 more or less pleasurable.

Processor Requirements

Windows 8 desktop minimum: 1GHz modern processor

This is a true minimum requirement because these days you’d be hard pressed to even find a PC with a 1GHz processor. There are plenty of cheap PCs available running old Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs at 1.8GHz and AMD Athlon processors at 2.0GHz. But for adequate Windows 8 performance, you need at least a midrange processor, which means an Intel Core i3 or i5, or an AMD Phenom II X3 or X4, running at 2.5–3.0GHz. Faster is better, of course, but only if money is no object. Moving up to an Intel i7 or AMD FX-series chip running at 3.2GHz or even 3.8GHz might set you back a few hundred dollars, but the performance improvement won’t be all that noticeable. You’d be better off investing those funds either in extra memory (discussed later) or in a quad-core processor.


What does quad-core mean? It describes a CPU that combines four separate processors, each with its own cache memory, on a single chip. (The cache memory is an on-board storage area that the processor uses to store commonly used bits of data. The bigger the cache, the greater the performance.) This enables the operating system to perform four tasks at once without a performance hit. For example, you could work in your word processor or spreadsheet program in the foreground using one processor, while the other processors take care of a background File History backup, virus check, and print operation. Current examples of quad-core processors are the Intel Core i5 and i7, and the AMD FX-series and Phenom II X4.

Memory Requirements

Windows 8 minimum: 1GB (32-bit Windows) or 2GB (64-bit Windows)

You can run 32-bit Windows 8 on a system with 1GB of RAM, but the performance will be quite slow. Admittedly, we’ve been running beta versions of Windows 8, which are always slower than release versions because they contain debugging code and are works-in-progress as far as optimization goes. However, we believe that, for most people, 2GB is a more realistic minimum for day-to-day work on 32-bit systems. If you regularly have many programs running at the same time, if you use programs that manipulate digital photos or videos, or if you do extensive work with large files such as databases, 3GB should be your RAM goal on a 32-bit system.


That “32-bitness” of 32-bit Windows means these systems can address a maximum of 4GB RAM (because 2 raised to the power of 32 is 4,294,967,296 bytes, which is the same as 4GB). However, if you install 4GB on your motherboard and then check the amount of system memory, you might see only 3198MB (3.12GB). What’s going on here? The problem is that some devices require a chunk of system memory to operate. For example, the memory on the video card must be mapped to an area in system memory. To allow for this, 32-bit versions of Windows set aside a chunk of the 4GB address space for devices. This means the maximum amount of RAM available to your programs will always be 3.12GB.

Note, however, that if you’re running a 64-bit version of Windows 8, you should seriously consider upgrading your system RAM. The conventional wisdom is that because 64-bit machines deal with data in chunks that are twice the size of those in 32-bit machines, you need twice the memory to see the full benefit of the 64-bit advantage. Therefore, if you’d normally have 1GB of RAM in a 32-bit machine, opt for 2GB in your 64-bit computer. However, the real reason 64-bit versions of Widows are superior to 32-bit versions for many people is that 64-bit systems can address memory far beyond the 4GB maximum of 32-bit systems. These days, 64-bit machines installed with 8GB or even 16GB of RAM are becoming commonplace. It’s unlikely you need double-digit gigabytes of RAM, but you won’t regret getting an 8GB system, which offers plenty of room for your programs and data to roam.

Finally, consider the speed of the memory. Older DDR2 (double data rate) memory chips typically operate at between 200MHz and 533MHz. The latest DDR3 chips operate at between 1066MHz and 2800MHz, which is a substantial speed boost that improves Windows 8 performance noticeably.

Storage Requirements

Windows 8 hard disk free space minimum: 16GB (32-bit Windows) or 20GB (64-bit Windows)

The disk space requirements depend on which version of Windows 8 you’re installing, but count on the new OS requiring at least 16GB free space to install. The OS will use perhaps another few gigabytes for the storage of things such as the paging file, System Restore checkpoints, Internet Explorer temporary files, and the Recycle Bin, so 32-bit Windows 8 will require at least 20GB of storage, and 64-bit Windows at least 24GB.

