The Windows 10 minimum system requirements help ensure that Windows 10 desktops are secure and will run effectively,...
but in some situations these minimums aren't quite enough.
Microsoft lists the Windows 10 system requirements as:
- Processor: 1 GHz or faster processor or SoC
- RAM: 1 GB for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
- Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS or 20 GB for 64-bit OS
- Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
- Display: 800x600
Several additional factors affect what hardware users really need. First, it depends whether IT is performing a clean installation or upgrading from a previous Windows operating system. An in-place upgrade, from Windows 8.1 for example, requires more than 16 GB -- or 20 GB for the 64-bit version. In this situation, the hard disk requirement is inadequate because the existing OS takes up storage. The same would be the case for Windows 7 or any other Windows 8 update.
Another factor that affects the functional system requirements is the workload that users will run. The Windows 10 system requirements listed above only guarantee that the Microsoft Windows OS will run. Applications usually have their own hardware requirements beyond those of the operating system. For example, the minimum display resolution of 800x600 is often inadequate because some apps require a higher resolution.
It is also worth noting that additional hardware is required to use some apps and features. For example, graphically intensive apps might require a DirectX 10-compliant video card. Similarly, the OS' speech recognition capability only works on a PC that is equipped with a microphone. Another example is the Windows Hello feature, which requires special hardware for biometric authentication.
Windows 10 minimum hardware requirements
During the version 1903 update, Microsoft changed the Windows 10 minimum system requirements. Desktops that receive a clean install of Windows 10 must have a hard drive size of 32 GB. IT admins, however, do not necessarily need to increase the hard drive size of desktops that upgrade the OS from the latest version. This works only if there is enough available free space. During the update, Windows will prompt admins to free up space on the hard drive to successfully complete the process.
How much RAM is enough?
While Microsoft cites 1 GB of RAM as sufficient for 32-bit Windows 10 systems and 2 GB for 64-bit, most users will require more. Windows 10 generally runs smoothly with lightweight apps, such as Microsoft Office, with a dual core processor and 2 GB of RAM. It's also worth adding a large enough hard disk to avoid storage concerns.
The RAM needs of each desktop user will vary significantly from user to user, however. 4 GB of RAM is more likely to fulfill the average task and knowledge workers' needs for accessing multiple applications at the same time. Any graphics-intensive application on both 32- and 64-bit Windows 10 desktops or virtual machines could still encounter issues with 4 GB of RAM.
IT professionals should also be aware that 32-bit Windows 10 systems can't functionally take advantage of any more than about 4 GB of RAM, so any additional RAM won't yield them any benefits. 64-bit systems, however, can use much more RAM, so organizations should ensure that graphics- and resource-intensive applications run on 64-bit systems.
Windows 10 desktops with 8 GB or even 16 GB of RAM are above and beyond the desktop resource needs of most user types. Desktop administrators should ensure power users meet at least the 8 GB benchmark to ensure high-level performance with power applications such as 3D design and video editing applications.
Security implications of the Windows 10 system requirements
Microsoft has sent a clear message with its Windows 10 system requirements for optimal security: Buyers should only purchase secure, modern PC hardware to run Windows 10. Furthermore, they should get that hardware from authorized OEMs, such as Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo.
In addition, buyers should purchase laptops and computers with Windows 10 S preinstalled and use Microsoft Intune and Windows Autopilot to deploy company software. Instead of Enterprise or Pro volume licenses, all users should move over to Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions.
However, this forward-looking approach comes with some issues. For one thing, Windows 10 S cannot join an on-premises domain. This suggests that Microsoft wants business users to move from local domains to join Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) instead.
Using Intune and Autopilot then becomes a simple procedure. IT orders a new laptop for the end user and sends it directly to where it needs to be. IT does not have to physically access that device. Instead, IT can set up a company store and register the device in Intune. Then, the end user takes the machine out of the box, boots it and signs in using company-provided Azure AD credentials.
The users get a customized Windows desktop experience set up by IT. They are unable to install or use any legacy Win32 apps, and only preapproved Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications run in this deployment. Because Microsoft Office is now available as an universal Windows platform app suite, this plan is sound. IT should move corporate users to secure hardware, Microsoft 365 subscriptions, Azure AD and Windows 10 S as well.
User experience for a Windows upgrade on the latest hardware
Microsoft has chosen a reasonable evolution path with its Windows 10 system requirements for optimal security. A Windows 10 S deployment through Intune and Autopilot couldn't be easier for end users. They can simply boot a new PC for the first time and sign in with their Azure AD credentials to access the user interface.
There's none of the hassle involved in joining a domain, and the out-of-the-box experience is fully automated. As a result, the end user winds up with a desktop where everything is set up as if IT configured it, without requiring users to interact with any of the settings.
Business decision-makers should back this plan. They should buy every user and device a Microsoft 365 license and set up a corporate store with preapproved UWP apps. Then, they should use Intune with Autopilot to manage the deployment. IT should only need to give users a new laptop and tell them to sign in to Azure AD. Everything else happens on its own, and this delivers a reliable end-user experience.
In today's threat-filled world, it is nearly impossible to keep all users and devices secure. Still, running Windows 10 S on devices that meet Microsoft's security requirements, joined to an Azure AD domain, is as secure as things get nowadays.