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You can see the increasing progression of system requirements if you take a look at the chart on our Benchmarks page.
The various Windows releases are listed chronologically, and so it comes as no surprise then that Windows XP has the highest requirements.
This represents most PCs sold during the past 5 years.
XP is based on the Windows NT operating system (which is also the basis of Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000), and not on the DOS operating system which has been at the core of Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Millennium.
While DOS and DOS based Windows releases have always targeted the lowest end home computers, NT has targeted business machines and servers and thus has always required more memory and a faster processor.