Windows 10 will run on a vanishingly small amount of system RAM, if you engage in some trickery, and don’t mind that the operating system isn’t actually usable running in this state.
So, this really comes under the bracket of a fun experiment, as opposed to anything which is realistically useful – but it’s definitely interesting to see how low the RAM requirement can go while still actually getting the desktop to appear and function (sort of), as proved by one Twitter user.
Tom’s Hardware spotted @0xN0ri (or Nori) playing around with lowering the amount of system memory which the 32-bit version of Windows 10 requires to run (the official requirement is 1GB, and remember, it’s 2GB for the 64-bit OS that the vast majority of users are on).
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This was achieved using Windows 10 November 2019 Update as a base running in VirtualBox, reportedly on a Dell Inspiron 3670 with Arch Linux.
Other Twitter users have since joined in, and are claiming to have got Microsoft’s operating system running on as little as 136MB, albeit without providing many details or substantiating those experiments to the same degree as Nori.
Nori did manage to get the OS at least booting with 140MB, although the interface and desktop didn’t run with that little amount of RAM.
As mentioned, this is really just an entertaining exercise in what is technically possible, rather than anything useful.
In the state Nori is booting Windows 10 with 192MB of memory, while it does function, it’s obviously extremely sluggish, and won’t run much at all (basically Task Manager and File Explorer, and that’s pretty much your lot). It’s also relying on a 2.8GB page file (in other words, leveraging a chunk of the laptop’s system drive to reduce the burden on the system memory).
For more similar experiments in running different operating systems in weird and wonderful ways, you can check out Nori’s Github.