Windows 11 Demoed Running in Just 176 MB RAM

Windows 11 with tiny amount of RAM
(Image credit: NTDEV)

Pseudonymous developer NTDev has managed to demonstrate Windows 11 booting and running on a system with only 176 MB of RAM. This RAM quota is approximately a 20th of the Microsoft recommended minimum amount. To achieve this daring world record, Windows 11 and its drivers were pared back to a bare minimum according to the brains behind the Tiny11 project.

In NTDev's video we see that when using small apps and utilities the highly-constrained system is "surprisingly usable," if not responsive. However, there is an elephant in the room, as this pared-back Tiny11 system boots to a command prompt, rather than Explorer. This marks a stark contrast between this and the prior Windows 11 in 200 MB RAM achievement. Sacrificing Explorer might be worth it though, as testing Tiny11 running in 200 MB with the default Windows desktop file manager app running in the background was admitted to be "terribly slow."

How did NTDev do it? According to the developer "extensive trial and error, by seeing which drivers and services are absolutely the ones for required to Windows 11 to boot," was the core activity required to get this up and running. "Even things like which disk drive interface was used were taken into consideration (IDE was used)," noted the developer.

(Image credit: NTDEV)

In the embedded video you can see NTDev show which drivers were started at boot, which were stopped, and which were disabled. The developer ran NirSoft's ServiWin tool on his 176 MB RAM system for this level of granular tinkering.

Commenting upon NTDev's Tweet, Windows Insider developer Xeno pointed out that a "text only Windows 11" option can be run in as little as 96 MB. Xeno quickly admitted this absolutely flattened Windows 11 install was not practical, so it is far less appealing than the "surprisingly usable" effort from NTDev.

(Image credit: Xeno)

NTDev is the increasingly familiar name behind this latest Windows 11 compatibility and usability straining feat. You may have previously read about his Tiny11 and Tiny10 OS packages. He also managed to get Windows 11 to run entirely in a GPU's VRAM. Everyone needs a hobby.

If you are inspired to build your own tiny Windows 11 install, then we have just the tutorial to show you how to do it.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • ezst036
    All sorts of people put in tons of work to get Windows to perform as well as a Linux desktop. It's amazing.
    Reply
  • Keng Yuan
    I wonder what's the minimum that is gaming capable
    Reply
  • derekullo
    Keng Yuan said:
    I wonder what's the minimum that is gaming capable
    For the absolute minimum I would turn to Linux.
    Steam is available for Linux and shows over 26000 games that are available.
    A lightweight Linux distro running only processes needed for gaming would probably be the answer.

    Judging from the results on
    https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/5l39tz/linux_distros_ram_consumption_comparison_updated/
    200-300 megabytes sounds reasonable for the Linux OS itself.
    Depending on the game you intend on running the actual amount of ram needed can vary wildly.
    Cities:Skylines took about 2 gigabytes to load the home screen.
    My simplest and least ram intensive Linux compatible game is Factorio clocking in at 350 megabytes of ram.
    Cooking clicker while not Linux compatible only uses 184 megabytes of ram
    (Those ram figures were taken from Windows 11 ... probably similar on Linux)
    This would give us a minimum of 384-650 megabytes of ram to avoid using virtual memory on a linux/properly slimmed down Windows install.
    Reply
  • ekio
    If Microsoft was doing their job properly, that would just be the default windows version requirement.
    Oh.. and also, we would have a consitent modern user interface everywhere, not only for a few programs...
    Reply
  • NatEff3ct
    I guess everyone forgot that ram is cheap
    Reply
  • punkncat
    This is one of those 'neat that you could possibly do it' type things that is deemed basically silly waste of time in practice. Why would you wish to punish yourself working in page file at all times?
    Reply
  • ekio
    NatEff3ct said:
    I guess everyone forgot that ram is cheap
    I have 128GB of ram on my system, it's not about Ram price....
    It's about clean code, with minimal footprint, and maximal efficiency and robustness.
    Things that Windows is absolutely not.

    I I steal $1000 from you and say, don't get mad, I saw your bank account, you have 20k left, that would be stupid, well, for ram waste, it's the same story.
    Reply
  • NatEff3ct
    ekio said:
    I have 128GB of ram on my system, it's not about Ram price....
    It's about clean code, with minimal footprint, and maximal efficiency and robustness.
    Things that Windows is absolutely not.

    I I steal $1000 from you and say, don't get mad, I saw your bank account, you have 20k left, that would be stupid, well, for ram waste, it's the same story.
    I think you’re missing the point they took the explorer out which makes the entire project useless you might as well go run Linux, I agree with something being more efficient, but you can’t take the tires off of of a car because they’re made of steel and call it a day, you need to replace the tires with more efficient tires and then we will actually be impressed.
    Reply
  • greenreaper
    But will it run Crysis?
    Reply
  • Friesiansam
    Why are some of you being so critical of this? Why should people not experiment, just to see what they can achieve? Humans have always done this, if we didn't, we wouldn't know what a wheel is, let alone have computers we can experiment on, just for fun.
    Reply