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Windows 10 runs on mere 192MB of RAM as part of Twitter user's 'fun experiment'

Surface Laptop 3 13.5
Surface Laptop 3 13.5 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A Twitter user managed to get Windows 10 running on just 192MB of RAM.
  • The user performed the tests on Oracle VM Virtualbox.
  • The same person managed to get Windows 10 to load on just 140MB, but it wouldn't run.

A person managed to get Windows 10 to run on just 192MB of RAM recently. Twitter user Nori (@0xN0ri) recently played around with Windows 10 and got it running on less than one-fifth of the recommended amount of RAM that Microsoft requires (1GB). The feat was accomplished running on Oracle VM Virtualbox off a Dell Inspiron 3670 running Arch Linux, according to what Nori told Tom's Hardware.

Nori tested running the 32-bit version of Windows 10 on systems with progressively smaller amounts of RAM. Nori started at 512MB and worked down to 192MB. 128MB of RAM led to a blue screen of death and 140MB loaded but didn't run.

Nori told Tom's Hardware that the CPU used for testing was an Intel Core i5-8400 with a single core dedicated to the virtual machine. Specifically, the test used Windows 10 Pro x86. According to Nori, no services were disabled and no changes were made to Windows 10 to make it work. They explained to Tom's Hardware:

It took around three minutes to boot up to the desktop and it's unusable with the virtual machine file stored on my 7200RPM hard drive... I was only able to get task manager, cmd, and file explorer open on 192MB RAM and the performance was very bad with 15MB free.

Poor performance isn't too surprising when you're using less than 20 percent of the required RAM. Nori discussed booting operating systems onto different devices and other projects on their Github page. When asked why they did it, Nori said that it was a "fun experiment."

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

19 Comments
  • So... Good because I want w10 on my Sega Gamegear! Ms is SO FRUSTRATING 😤 !!! Like if these amateurs can do it for fun, why can't this multi-billion dollar company?! This is why Apple is superior in EVERY WAY!!
  • Why would MS do that? To what purpose? You can't buy hardware with less than 2GB these days (basically 10x the size of this experiment), and you'd have to look to find anything that small. Why do you add Apple to this? Do you have evidence that Mac OS will run on such a tiny amount of RAM?
  • Are you serious?
  • Yeah, this is impressive that Windows can run on so little. Without evidence to the contrary, I would not expect Mac OS to do so. Windows 10 requires 1GB, Mac OS requires 2GB, so at least based on requirements, it seems Windows is the more efficient (though to be fair, a similar test to this experiment would be needed to confirm what the Mac OS needs to run).
  • I thought my over-exaggeration of baseless, useless, and nonsensical relations of products and companies mentioned made my sarcasm ABUNDANTLY clear.
  • Lol you need to add a "/s" for sarcasm. I understood you, though.
  • By definition, that defeats the purpose of sarcasm. But you know what? I'll hold that L bc I admit, I neglected to account for the simpletons that wouldn't understand I was being sarcastic.
  • As GraniteStateColin mentions, this is driven by the market for memory. MS pushing specs is absolutely a part of the history, but that's a double-edged sword, because increased demand for memory might push the market forward, increasing competition and reducing costs. That appears to be what happened. I hated Windows for many, many years - I'm not going to sugar coat it - but the story is complicated. That being said, W10 is not designed for the RAM market of the 1990's or early 2000's. Stock it can run on much less than what the average consumer's laptop runs. Also ... Apple? What? What do video producers and legions of people pretending to be video producers have to do with this? Creatives and poseurs are a completely different market.
  • Too long to read. Read my above comment
  • If think the point was that if windows was able to run in such low spec, the intended bi-product would be having a lot more performance on a system with 2 and 4 gb's. That might hurt their bottom line though because less people would upgrade and MS wouldn't sell as many oem installs.
  • Windows IoT devices like the Raspberry Pi only have 512MB RAM. And for Windows on a desktop to even run with browsers etc in 2GB RAM requires the OS to be capable of using a lot less. It's an interesting test and pretty impressive.
  • Well the Sega Game Gear had way less ram than that. Not only did it not have anywhere near 192 MB of RAM, it had a very very small fraction of a single MB. It had a whopping 8kB ram and 16kB vram. So I'm thinking there is no way in hell that a game gear could ever run any version of Windows.
  • Nobody wants to wait MINUTES to use a PC barely...a nice experiment but this is not what ppl expect these days, but I will say that I wish they would bring these phones back someday lol =p
  • Goes to show how "bloated" Windows operating systems have become since the days of Windows 95, which only required 4MB of RAM. I wonder if Windows 10X would require less RAM.
  • I was impressed that Windows could run in a fraction of the RAM included even in any recent smartphone. I think it's bizarre that you consider that bloated. A full desktop OS with no deductions to its defaults runs on 1/10 of the RAM you can buy today. Good for MS! Windows 95 wasn't a true multitasking OS. If you're going to go back 25 years (an eternity in tech time), then you'd have to at least compare it Windows NT4, which was the first real predecessor to modern Windows. XP is a fairer comparison still, as the first real preemptive multitasking OS with a UI designed for consumers. That required 64MB of RAM. So in the 15 years that passed between XP and 10, adding built-in support for touch, bluetooth, USB 3, Wi-Fi, and much more, none of which were standard with XP, Windows can still run (albeit barely) in only 3 times the RAM. Given that every system you can buy today has 2+ GB of RAM, I would say that it would be a waste not to harness that in some way with added features to improve the UX. That's how hardware advances and dropping prices for RAM lead to better UX for all users. A natural consequence of that is that 20 year old hardware is no longer supported by a modern OS.
  • NT4 first real pre-emptive multitasking OS with UI for consumers? Only if you conveniently missed the mid 80s, there was the Sinclair QL and perhaps a better example of consumer interface the Amiga, and derivatives based on these and a lot of other less widely known computers . Clearly not as clean and friendly as Windows is today, but then these OSes ran in KB of RAM, in these days you really had to think about memory usage when programming. At the end of the day, I'm not sure how much has improved in terms of productivity, just they look nicer.
  • Run, yes? Useable in any way? No.
  • If the device Low RAM will not work, the device will be slow According to https://www.indycrwindowskey.com/
  • This is just a fun work, no big deal and he will not ever recommend it to anyone.
    World is changing and also the it field so hardware must be up to date