Windows Flash – installing XP on a solid state drive Acer NetbookJanuary 4, 2009 at 1:30 am | Posted in Computers, Hardware, Internet, Software, Technology | 21 Comments
Recently, I wrote about Netbooks and my decision to get an Acer Aspire. I wanted the model with a solid state drive (SSD) running Windows, a combination they don’t offer. So I went with the 1 GB RAM model to get colour choice and enough RAM for happy XP. The solid state drive models come with Linux and a bunch of applications preloaded and ready to go. I quite like it.
The glossy case is a bit of a fingerprint magnet though. I found this Linux build not as flexible as I like and not compatible with a few key applications I need. I reviewed how several others did an XP install and rolled my own version. The below list may look complex but its mostly just details. If you follow it step by step, you should have few issues. This will also work for similar netbooks as the links illustrate.
- a Windows XP license. As these are no longer for sale, you’ll need a retired computer or spare license on hand. Reusing may mean phoning in to activate – that’s easy. While Vista includes a downgrade option, you still need an XP key.
- an SD card to add file space. In Linux, the SD drive expands the boot drive, not so for Windows. Also, useful for migrating files.
- a USB stick for booting the Windows installer and copying the drivers over. No optical drive here. Got a 2GB for $7.
- a computer to assemble the smaller XP install and bootable thumb drive.
In this approach, the Prep takes a little longer but the install and followup much less.
The Acer system comes with a recovery disc should you ever wish to reinstall Linux or add a Linux partition – in other words, have both.
Download drivers from Acer:
- Unpack drivers
- Review Settings, System on the netbook for hardware devices to ensure you have all the drivers. Handy to note model numbers if issues arise. I noticed not all devices are listed though. I used 8. The CCD_LiteOn is the one for the CrystalEye webcam.
Download the latest XP Service Pack you want to slipstream in. Look for links to download for multiple computers. This lets you actually download the SP files for use rather than immediate install on the wrong computer. It also avoids cluttering your new SSD with installers and uninstallers.
If you have a USB CD drive, you can use NLite below to also make an ISO / CD Image then simply install that custom build. These instructions assume you don’t.
Make a Custom XP installer:
- Download NLite and install:
Online Guide link includes pictures.
- Run Nlite, load in XP as directed from your install CD. It will confirm the version.
- Skip the Presets page unless you’ve done this before.
- Click all you want to do: Service Packs, Drivers, components, options, tweaks. You can also do Unattended setup for pre-entering settings. This is useful to avoid presets like “UserXP”. Then Next.
It will then step you through each:
- Slipstream the service pack you have into the install.
- preload Drivers. LAN, WiFi and Chipset will go in this way. The other ones are Setup based ones to install after like programs.
- Components: remove unwanted things like Movie Maker. There’s tons in here, with advice on most. It will first ask what components you want to avoid removing things you need. This includes services.
(NOTE – this is personal taste and how you plan to use the system)
- Services: pull Alerter, Distributed link, Fax, IMAPI CD burn, Indexing, Messenger, Remote registry, UPC.
These can be disabled instead if you are not sure or need the option. Services like Telnet, for example, I want as an option. It will also warn you of errors afterward. Some depend on others.
- Options: you may or may not wish changes here.
- Tweaks: Some of these you can do here or after install as below. Some are hard to find after – it’s worth browsing. Like TweakUI on steroids. Take a little time now and its faster if you like a custom system. On Performance, I disabled paging but XP overwrote that. On the Services tab, you can change the Services settings on installation. The idea is to disable rarely used security risks.
There are a number of sites that describe Services. Many like this one are gamer oriented so a little over zealous. But the info is good.
- Apply. It will now process the changes into your build.
Tada! – you have a custom built XP installer. My build cut the installer by 300 MB – almost in half.
Change your mind? You can run NLite again to alter it.
Prepare the Flash Drive installer:
Get the one download here under “Preparing the Flash Drive” for simplicity:
Then follow these instructions with pictures: (same files but the first is packaged)
- Come back here when you unmount the virtual drive and are ready to install XP. Don’t use their install instructions.
