Windows 7 Starter edition has been haunting my Dell 1012 for over a year. It is supposed to out-perform other operating systems and is strongly recommended by all the bench-marking softwares and experts of these softwares who write netbook guidelines.
I’ve browsed too many blogs and commentaries where people have contradicting opinions about these operating systems. The simple fact is, Windows 7 Starter is simply not light-weight enough for a resource-limited device such as a netbook. The system’s constant CPU usage of 50% even when idle is unbelievable. Moreover, who’d imagine a browser like Chrome would take longer to boot than the IE (or occationally, MATLAB) on my home laptop?
Windows XP on the contrary, was developed more than 10 years ago and was designed for computers back then (when dual-core was alien and a quad or oct-core computer would certainly sound like alien invasion.) It ran smoothly on those devices — there is no reason to believe that they won’t perform better on our comparatively powerhouse devices, aka netbooks (quite an irony… ah, the beauty of Moore’s Law…).
Hence was my conclusion that Windows XP is the right option for my Netbook (Did I mention that it is a beautiful Dell 1012, with Intel Atom Processor @1.6GHz? And I have recently upgraded the RAM to 2GB myself. More on the RAM upgrade if people are interested enough). I am writing this blog on my netbook, which runs Windows XP Pro SP3 right now. Glad about that choice. Would certainly recommend anyone with a similar spec netbook to opt XP over 7 Starter.
Enough blabbering. Here comes the actual thing.
To install Windows XP, which does not support virtual CD by itself, the easiest way is to use an external CD drive, which should be available on the internet for about 20 pounds (but who uses CD drive nowadays anyway?). The second best option I have come across (actually I searched all over the internet for it…) is to install XP using a USB stick (minimum 1GB required, though… but again, how many USB sticks nowadays is even vaguely less than 4GB…).
Make sure you have a CD or CD image of Windows XP available. If you use a CD image, you should load it into your vitual CD drive.
To start with, you would need three softwares:
These will enable you to setup the USB stick as a booting device for your PC. You should be able to find them easily on google. But if you can’t and you absolutely need one leave a message here.
Insert the USB stick.
If you have a PC which already has XP installed. It’ll be much easier to use these tools, but if not, (say you have a PC running Win 7 or Win Vista, do not panick, here is how you can bypass some problems that you might encounter if you follow other Internet tutorials :p)
After download, unzip the files into separate folders. Copy the content of PeToUSB to usb_prep8 folder. Now, right click on all the exe files from these folders, select property and tick the box next to run as administrator, click OK.
next, instead of starting the usb_prep8.cmd program directly as told by other tutorials, here is the proper way of doing it on Win 7 or Win Vista:
Go to Start button, in search panel, type cmd; where the program cmd shows up, right click and run as administrator. Using ‘cd’ and ‘cd..’ command to navigate to the folder which contains usb_prep8, type usb_prep8.cmd and it should run in the cmd window
<Will insert a plot in the future>
The program PeToUSB should start automatically and identify your USB stick. Tick ‘Quick Format’ if it is not selected (or the next step is going to take you more than 20 mins to finish). Click Start. Format should be very fast.
Do not close the PeToUSB window or the cmd window previously opened.
Instead, open a different cmd window using the method mentioned above. Navigate to the folder containing bootsect. Type ‘ bootsect.exe /nt52 I:’ but replace I with whatever disk number your USB stick is on your PC. If everything goes well, it should say “Successfully installed bootsector onto your USB device” or something similar. Close this cmd window.
Now close the PeToUSB window and you should notice the first cmd window changed into a series of options from 0 to n (can’t remember how many options are there).
Basically just follow instructions from 1 to 4 and ignore the other options. Select 1 and enter the driver where you put your XP installation CD (or image); then select 2 and enter a lettter which is not currently used by any of your disk drives, the default option T: should be good enough if you are not nerdy enough to re-number your drives (logically, if you were, you would not bother to read this article anyway); select 3 and enter the drive letter of your USB drive. select 4 and ‘y’ and yes and accept all the options to follow: you should see XP installation files being copied to your USB stick.
After this your USB stick is a powerful booting device and you are ready to go!
Next part is about the installation of XP.
First start your netbook with the USB stick plugged in. Press F2 (or whatever the corresponding keys that’s used on your netbook) to enter BIOS setting screen. Change the SATA mode from AHCI to AHA because AHCI is not inherently supported by stock XP (sadly). Change the boot order to USB first; Save and restart.
The netbook should now boot from your USB stick. select option 1 (which shows up as the second option…), text mode. If you did not change AHCI to AHA or some other modes, your hard drive would not be recognized by XP and you’d only have your USB stick as a possible partition.
Delete and format and ensure that there is only one partition available (Yes, the stupid XP installer does not recognize multiple partitions). Your netbook should restart and take you to the GUI interface automatically. Then install XP as you would do with CD installtions.
After a few steps, XP is ready to go. Next thing to do is to install all the drivers for your netbook. You should be able to find them from the netbooks’ supporting website.
Now you should be able to enjoy the smoothness of the light-weight yet still perfectly designed and tested system, Windows XP on your netbook!
On a separate note, there is likely to be an issue with Standby mode: if your netbook goes into standby mode, it may not be able to wake up no matter what you do; this is because the SATA driver now is set to be AHA mode which does not normally support standby
Again, do not panic. get the SATA driver for AHCI from your netbook’s support website. But installing the driver itself is not as easy as installing those for other hardwares.
Unzip the installation files for the driver, it would not install automatically. Instead, you should go to Device Manager (right click My computer –> Properties –> Hardware –> Device Manager), select ‘ATA devices’ then ‘Primary IDE devives’, right click, select update driver; select specify the location rather than search on internet; select do not search; select ‘Have Disk’ and locate the driver files you have unzipped; follow instructions until the driver is installed. The computer would prompt to be restarted, do so.
It is a long time since I wrote anything this long… Although it is likely that this post will help no one, it is still good to keep this tutorial as a sort of reference in case I’d need it in the future.
I’ll go do some proper work now…
Stay hungry, stay foolish.
2:13 am 10/02/2012