Microsoft's not so dirty little Windows 10 secret

Windows 10 is slick on 10-year-old hardware

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The 2006 HP Compaq Dc7700 with venerable Core 2 Duo processor looking up at me from the far end of the work bench was going to be my next  load victim.

Problem is, it’s easier to take an existing 32-bit load of Windows 10 and upgrade to the 64-bit version.

I do want to get back to Linux. Lubuntu is going to be one distro I will consider trying on older PCs.

But there are a couple of problems with any Linux distro on vintage machines:

  • USB Wi-Fi adapter support is not nearly as great as for Windows 10 boxes, and;
  • Available graphics resolutions are typically a crapshoot (with minimal choices); I need more than 1024 x 768 out of the box, even on aged desktops.

The performance of Windows 10 on older PCs continues to impress. If an Intel box is running Windows 7, it’ll, generally speaking, run Windows 10, although I advise boosting ram if at all possible.

You pretty much can’t go wrong with the Microsoft upgrade process. Redmond will inform you if the PC doesn’t make the cut upon attempting installation.

The 32-bit version of the Windows 10 OS residing on the HP Dc7700 was an update from Windows 8.1, and prior to that, Windows 7. Updates work OK, but there’s nothing like nuking and paving for a fresh start that restores the PC to optimal performance.

Erasing the hard drive is the only path from Windows 10 32-bit to 64. In this instance, it was a no-brainer to back up anything important and begin the reformat and OS install. I did take the base install of 2GB of memory and increase it to 4GB before starting. The machine can take 8GB, but 4GB is adequate for this project.

Like a load of some form of Linux on this box, I anticipated Windows 10 64-bit graphics being equally limited with respect to the base display resolutions the built-in Intel graphics could provide running this OS.

Sure enough, the display resolution that greeted me at first boot after install was the inadequate 1024 x 768 variety -- and that was the most advanced option available. No problem, I thought, maybe I could find some updated graphics drivers at HP’s site.

I give HP a lot of credit for maintaining an active repository of drivers and things like BIOS updates for machines of this vintage. But I’m a realist. I didn’t know how far beyond Windows XP support the repository would go. I fully expected it to tap out not much beyond XP.

And I was correct.

Windows 7 Professional 32-bit is the end of the road in terms of HP's Windows operating system support for this PC. But I needed 64-bit Windows 10 Support.

What’s an old geek to do?

Lower his expectations.

Clicking the drop down menu for OS support and scrolling down further revealed drivers for Windows Vista Business 64-bit. Voila! Or so I thought.

After downloading and installing Intel Graphics Driver for Microsoft Windows Vista (64-bit Editions) (International), and attempting to install I was greeted with: “This version is incompatible with this operating system.”

I tried running as Administrator and the installer went a bit further before booting me out with the same message. I thought “some” of the install may have been completed, however, so I rebooted.

I went to the desktop, right clicked and checked available resolutions. I had over a dozen new choices available for selection.

The HP desktop with a fresh load of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit was working great. The 3rd party after-market USB Wi-Fi adapter that Linux never recognized worked out of the box on this machine. The graphics were fine, now, too.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 has succeeded in a big way. Its adoption rate is way up. Part of the reason is it doesn’t hurt that Windows 10 supports very old machines with minimal tweaking.

Some form of 64-bit Linux may yet find its way back to this vintage PC. With Windows 10 Pro 64-bit running capably, though, the Tech Oracle doesn’t envision that happening any time soon.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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