- Bootsect is in the other folder from the download.
- Don’t have an Explorer window of the USB stick open or bootsect won’t work.
- It had a problem with a space in the folder name of the XP build, so remove spaces in the path.
- Once the installer is ready, copy the other downloaded drivers to the USB drive in another folder.
Install XP on the netbook:
- Insert the USB drive
- Start the computer and hit F12 to select boot device (F key varies by maker)
- Choose Text mode installation
- Delete all partitions (The Acer had 2) to avoid errors. (XP wants to be the first partition – you can add a Linux partition later)
- Format the SSD with FAT32 for speed with XP. Setup will then copy some files.
- Use F12 again when it restarts to ensure it continues to boot from the USB drive. Choose GUI setup this time. You’ll get the Windows logo, then progress pages. Enter settings as requested if it’s not fully ‘unattended’.
- Use F12 the 3rd time, GUI, and you’ll get the Welcome screen, then settings.
- DO NOT remove the USB stick until you have the Windows desktop and start menu. Then you can pull the thumb drive and reboot to test. Viola!
Keep the USB stick as your installer and you can use the above meathod to run XP Repair later.
- If you are unable to boot XP, check the Boot.ini file – See step 9 under “Installing XP on the Mini-Note” (this may just be an HP issue.)
- Check all hardware devices are OK. Right-click My Computer, select Manage, then Device Manager. Look for the yellow ones.
- Install the drivers you downloaded prior. 5 of the drivers, like the Video and Audio require running Setup. The others will go in via Driver Update. Touchpad and Card Reader won’t show as missing but you’ll need the second. The first allows you to turn off the annoying feature of touchpads that they select things whenever you touch it.
- Adjust network settings as required and connect to the Internet
- Activate & Update Windows if alls well. (3 verifications – sheesh)
Unlike a few other posts, I had little trouble with this. So follow the above and you should be fine.
To work better on an SSD, some suggest you reduce hard disk writing. One site suggested disabling Paging, Prefetch and Disk Write Caching. I just did the first. Details:
- Control panel, Add/Remove programs – review Windows components for any adjustments. For example, you may have needed Outlook Express or Media Player components but don’t want the shortcuts around.
- Time and Date
- review Run, Services.msc for adjustments
- Windows Explorer, Tools, Folder Options, View tab, uncheck Hide extensions for known file types.
Set other things as desired.
- Setup wireless and LAN networks
- Right-click Desktop, Properties, Settings tab, Effects. Check the second box and set to Clear Type.
Set screensaver as desired. Blank is faster.
- You may wish to load Vista fonts (Segoe UI) and set them under the Advanced button.
- cursors, desktop backgrounds, etc. tweaked as desired
- Control Panel, Audio, set system sounds.
- My Computer, Properties: Adjust automatic updates (notify but don’t download), System restore, Advanced, startup times.
- Start menu, Properties, Classic, adjust settings.
Downloaded free programs as required & install:
Avira free Antivirus
Firefox & Addins for NoScript, WOT
Skype -works great with built in mic and webcam (close the signup window and login into get your settings)
KMPlayer (handles Real, QT, Win, etc)
Open Office (some of)
PDF Printer/viewer (Primo, Foxit)
Text Editor, FTP program
File Sync tool
DriveImageXML (this didn’t work properly here for me so I used Acronis)
Other free solutions:
bookmarks and settings files for above copied/ imported
Photos, Music to SD Card
- Start, click Run, then type “msconfig”. Review startup programs.
- Drag Quick Start menu to screen left, put primary shortcuts here
- Image the boot drive as a backup.
Next step – design a file syncing routine for contacts, calendar, etc. and move away from the proprietary solutions I’ve been using.
A few Links
install overview and dual boot:
Video of Acer install:
(I like the USB technique used above better but he shows NLite used. He also didn’t delete all partitions, hence the HAL error.)
If you happen to like Linspire the way it is, here are some upgrades and tweaks for it:
User community for Aspire One
Wallpapers (1024 x 600)
(use the Download link)
Portable Apps may be handy for a USB stick running programs you’ll use on both a desktop and the Netbook.