It's unfortunate that Windows Thin PC's licensing terms are so restrictive, because it's largely similar to the standard editions of Windows 7 in terms of what third-party programs can be installed - I could see Windows Thin PC being popular among the subset of the Windows community that uses third-party modding tools like nLite or vLite to strip absolutely everything they can out of a standard Windows install. 

To satisfy the tinkerer in me, I decided to try installing a few things in Windows Thin PC and seeing how it reacted - what do all of the space-saving cuts do to impact normal use of the operating system?

For starters, standard Windows 7 drivers installed on my Thin PC just fine, and Thin PC doesn’t disable Aero or the audio service or anything to save on resources (in Windows Server, for example, these services must first be installed and then enabled if you want them).

My first roadblock came when I tried to install the Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program, which threw up a compatibility error message and wouldn’t install. If I had to guess, I'd say that this has something to do with the absence of Windows Defender in Thin PC, since it and MSE share spyware definitions and some other elements.

Bonk.

For the sake of testing I grabbed a copy of AVG Free and it installed just fine - as we'll see below, most standard Windows programs install on Thin PC just as they would on Windows 7, so it seems safe to assume that most other standard antivirus packages will work without issue. After Windows Thin PC's eventual release, we may see an updated version of Security Essentials that supports the new OS.

My computer now protected from viruses, I downloaded Chrome and set up my sync account. I encountered no problems watching YouTube or Hulu videos (meaning that Flash was intact), though in general Web browsing Windows Thin PC’s missing fonts do very occasionally cause rendering problems.

There’s surprisingly little to report, in most cases: I began by installing smaller packages and then worked my way up. Adobe Reader and the .NET Framework 4.0 installed fine, as did the Windows Live Essentials 2011 suite. Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus, likewise, installed and ran normally, as did Photoshop CS5. Clearly, there's nothing preventing more complex software from running on Windows Thin PC.

...At least, as long as said software doesn't depend on something that's missing. My efforts to install SQL Server 2008 were thwarted by the absense of pre-4.0 versions of the .NET Framework, and since versions 3.5 and earlier are normally baked into Windows 7, there was nothing I could do to get it installed (though I'm sure, with enough effort and collaboration, the Internet could have gotten it working).

Enough of the productivity programs! My next task was to download and install Steam and a couple of simple games - the DirectX diagnostic tool showed that DirectX 11 was present and accounted for, but I wanted to leave as few stones unturned as possible. I noticed absolutely no issues with Torchlight, Audiosurf, or World of Goo, three different games from three different developers, and noticed no differences between Windows Thin PC and regular old Windows - the games and their dependencies installed and ran without a hitch.

If you're running more resource-intensive games, you may need to turn virtual memory back on, but I could see something like Windows Thin PC finding a niche among the same gamers who religiously shut off their antivirus whenever they go to play something - the people who want to get the most out of their gaming rig's every megabyte.

So, with the sole exception of Microsoft Security Essentials, so far every Windows program I tried installed and launched successfully on Windows Thin PC, and even after installing all of the programs listed above (with the exception of SQL Server 2008) I was only using around 10 GB of my hard drive, just a little more than a stock Windows 7 Ultimate install on the same computer. Turning virtual memory back on would bump this up by a couple of gigabytes, but that’s still pretty impressive reduction in disk usage. It's not perfect, but I'm sure Windows Thin PC could find a niche among low-resource computing enthusiasts and gamers who want to get the most out of their system's every gigabyte if Microsoft ever chooses to release it (or something like it) out into the wild.

Installation and Resource Usage Conclusions and Analysis
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  • Brovane - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    Looking on my tech-net subscription and they are not even making it available to tech-net users. I don't see this being real popular. We are already in full planning and testing to roll out Windows 7 where I work so I don't see many small businesses adopting this. Reply
  • merid14 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I agree, where I work we are getting ready to roll out windows 7... on very old hardware lol. This would be a great product if it were already out. However it isn't even finished yet... Reply
  • vol7ron - Saturday, April 30, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I thought almost immediately after Win7 came out, someone was able to get it working on a Pentium II with 64MB of RAM (http://www.osnews.com/story/22707/Windows_7_on_a_P... or 96MB of RAM (http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Windows-7-Pentium...

    Or here's one on the Pentium M 1.6GHz w/ 1GB (http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/setting-up-wind...

    -----

    Granted the performance wasn't evaluated, but if you can get it working on a Pentium M or Pentium 2, going up to a C2D will probably operate fine.
    Reply
  • user777 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    That is not really a standalone PC client - it is designed as a part of Microsoft Enterprise VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure):
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/enterprise/soluti...
    The Windows Embedded 7 Thin Client is actually a product from the line of Windows Embedded Compact 7:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/eva...
    Windows Embedded Compact 7 is the latest version of Windows CE (available from 1997) and was released in February. It was available for download like RC and evalution version long time before from October 2010:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/eva...

    BTW there is also even Zero-PC-client (embedded in the Monitor) for solutions based on PCoIP display protocol:
    http://www.teradici.com/pcoip/pcoip-products.php
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    That's because it's still in beta. connect.microsoft.com Reply
  • liveonc - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    A private cloud or just pushing Atoms? It's nice if you can be a N00B & use thin clients. But will anyone want to host this for them if you can trust them? Reply
  • clarkn0va - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    19% less RAM usage? Disabled page file? How is this a thin OS, or a corporate OS when it's already using more resources than the OS that most corporations are using currently, Windows xp?

    I work at a small college. If I want to disable the pagefile and hibernation on our desktops I'll do that in SCCM and be done with it. We have 50+ thin clients and not one of them has hard storage in it--they're PXE-booting from Linux (LTSP) then automatically launching a full-screen RDP session, thanks.

    From what I've read here this one should be rebranded "Windows Null PC". Or maybe "Windows Pork Tallow PC: All the fat, none of the flavour".
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Agreed. I know it wasn't really the focus of the article, but. . . what a pathetic thin client platform. Microsoft, go get some tips from Oracle's Sun Ray. Reply
  • Spivonious - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Agreed. This seems more like "Windows Lite" than a true thin client OS. We have Wyse thin clients at work and all they do is boot and then connect to a hosted virtual machine. Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    I don't mean to dig up an old thread, but I wanted to comment on this product AFTER RTM, which was July 2011, 3 months after this article was posted.

    I've installed OSX 10.5.8, 10.6.3, and a variety of Linux distro's on my HP Mini. I decided to give Win7ThinPC a shot. Since the Mini has a pathetic Sandisk uSSD with a 40MB/sec ATA4 (PATA) interface, it is just slightly faster than a Class 10 SDHC card.

    I've run Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit, which took up ~10GB of the SSD, and it was slow, but usable. Thin PC is faster. Boot times, logon times, suspend/resume, and overall snappyness are improved.

    We're talking an Atom N270 1.6GHz dualcore CPU, which is patheticly slow, around the speed of a Pentium III 800MHz, so web browsing performance is not great, especially with flash content, so Thin PC doesn't help this, but it does reduce SSD access, which is good, because the SSD is slow.

    What I'm getting at, is if you want to run Windows 7 from a MEMORY CARD, this is your best option.

    I successfully embeeded and registered .NET 2.0 and 3.5 into Win7 Thin PC as well in order to run SyncToy and Paint.NET

    Current volume licensing from Provantage and CDW puts this OS at $15/year/PC. Pretty good value if you plan on upgrading in a few years, anyway.
    Reply

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