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rmay635703 01-30-2011 06:06 PM

What is the lowest power x86 compatible desktop PC you can build?
My parents more and more can't run their PC at craft shows because of needing electricity or a generator.

We have run batteries several times but many places have a cow even though the batteries are unspillable sealed Greensavers.

I DO NOT WANT A LAPTOP and will do that as a last resort only.


1. Desktop or tower PC, preferably a case large enough that fits standard components when I need them and is durable

2. X86 compatible, our proprietary business software runs under Windows 9x only and is only semi functional under XP

3. Did I say low power? I would like it to run at as low of power as possible, if I could buy one that used a single watt and was still something I could buy and build easily I would buy it.

4. I use a monitor to display our work to customers, size is not important (13"+) but it should be separate from the computer so I can place it near the customers without my keyboard being in the aisle and obviously it must use very little power, I could do with B&W but color is prefered, since we are usually in a tent under full sun a reflective model might work and I would definately consider ANTIQUE monitors if they use very little power and have a Windows 9x interface card.

5. Only needs to be Equivalent to a pentium 133mhz or better, better is nice lower power is better. I need a minimum of 32mb but 256mb is obviously much better. I need VGA or better, better is prefered, I need Parallel and would like USB.

6. Age, I could care less, in fact if I could buy a used low power system that would be even better.

My printer I am somewhat stuck with as I can't really find any that are much more efficient and still run as a laser.

Currently my system when putting around but not printing uses 100-130watts for a 19" monitor, tower computer and idling printer.

I would very much like to reduce this, I can only run 3 days on battery power max at this rate with about 3 dozen surges to 500watt for 15 seconds. (not really 500watt constant over the 15sec.)

If I could reduce the rate my 4 battery pack could be reduced to 2 batteries or possibly 1 battery.

I also would consider a system like this a nice chance for me to have an excuse to build a PC system again and a Nice intro to the possibility of running on solar :)

Are there any complete PC systems that only draw a couple watts in the desktop form factor and are x86 compatble?

The Intel ATOM as far as I can tell draws more power as a system then my antique crap box but it is faster. (AKA 80watts for an ATOM is not unheard of)

Thank You
Ryan May

vskid3 01-30-2011 06:47 PM

The AMD Geode CPU uses very little power, there are plenty of used thin clients and embedded systems that have them on ebay.

rmay635703 01-30-2011 07:19 PM

Now if I could find one with a legacy port or 2 so I don't have Win9x printer issues and one with a moderate graphics card that has driver support of some type for 9x I will be set.

I have often thought of going to a HDless flash card or the like but would probably not like the price required for 60GB (yeah I actually do use a lot of disk space if I have everything there, at least considering the type of system it is)

Now onto the monitor, what style/type of monitor would be akin to a system like this, using minimal power without being completely non-standard?

RobertSmalls 01-30-2011 07:28 PM

If you were after a powerful PC that runs Windows 7, is a media center, and runs the latest games, I would recommend you build something like this:

Robertsmalls' 23W (at idle) computer - EcoRenovator

Note NiHaoMike's posts in that thread, talking about non-x86 PCs whose power consumption puts even the best x86 to shame. It would be pretty fruitful if you could migrate to such a platform.

Antique components aren't of any use to you. Old chips are built on larger processes, run at higher voltages, and lack the power management features of newer components.

Here's what I'd build:
*Motherboard with 760G. Look around on and find one with good undervolting options. Underclocking and undervolting is the key to low power consumption. Integrated graphics saves you from having to power a discrete video card.
*Sempron CPU. Get the slowest 45nm single-core CPU you can find, then underclock it as low as you can stand, then undervolt it to the threshold of stability. Since you're talking about Windows 9x, I assume this means a 2.7GHz Sempron running at 800MHz.
*A small stick of RAM, undervolted and underclocked.
*An SSD if you're feeling spendy, or a single-platter 5400RPM hard drive if not
*A small LCD monitor with the backlight set to minimum. Build the monitor into a recessed shroud if that's what it takes to lower the brightness. My television uses 150W at full brightness, and 45W at minimum. My 19" LCD uses 30W at full, 10W at minimum.
*PicoPSU. There's nothing more efficient on the market, so there's only one choice in PSU.

That's everything! Don't allow yourself any unnecessary peripherals like floppy drives etc. The whole system, including monitor, should be around 30W.

Or just buy a cheap NetTop, throw it under the desk, and hook it up to a real monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

hamsterpower 01-30-2011 07:58 PM


Originally Posted by RobertSmalls (Post 217847)
Or just buy a cheap NetTop, throw it under the desk, and hook it up to a real monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

I know you said no laptop, but this would be my suggestion too.
As for the win9X compatibility try a virtual machine. VMware player or something similar will allow you to run nearly any OS/software on modern hardware without worry of driver or port compatibility.

vskid3 01-31-2011 02:14 AM

A laptop would be the easiest solution, and possibly even the best. They're already optimized for low power usage, even the screen. I have a 9" tablet with a Core Solo that uses about 10w at idle with the screen on, it maxes at about 17w with the CPU loaded and wifi on. Any atom netbook should get you similar results.

cfg83 01-31-2011 03:10 AM

rmay635703 -

I don't think you will find your solution at this URL, but I look at it to get a feel for prices :

Motherboards, Computer Motherboards, Cheap Motherboards, Discount Motherboards -
Desktop Computer, Desktop PC, Refurbished Computers, Refurbished PCs, Used Computers at

vskid3, here is a think client, but I don't know if it's any good :

HP Thin Client t5545 VIA Eden 1.0GHz 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 512MB Flash Memory No Operating System - B HP FQ798AA#ABA Thin Client t5545

Power Specifications:
12V --- 4.16A
No Operating System! (Operating System must be Linux based)


Phantom 01-31-2011 11:18 AM

I would go with a used laptop like the HP tx1000 its under 5lbs with the larger battery it should last 3-4 hours running Vista on balanced power profile. The max watts the power brick can draw is 65w so it can be unplugged most of the day and easily charged or hibernated then replace the battery and you are ready to go again in 5min.

Nevyn 01-31-2011 02:11 PM

Perhaps a Mini-ITX type system? They generate so little heat (some of them) that the CPU is fanless. I'd say a 15" LCD for the monitor. Use a CompactFlash card for an SSD with a CF to IDE or CF to SATA adapter (low power).

Don't know about your printer, but you'd probably be in the 20-80 watts range on the ITX board, 20-40 watts for monitor.

tumnasgt 01-31-2011 02:29 PM

The original Atom used in desktops used 2.5W, with the accompanying chipset using 22W. The new single-core models use 10W with an integrated chipset, so power consumption has gone down a lot with the latest generation.

Regardless of what you decide to get, buy a power supply that has an 80+ certification, as power supplies without them tend to be 60-75% efficient instead of 80-90%. There are now three levels of 80+ (bronze, silver, gold), so it's good to look around to find the best you can get in your price range.

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