My Windows 7 Netbook Experience

I have always had Windows XP on my netbook ever since I got it about a year ago. I used Nlite (http://www.nliteos.com/) to strip a copy of Windows XP Pro SP3 installed via an external CD drive, and then proceeded to tweak it to get it to run correctly on my netbook. Keep in mind this Netbook, a Dell Mini 9, is just like every other Netbook… not what you would call a power house — 1.6 GHz atom CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and a slower 8 GB STEC SSD. The problem was it never seemed right – I never had any BSOD’s, but XP on my netbook just seemed quirky - kind of like a small rattle in your car that you can never seem to find.

 

Semi-Fixed XP?

To correct the SSD stutter on Windows XP, I used an awesome program called Flashfire SSD Accelerator (http://flashfire.org/xe/). What it does is creates a 32 MB write buffer on your RAM to alleviate the small random write performance of these smaller SSDs. Flashfire did have its drawbacks, however; it made shutdown times excruciatingly long because of the need to flush the RAM write buffer. This had a good possibility of causing data corruption, simply due to the fact that data could possibly be partially written to the disk and power could be cut to the laptop. Needless to say XP worked but I wasn’t satisfied.

 

Then Comes Along Windows 7

I tried a beta version of Windows 7 for about 30 minutes a while ago on my main desktop and was left with a Vista-esque taste in my mouth. My only other Windows Vista experience was before SP1, when Vista was an even slower doggish of an OS and I haven’t touched Vista since. The problem was that I was hearing all this hype over Win 7 RTM, and how it could run well on netbooks. I didn’t believe it at all. That was until I completely messed up my Windows XP install on my Netbook reinstalling a graphics driver… I thought to myself, “Why not, let’s try 7 out.”

I used Vlite via THIS GUIDE to strip it of some stuff from Windows 7 and installed via USB stick. I went into it with the same mindset as I did with Vista back in the day on my main rig… oh God, this is going be slow and broken, especially on my already slow netbook. As I said I tried Vista out back before SP1, hated it and never looked to it again. Because of that I figured Win 7 was a semi-tweaked Vista with a slightly different GUI. Boy was I wrong!

I seriously could not believe it! Right out of the box Windows 7 ran smoother and quicker than my super slimmed down super tweaked XP! It feels flawless now with the latest drivers, and honestly even faster with the minor tweaks I have done. I simply can’t believe it – it’s like MS took the stability and quickness of XP, the good from Vista, and wrapped it in an even quicker sleek GUI. There is no way that a GUI like this should run so smoothly and quickly on such a low power machine, yet it does?

I don’t know how it does it, but dare I say MS actually got something right? No, what am I thinking – MS doesn’t get stuff right! But then how does that explain my awesome experience with Win 7?!

 

The Tweaks!

As I said, out of the box Windows 7 was already much faster and felt so much more stable than my XP ever did, but I knew just like any OS, one can tweak for more performance. I did a couple of tweaks and they have produced a flawless experience on my netbook. After the tweaks below are applied and with Office 2003, Firefox and AIM installed as well as Windows fully updated, I am using right at 3.5ish GB of space. Not bad! My tweaks:

  1. Disable indexing – not needed on SSD’s
    Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Manage -> Services and Applications -> Services -> Right-Click Windows Search -> Startup type: Disabled -> OK
  2. Disable defragmentation
    Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Manage -> Services and Applications -> Services -> Right-Click Disk Defragmenter -> Startup type: Disabled -> OK
  3. Disable the Page File
    Instructions: Start Menu -> Right-Click Computer -> Properties -> Advanced System Settings -> Settings (Performance) -> Advanced Tab -> Change -> Uncheck Automatically manage -> No paging file -> Set -> OK -> Restart your computer
  4. Disable Hibernate
    Instructions: Start Menu -> Type CMD -> Right-Click the CMD Icon -> Run as Administrator -> Type powercfg -h off -> Type exit
  5. MAKE SURE YOUR PARTITION IS ALIGNED! By default Windows 7 will create a 100 MB partition before the actual OS partition. This is to allow the Windows 7 installer to play with files there to reduce install time. This 100MB partition also is said to align the OS partition by offsetting it 64 sectors. Now in my case, I used a different partition scheme without the 100 MB partition and thus my OS partition was not aligned. But the guys over at OCZ have a great write up on HOW TO ALIGN A PARTITION.

 

Conclusion

In the end, my Windows 7 on the netbook experiment has turned out great. It was pain free, easy to install, runs great and is so seamless it’s not even funny. Plain and simple, there is no way I’m going back to XP.

Ben H – aka nd4spdbh2 in OCForums

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