Today I thought I might take the time to load Windows 7 on my netbook, the Acer Aspire One. Because the netbook lacks a DVD drive I needed to think up a good way to get the software on the machine.
I considered putting it on my USB flash drive but I only have a 1GB model and Windows 7 requires 2GB+ of space. I thought about buying a 4GB model but I couldn't convince myself to shell out $30 for 8GB of storage.
Because my main laptop recently died (it will soon be sent back to HP for repairs) I decided on a different option. HP requires a hard drive be installed in the laptop when I ship it back but they also may reformat the installed drive.
Not wanting to risk anything bad happening to my data (yes, I have backups) I decided to get another drive and slap it in for the journey to the repair shop. I ended up not buying an off the shelf laptop drive but instead picked up a 320GB My Passport Western Digital drive instead.
It set me back about $10 less than a laptop drive of the same size would and I get the added bonus of an external USB hard drive when it is all said and done. The big question will be if I leave the 320GB drive in my main laptop or put the 120GB one back in.
The 320GB external drive has plenty of space for the Windows 7 install files so that is where they went. It took about 30 mins from start to finish but Windows 7 is now installed on my Acer Aspire One netbook.
The install was mostly glitch free but I did have one major problem, the touch pad.
Under Windows 7 the Synaptics multi-touch touch pad was recognized as a standard PS/2 mouse. One without any form of scrolling nor tapping.
The mouse buttons on the Aspire One are pretty inconvenient as it is so you can imagine my annoyance at seeing tapping not working.
I tried using an XP/2000 driver and it seemed to work but then it crashed. I tried to download the Vista drivers for their touch pads but so far I have had no luck downloading them. I will do some more research and get the touch pad working!
The Wi-Fi came right up and the switch on the front of the machine still works to turn wireless on and of. The only difference is that I no longer see the notification on screen in green letters the way I did when running the copy of XP that shipped with the machine. This is fine because Windows 7 has added something that I am currently in love with, the Mobility Center.
This little Windows program is a laptop lovers dream! It allows you to quickly modify items that laptop users often spend time looking for. For example you can quickly adjust volume, power saving, contrast/brightness, turn Wireless on or off, fiddle with an external display, etc... This little bit of Windows magic will likely be my most often run application.
Why? Because I'm tired of always having to jump down to the tray or otherwise look for these settings.
It is also important to understand that not all machines get as many tools in the Mobility Center application. It depends on your PC manufacturer. Since Windows 7 is still in beta don't be surprised if some of the things you want are not there.
Because I did the full install rather than the upgrade (no upgrade path for XP) I lost all of my installed programs. This includes my anti-virus and 60 day trial of MS Office. I still have the original recovery partition and software so I'm going to try and reinstall those applications at a later date.
Aside from the touch pad issue I have also noticed that Windows 7 has identified 3 Base System Devices that it does not know what they are. I have no idea what they are myself. Windows 7 does provide some bus information so I will have to track them down when I have time.
The built-in webcam was found by Windows 7 but I currently have no idea how to use it, not that I ever used under XP! I will have to investigate some software options to see how Windows 7 handles it.
I do have to say that Windows 7 has a very Vista-like feel to it and it runs quite well on my little netbook. I'm using Wordpad to write this and the though the toolbar is a lot bigger than I would like it to be (netbooks have very little screen real estate) I am having no problems finding the tools that I need to write this article.