Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 2, The best hardware for the job

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When your organization is running on PCs with Windows versions prior to Windows 8, you might want to look at new hardware to run Windows 8.1 on. While you can still run Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 on a 1GHz processor with 1GB RAM, the impact of running Windows 8 on underwhelming hardware to the overall productivity of your workers is beyond comparison.


PCs that won’t be able to run Windows 8.1

Due to economic circumstances and related client device replacement strategies holding back purchases of new client devices, workers in your organization might run older PCs. While this might not immediately be a problem for a Windows 8.1 deployment, it is when PCs are too old (and thus too slow) to run Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

While the official minimum specifications only mention a 1GHz processor, when you inspect the fine print, you’ll notice the processor needs to support the Never Execute bit (NX-bit). It also requires SSE2. As a rule of thumb, processors (and systems) manufactured before 2004 do not meet these requirements.

While Microsoft demands prospective Windows 8.1 clients to be equipped with at least 1GB of RAM, I recommend deploying Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 only on PCs with at least 2GB of RAM. 1GB of RAM will allow you to run the Operating System, but Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office and Line of Business app(lication)s consume RAM too. Expand the RAM on PCs not meeting this requirement, is an option.

In terms of graphic cards, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 demands them to be Direct3D 9-capable. Its manufacturer will have to support its card with a WDDM 1.0+ driver. Integrated video chipsets like Intels GMA 950, 3000, x3000, 3100 and 500 families, supported Direct3D-9 and have been available since 2006.

Systems with smaller hard disk capacities than 20GB should also not be listed as prime targets for your Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 deployments. While perfectly suited to run Windows initially, after you install Microsoft Office, Windows Updates and several 3rd party programs and agents, the hard disk will be fully used. Did you know hard disks have slower read and write speeds when they become full?


Targeting PCs for deployment/replacement

When you’re in doubt whether you system will be able to run Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, use the free Microsoft Windows 8 Upgrade Advisor.

This tool can be used to scan your hardware, applications and connected devices to see if they'll work with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. It provides a full human-readable compatibility report at the end. Also, it will check your hardware to see if it supports certain Windows 8 features, like Windows Snap, SecureBoot and multitouch:


Hardware to look for when replacing

Many Pcs that won’t be able to run Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, can be made up to date with some expansion of RAM or hard disk space. However, when you’re looking for the best hardware for the job in new hardware purchases, look for the following specs:

  • A 64-bit processor with AES new instructions (AES-ni) and Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) 

With Intel processors, this latter feature is called EPT. AMD labeled this feature NPT in its marketing materials. Looking for PCs with these types of hardware allow you to deploy BitLocker Drive Encryption with minimal impact on the system, and Hyper-V.

  • A motherboard with UEFI 2.3.1+ firmware, TPM 1.2+ chip and USB 3.0 ports
    UEFI 2.3.1 allows your Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 PCs to utilize the new Fast Boot and Fast Resume functionality (wake up under 2 seconds), to offer SecureBoot and BitLocker Network Unlock. TPM hardware will allow you to deploy virtual smart cards and USB 3.0 will offer incredible Windows-to-Go experiences; USB 3.0’s 400MB/s transfers mean the USB interface is no longer a significant bottleneck in PCs.



The right hardware can make your Windows 8.1 deployment a success with your colleagues. Where Windows 8.1 on the same aging (beige?) hardware might be considered a punishment to them, deploying Windows 8.1 with new state of the art hardware might be considered exactly what your organization needs for the post-crisis era.

Related blogposts

Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1, Part 1: Overview and buying time
Five Must-Have Hardware components to get the most out of Windows 8
Meeting Windows 8’s minimum specifications

Further reading

Secure Boot Overview
Protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI
What you should know about Windows 8 security features
BitLocker Overview
BitLocker Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What's New in BitLocker
Windows Trusted Platform Module Management Step-by-Step Guide
Does your PC have what it takes to run Windows 8's Hyper-V?
Windows 8: Using Hyper-V on non SLAT CPUs?
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V DOES NOT Require SLAT (EPT/NPT) Capable Processors
While trying to enable Hyper-V on my Windows 8 computer, why does it say my processor doesn't have Secondary Level Address Translation (SLAT), when Coreinfo says it does?
Building robust USB 3.0 support
Native USB 3.0 Support Coming to Windows 8
Support for USB 3.0 (Windows)
Windows 8: native USB 3.0 support
Windows 8.1: This Computer Minimum Specifications for Run

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