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You could notice the lag, which was annoying. Anything less would be painful.
Time is definatly money and considering RAM is so cheap, you be best to go the whole hog and get 512. Theres nothing worse than waiting for a computer to catch up all the time - it annoys the hell out of me, very frustrating for users!
My laptop has 512 and all the bells and whistles running and is a bit faster. The next time it will be a gig of Ram from the start.
256 is the bare minimum for XP, on the other hand if you get paid by the hour 128 might be better and lend to more work hours.
without office, the absolute minimum ratings for some of the windows versions are as follows. not sure if office adds some kind of necessary amount, though as mentioned here, bare minimums are not considered 'comfortable'.
hard drive space is also bare minimum - in some cases i have some data as to the full range of possibilities.
Win XP Pro: 233mhz, 64mb RAM, 2gb hard drive space
(the above applies to the corporate version, not clear if other versions of XP pro have a different ram requirement)
Win Me: 150mhz processor, 32mb Ram, 320-420mb hard drive space
- earlier versions (below) don't complain about mhz -
Win 2k server/adv. server: 256mb RAM, 1-2gb hard drive space
Win 2k pro: 64mb RAM, 650mb-2gb hard drive space
Win 98se: 16-24mb RAM, 195mb hard drive space
hope this helps