Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC's



Windows Vista has been getting so much hype since it’s release at the beginning of 2007 but it’s not the only new version of Windows that has been released in the past year. Unknown to almost all computer users Microsoft released a new version for corporate computers called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s not to be bigger and "better" but to be smaller and lighter. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s is designed for use on Pentium II and III based computers that originally came with Windows 95, 98 NT 4.0 or Millennium Edition. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s is sold only to corporations with tens of thousands of these older computers that are too expensive to replace in a single shot even for major corporations.

Leaving these older versions of Windows in use poses a security risk for these companies because Microsoft is no longer patching security flaws in these older operating systems. For corporate IT departments securing their systems is an extremely high priority. Windows Fundamentals provides a cheaper way of getting a currently supported Microsoft operating system onto older PC’s.

In short, Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s is a stripped down version of Windows XP SP2. Most of the screensavers and all the desktop wallpapers that comes with the regular version of Windows XP don’t come with Windows Fundamentals. Gone too are Windows Movie Maker and Outlook Express. There is also no support for dial up networking, which is not needed in the corporate world. Strangely a full installation of Windows Fundamentals comes with DirectX 9c and Media Player 10 hardly software needed in a corporate use PC. Internet Explorer 6 comes with the operating system but Internet Explorer 7 installs and runs without any problems.

Being a volume licensed product Windows Fundamentals Microsoft waives the requirement for product activation and passes Windows Genuine Advantage validation checks. On their web site Microsoft states that Windows Fundamentals is not recommended for general use by home users, due in part that Microsoft wants home users to buy new PC’s with Windows Vista. Windows Fundamentals has found a cult following with a few gamers who take less than legal methods to obtain their copies. It is believed that because having an operating system that uses less RAM and CPU cycles makes high end games run better.

For anybody who has installed their own copy of Windows on their PC’s well know the first stage of any Windows setup where the hard drive is formatted and system files are copied with it’s blue screen and the second stage that has a graphical interface when hardware is detected and the rest of the system software is installed. The setup for Windows Fundamentals does away with the blue screen first stage. The entire setup for Windows Fundamentals is all done in the graphical setup program.

Windows Fundamentals has better security than Windows XP which it’s based upon. A secure password which contains both upper and lower case letters and numbers is required to be set for the administrator account. A password is required for any user account with administrator privileges. By default the log on screen that appears when Windows Fundamentals starts up is similar to that used by Windows NT 4.0 and 2000 where the user name and password have to be typed in separately. This can be changed in the User Accounts area of the Control Panel to the Welcome screen that users of Windows XP know the best.

I used Windows Fundamentals on what would be considered to be a typical legacy PC that Windows Fundamentals is designed for, a Pentium III with 256 MB of RAM. Sound, video and network are built on to the motherboard. Using the onboard video made Internet Explorer 7 sluggish with multiple web pages open using tabbed browsing. Using Media Player 11 worked surprisingly well despite being far below the minimum system requirements. Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Office 2003 work well but other non-Microsoft programs such as Kodak EasyShare and Yahoo Messenger were a little slow due mostly to the aging Intel 810 onboard video.

The thing I fault Microsoft for about Windows Fundamentals is the distribution only to major corporate users. There are thousands of older computers in use in schools and in charities where budgets for mass replacement of PC’s simply don’t exist. If Microsoft made Windows Fundamentals available to these markets it would take away a plum target for hackers and spammers, computers with older operating systems that no longer get security updates that have extremely fast connections to the Internet, these computers are valuable to those wanting to turn them into spam spewing zombies responsible for every ad you get for questionable e-mailed to you.

Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s is a stable solid replacement for Windows operating systems that have passed into memory. Not just for the corporate IT departments that it’s being sold to but many in the charitable sector where purchasing technology is such a low priority and older PC’s are still in very common use. It is too easy to understand why Microsoft’s motive in not selling Windows Fundamentals to the consumer, fear of poaching sales of Windows Vista and all the new hardware that goes with it. Despite it’s narrow release to corporate IT departments, Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s is a very suitable replacement for Windows NT4, 9X and ME on computers that can’t run a brand new operating system.

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