“Thumbing” Windows 7 onto Netbooks – my experience

Several posts on twitter linked directly or indirectly to an item on CNET News. It opens “Microsoft is considering offering Windows 7 on a thumb drive to allow Netbook owners to more easily upgrade their machines, a source tells CNET News.”

“Considering” can mean a great many things. I blogged about making a bootable USB stick and if you copy the DVD to a bootable stick you have all you need. I haven’t heard anyone disagree with the notion that installing Windows 7 from USB is as easy as installing from a CD, but much quicker. Give people the OS on a stick, goes the theory and not only is it a better installation experience, but they can use it for ReadyBoost if nothing else. When 7 day shop are selling 4GB drives for a fiver you have to wonder what it would add to our costs if we were buying tens or hundreds of thousands. Ironically we could probably charge an extra £10 for the convenience and add a little to our margins. So I have considered it… I don’t know how if the person CNET is reporting has controls the decision, and how serious the consideration they are giving the idea. But I’d love to see it. Here’s why.

Expansys mailed me last week with an offer on the Acer Aspire one Net book. The model is about to superseded, but it’s not bad at all. I’ve got mixed feelings about Netbooks – the ATOM processor is 32 bit and won’t even support the new XP mode on Windows 7. The thing which makes them so attractive: small size and low weight - means they have small screens. These days I take 1920x1400 for granted. The Aspire one has 1GB of RAM*, and for people who don’t value the warranty there are plenty of places showing how to remove 1/2 GB of that and put a 1GB module in it’s place – 1.5GB is the maximum, but with 2 SD card slots it’s no loss to shove a card in one (nothing sticks out so you can forget it’s there) and configure it for Readyboost, With wired and wireless networking and 3 USB sockets connectivity is good. And at £155 including VAT and delivery, we ended up getting one, primarily for my wife. After a bit of a delivery hiccup the postman turned up with it this morning.

Like most netbooks it the Acer no optical drive: I could rig one up externally, but it was quicker and easier re-jig what I had put on my memory stick and put the 32 bit ones on, and install from that: the standard [F12] to select a boot device was all I needed. Within 30 minutes of opening the box the disk was re-partitioned, reformatted and Windows 7 was on. Aero glass had enabled itself, the wireless LAN card had drivers and found my home network. Windows had updated the drivers for the Intel graphics card. The SD slot wouldn’t work for Readyboost… until new Action Center guided me to an improved driver. So a couple of clicks enabled Readyboost. Shut the lid and it goes to sleep, and it comes back in before I can count “two” AND I’d done all that in a little over 25 minutes. 

You can see where “considering offering it” came from, some people will say “Everyone should install this way”. I’m still surprised when a system finds all the right drivers without needing me to hunt them down, getting some OSes going on some hardware gives you a sense achievement at the problems you have overcome. This isn’t one, which I suppose is a good thing.


* Windows 7 is much happier than vista on systems with small amounts of memory , although some people will take this to extremes

Comments (3)

  1. James ONeill says:

    Neil sorry to take so long to answer

    In some circumstances it can be better. It depends how brave you are when it comes to taking a machine to bits and how much you value your warranty. Readyboost isn’t the same as expanding main memory and there will be some things where only more RAM will help. Of those there are some where going from 1 to 1.5 just isn’t enough difference. But my experience is for what is being used for the 4GB readyboost and 1GB main memory works very nicely, so I’ve shelved my plan to upgrade. Your mileage may vary 🙂

  2. jg007 says:

    good to hear this , I am trying to persuade my poartner to let me stick W7 on her netbook when it is realeased and this gives me more ammo 🙂

    I don’t really want to keep supporting an XP system so will be much happier if I can stick all my pc’s on W7

    just wish MS would offer an nice cheap family pack !

  3. Neil says:

    James, would you say that for WIN 7 a 2Gb SD card configured for ReadyBoost is a better proposition than dismantling the machine, voiding the warranty and replacing the 512Mb memory module with a 1Mb module?

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