Making Windows 2000 run (rather well)  on only 32MB RAM

- By Daniel Iversen, 16 July 2005

There are times when it can and should (sometimes) be done... installing Windows 2000 on very old computers with only 32 megabytes (MB) of memory (RAM). I've seen 64 and 96 MB RAM computers struggling with Windows 2000 but if you configure the system correctly it can run fast and well. Note though that there is no "magic bullet". Although your old computer can run faster it will never compete with modern hardware in terms of performance.

This is a short guide to show you how to run Windows 2000 on such old computers and maintain a fast (as possible) performing system.

The computer I installed Windows 2000 on was a Toshiba Libretto 110 sub-notebook with 233 Mhz and 32 MB RAM.

Why would you do that?
I had an old but very leight-weight small subnotebook that I needed for after hours support for one of my clients... I needed to install Windows 2000 to use my mobile phone (LG U8110/U8120) as an infrared modem to access the high speed 3G data network. Your reason might be that you have an old PC you don't want to throw away and Windows 95/98/Me might not give you the features you are looking for... be aware though that if Windows 98 meets your needs it is stupid to upgrade because you have lots less memory to work with when installing Windows 2000.

 Before the tweaks in this document
Windows 2000 would startup/boot in 30 seconds and you would have between 3-4 MB RAM left for your applications. The system responsiveness is sluggish.

 AFTER the tweaks in this document
 Windows 2000 would startup/boot in 10 seconds (using hibernation) - which is faster than my 2.4Ghz/400MB laptop .. and you would have more than 10 MB RAM left for your applications. The system responsiveness is rather fast.
Performance post tweaks in this guide
Figure 1: The performance of my old subnotebook after tweaks


Install the plain Windows 2000 operating system oin the computer.

Keep in mind:

Removed cursor shadow

I know... maybe not the biggest resource saver (especially because the graphics card probablky handles this one.

Disable display effects incl color icons

You can run with 16bit color on the desktop (if that is what you graphics card supports best natively. Be aware though that some computers can run with higher color depth but the copmuter processor/CPU (as opposed to the graphics CPU) may have to do more... but usually 16bit is fine.
Then you disbale high-color icons, you disable fading effects, smooth fonts and "show window contents" when dragging - in other words, disable anything fancy ;)

removed sound theme and sound card

Playing sound takes CPU resources and getting sound files takes memory.. disable sound effects, and even disable the sound card... When you run on 32MB there are sacrifices that have to be made... I use my 32MB subnotebook for non-sound things so disabling sound card makes sense because the drivers take up resources.

Disabled (by setting them to "manual" (in case windows needs them)) unneeded services

This is probably the single-most important step after the installation. Windows loads lots of services you might not need and they take up LOTS of memory and CPU (considering we only have 32MB).

Disabling following services in the "Control Panel -> Administration -> Services" makes your computer able to act on the network, internet and other things while freeing up lots of memory;
You can also remove these services

Install and use X-Setup from X-teq

This is probably the second most important step after installing windows and disabling the services.... This little tool can remove lots of hidden (and for you unneeded) applications and settings embedded deep inside windows.

Following changes has to be made using the X-Setup tool (trial version will do)

Remove LPT/printer port

Chances are that you won't have a printer connected to the computer.. Removing the LPT port (in the control panel -> system -> device manager ) is a good idea ... you can still print over the network, albeit a bit slower (since we disabled the print spooler earlier).. thats o.k. - it is all for the greater good.

Disable printer and file sharing

again - its about cutting down on whats running.. do this and connect to other computers instead of letting them connect to you.

Install and use Tweak UI

Tweak UI is an old but good fere application from Microsoft to tweak certain windows saettings.

Install it and use it as follows;

Use hibernation feature

Hibernation allows you to start your computer very fast. A typical boot process can take 40 seconds.. .resuming from hibernation only takes 10-15 seconds - very much worth doing! (just remember to do a real reboot/restart every few days to make sure everything gets "cleaned up")

Install network card

Install the network card in your computer... let windows detecdt the card and use the "browse" button to find the driver on your CD/floppy/folder... do NOT run the installation program that came with your netwoirk card as that will most likely install some resident helper application (that you don't really need)

How to use the computer on a daily basis

What now?

Next thing is to install office or whatever.. Office 2000 can run on this computer... make sure though you don't run a "pure/normal" install but just copy the files over from anbother installation... this limits bloat and drivers decreasing overall performance of your system.

Upgrade to 64, 96 or even 128 MB RAM..... ;) (much more RAM that this might not make sense if you have a very old CPU)

Other interesting links

having 3.x shell in NT 5.x
Running the NT4 Explorer in Windows 2000
Windows 2000 Memory Tweaks
Disable File Protection
Good (and 100% free) performance tools


These notes can also be used to enhance the performance of Windows XP / 2003

(c) Copyright 2005-2006, Daniel Iversen