These days, of course, it’s not the operating system that usurps the most space on our hard drives; it’s the massive multimedia files that now seem to be routine for most of us. Multimegabyte digital photos and spreadsheets, and even multigigabyte database files and digital video files, are not unusual. Fortunately, hard disk storage is dirt cheap these days, with most disks costing less—often much less—than a dime a gigabyte.

Note, too, that the type of hard drive can affect performance. For desktop systems, an older drive that spins at 5,400RPM will be a significant performance bottleneck. Moving up to a 7,200RPM drive will help immeasurably, and a 10,000RPM (or even 15,000RPM) drive is even better if you don’t mind the extra expense. You should also look for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) drives that boast throughput rates of 6GBps. Look for a SATA drive with a 32MB or 64MB cache.

If having a ton of storage space isn’t a priority for you, consider opting for a solid-state hard drive (SSD). These 2.5-inch drives are made from solid-state semiconductors, which means they have no moving parts. As a result, SSDs are much faster than regular hard drives, last longer, use less power, weigh less, and are completely silent. The downside is price. This is still newish (although no longer bleeding-edge) technology, so expect to pay around a dollar a gigabyte.

Finally, you should also bear in mind that one of Windows’ longstanding features is the ability to burn data to recordable optical discs (CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs). To take advantage of this, your system requires an optical disc burner, at the very least one that supports both the DVD-RW and DVD+RW disc formats (that is, a DVD±RW drive).

Graphics Requirements

Windows 8 graphics memory minimum: DirectX 9 video card with WDDM driver; 1024×768 resolution for Windows 8 apps; 1366×768 resolution for snapping apps

Windows 8’s interface is graphics intensive, but it will be smart enough to adopt a less intensive interface based on what your PC can handle. Whether Windows 8 holds back on the visual bells and whistles depends on whether you have a separate graphics card (as opposed to an integrated motherboard graphics chip), the capability of the card’s graphics processing unit (GPU), and how much graphics memory the card has onboard:

• If Windows 8 detects a low-end card, it defaults to the Windows Classic theme, which offers a Windows 2000–like interface.

• If Windows 8 detects a card with medium-range capabilities, it uses the Aero theme, but without the Glass effects (such as transparency).

• If Windows 8 detects a high-end card, it defaults to the full Aero Glass interface.

To get the beautiful Aero Glass look as well as the new 3D and animated effects, your system should have a graphics processor that supports DirectX 9, Pixel Shader 2.0 (in hardware, not as a software emulation), and 32 bits per pixel, and comes with a device driver that supports the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM). (If you purchase a new video card, look for the Windows 8 Capable or Windows 8 Pro Ready logo on the box. If you just need to upgrade the driver for an existing graphics card, look for “WDDM” in the drive name or description.)

Note that some games and programs might require a graphics card compatible with DirectX 10 or higher for best performance.

The amount of onboard graphics memory you need does not depend on the resolution you plan to use. For example, even a card running at HD (1920×1080) resolution only requires a bare minimum of 8MB of graphics memory to display an image, whereas a card running at a whopping 2560×1600 resolution only really needs 16MB. However, factor in features such as triple buffering (rendering images while the current image is displayed) and high-end game features (such as rendering textures), and basically the more graphics memory you can afford, the better.

Hardware Requirements for Various Windows 8 Features

Windows 8 is a big, sprawling program that can do many things, so it’s not surprising that there is a long list of miscellaneous equipment you might need, depending on what you plan to do with your system. Table 1 provides a rundown.

Table 1. Equipment Required for Various Windows 8 Tasks

Video tutorials
- How To Install Windows 8

- How To Install Windows Server 2012

- How To Install Windows Server 2012 On VirtualBox

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Install Windows Store Apps From Windows 8 Classic Desktop

- How To Disable Windows Update in Windows 8

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Add Widgets To Windows 8 Lock Screen

- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010
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