There have been a few misunderstandings about the Windows 8 system requirements and recommendations and how they relate to those for Windows 7. Let's review.
First, you may recall that Microsoft has been saying for some time now that the Windows 8 system requirements will be identical to those of Windows 7. And, in fact, that Windows 8 will generally run faster than Windows 7 on the same hardware since its impact on system resources is actually lower.
This is true.
But recently, we've come to understand that Windows 8 Metro-style apps will require a resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher, and that if you'd like to run two apps side-by-side using Metro Snap, you'll need a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 or higher.
This is also true.
But then, many have wondered, if Windows 8 will run on any Windows 7-class machine, how could it possibly require a screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher? After all, PC makers sold hundreds of millions of Windows 7-based netbooks, and those machines typically shipped with a screen resolution of just 1024 x 600.
Here's how: The 1024 x 768 resolution is a requirement for Metro-style apps only. You can still install Windows 8 on a netbook, and Microsoft has done work to enable the Start screen on screen resolutions as low as 800 x 600, which is actually the base requirement for this OS. But if you want to run any Metro-style apps, you'll need a better screen, and thus a better PC.
"Even without Metro style applications, your Windows 7 workloads on these [low-end] PCs will improve and you can benefit from all the other features of Windows 8, including enhancements to the desktop," Microsoft corporate vice president Grant George wrote in a recent blog post to the Building Windows 8 Blog. "We have made sure that Start and [PC] Settings all scale well on 800 x 600 resolution screens."
So there you go. Misunderstandings cleared up.
Let's look at some of the other system recommendations described in this post.
Processor. Microsoft recommends a 1 GHz or faster processor. It doesn't specify dual core or better, but in this case of course, faster is always better. I will not personally be running Windows 8 on anything slower than a Core 2 Duo processor, other than for testing the netbook experience so I can write about it in Windows 8 Secrets.
RAM. Microsoft recommends 1 GB of RAM or more for 32-bit systems, and 2 GB of RAM or more for 64-bit. This is, as always, ludicrous. I recommend 2 GB of RAM, bare minimum, for a 32-bit version of Windows 8, and I'd be surprised if the average RAM on used PCs that will run Windows 8 isn't north of 4 GB.
Hard disk space. Curiously, Microsoft really low-balls here, noting that 16 GB of available space is just fine for a 32-bit install, whereas 20 GB or more is needed for 64-bit. These numbers are interesting to tablet device users, of which there are almost none, but realistically speaking, you're going to want a lot more hard drive space than that. (I realize these numbers are for what's required to just get Windows 8 installed, but Microsoft is very clear that these numbers are for "recommendations" not "requirements." Who the heck would recommend just 16 GB of free disk space. You'll want 64 GB bare minimum, or 128 GB or more if you're not just dicking around.
Graphics. Microsoft recommends a "DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver." Anyone really know what that means? No? Good. Because you don't need to know what that means. You can't have purchased a PC in the past few years that won't run Windows 8 just fine, and if you're playing games on a PC for some reason, that's for you to figure out. This used to be a big sticking point back in the Vista days, but not anymore. It all works fine now.
One of the big issues for me, since I am writing a book, is that there are almost no good PCs or devices (that I'm aware of, anyway) that provides the necessary hardware--like a UEFI-type BIOS--to enable some of Windows 8's most forward-leaning new features, like Secure Boot and Hyper-V 3.0. I'll keep looking, but as always, the best Windows 8 experience is going to happen with new hardware. And that's more true than ever with Windows 8.
Good luck out there in the trenches.