Windows Flash – installing XP on a solid state drive Acer Netbook

January 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.

Linux Linspire Desktop

Linux Linspire Desktop

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.

You’ll need:
– 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.)

Finalize XP:
– 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

XP on the Aspire SSD

Tada! XP on the Aspire SSD

– 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.



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  1. […] January 6, 2009 at 1:11 am | In Internet, Online services, Software | The exercise of setting up the Netbook I described here, with the desire to sync some data like schedules and contacts. This lead me to review some of the […]


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  4. Of course these instructions may incline you to simply buy an XP box in the first place but the advantages of a solid state drive are large. For example, I’m writing this on the bus. When I get to my stop, I simply close the lid and put it in my bag. No worries about bumping an active hard drive (and potentially killing it) The netbook goes to sleep, ready for a quick start at my destination. Don’t do this with a hard drive model. The write head needs to stop – the light stop flashing – before you bang it around. Sleep does use some battery power but less than for a traditional laptop.

    I saw a high end Dell laptop the other day – one of their XPS’s. It could come with a 120 GB solid state drive option for $200 more than a 500GB hard drive. But it’s a growing rend.


  5. KMPlayer makes a fabulous tool for demoing the netbook. Throw a few flv music videos on there…


  6. […] Computers, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps | So far on this project, I’ve moved the Netbook to XP, moved from Eudora to Thunderbird, and moved from Palm to Lightning (with […]


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  8. thank you very much for this guide!!!

    I got my Aspire One ZG5 running great, but i didnt use the Pen method, i had a plu’n’play cd-rom external drive!! All the info in this guide is nice, the best one i found so far.

    If some one is having trouble finding the XP drivers here is a rapidshare link, that includes:





  9. Thanks for the tip, Peter. And for the drivers list. I chose not to use the Launch Manager and my webcam needed the LiteOn drivers as I noted, not the SUYIN ones. The other 8 are the drivers you need.

    Myself, I prefer to get drivers from source as it usually ensures you get the latest ones. For example, my link above has newer audio and WLan drivers.

    I included the Euro Acer link as that’s where I found the divers easiest.

    An external CD drive saves a couple of steps. I plan to get one again as my old one died. But it was fun to try doing a flash drive install and if you take the time to minimize your XP build, it takes up a lot less space and runs faster than a standard XP install.


  10. yes, the pack includes the drivers for both webcams, you just need to choose yours, and the launch manager just comes with the package, i didnt installed it either!
    And yes you are right, i installed a legit copy os Win, so after i installed the drivers and connected to WinUpdate, it updated those WLan and the audio driver, yours are better, i just made the link cause i had a hard trouble finding them, i didnt really saw you had a link here ^^ (sorry)
    once again tanks for the time you dedicated to this doc, really helped me (learned a lot of usefull stuff for the future)

    best wishes m8 😉


  11. Hi Peter
    No need to apologize. I appreciate the feedback. With many details, it’s easy to miss something. My feedback was partly written to other readers who come by later.

    Windows Update is interesting for drivers. Some makers keep them current. Sometimes, it’s the only place you can find them. Other times, they are more generic – better if you simply want it to work. Often for advanced features, you want the larger installers only from the makers. You may not want that clutter, or you may want the customization. Some makers offer driver updates but don’t offer the installers, expecting you to have the CD and update from there. (like HP) So you need to hold on to that CD. And some makers don’t identify what the CD is for leaving you with some uncertainty. Good to mark them.

    For example, I was recently reviewing my archive of hardware CD’s and found 6 ATI discs. 2 I’d written on to name the device, 1 was a build from a full download, also identified. But the others I had to dig a bit. Remarkable how that stuff collects, given I have just 3 ATI cards presently.


  12. […] Loosing FAT for NTFS October 2, 2009 at 8:23 pm | In Backup, Computers, Software | Leave a Comment Most people with Windows XP or above nowadays have an NTFS file system. The data on their hard drives is stored with this structure. (Macs, Linux, etc. use varieties of UFS, descended from Unix) However, some people who have had XP for awhile began with FAT32 for compatibility with older computers, utilities, and so forth. NTFS is recommended for drives over 400 MB, which is most of them now. But some do recommend FAT32 for solid state drives. […]


  13. Hey David,

    I had a friend at a computer shop install Windows XP on my Acer laptop…I was just wondering if you have any solutions for my system being ridiculously sluggish (up to 7 minutes when simply opening a file/folder sometimes…I have been informed this was due to my not installing a particular “patch” so that the solid-state hard drive can properly and efficiently communicate with the system

    I was just wondering if you have any suggestions as to what I need to download to make the system run smoothly?

    Many thanks mate, you have obviously put a lot of time and effort in this guide and behalf of us all, I say thank you 🙂



  14. Hi Andy-Laa

    Current XP does have the fix for solid state drives. Make sure you have all the updates.

    Assuming you have the current hardware drivers on there, I would check the drive space you have available. Is there more than the installed RAM? Do you have 1GB RAM? XP is a dog on less.

    One of the reasons I suggest using the custom installer with NLite is to reduce the system load. It requires less drive space but also cuts down all the unnecessary services running, etc. But you can go over the Services I mention and turn them off manually and make similar tweaks.

    Some suggest there can be issues if XP is installed on NTFS on a solid state drive. I went with FAT32 and it’s worked well. Not all agree on that though.

    You also want to avoid memory hungry programs like MS Office and Outlook. Or overloading Firefox with Addins. Remember – this is a netbook – designed for web. It does things like surf and Skype very well.

    Hope that helps. Glad taking notes has helped others. This is one of the most popular posts here now.


  15. Sorry, I didn’t follow this bit:

    “Some suggest there can be issues if XP is installed on NTFS on a solid state drive. I went with FAT32 and it’s worked well. Not all agree on that though.”

    I don’t know what an NTFS is and I’ve only ever seen the FAT-drive-thingy mentioned in passing…forgive my ignorance haha




  16. FAT, FAT32, and NTFS are known as the “file system”. Basically the way the data is formatted (recorded) on the drive.

    Thumb drives and floppies use FAT32. Windows may use FAT32 or NTFS, the second parented from NT and more secure. But its not as accessible from FAT drives.

    Usually its something you do before you install the operating system. Its not likely the issue.


  17. Over time, a few of the keyboard keys have become poor responders on the Acer. This interrupts the flow of typing or causes a lot of unnecessary correction. I took a look at cleaning the keys but the contacts are sealed. Finally got around to contacting Acer support on it and they tell me it’s out of warranty and $199 to fix – a major % of the original cost. Guess I should have dealt with it sooner.

    I’ve got a flexible keyboard I use for traveling I’ll use instead – that was only $20. But for a writer who loved the portability it’s a disappointment. A flaky keyboard in such a short time means I’d no longer recommend them. The Asus units are also well recommended.


  18. On another note – had a friend visiting, so I set the Acer up with a 20″ screen, keyboard and mouse. It worked well for the visit. But I discovered a little gotcha – without the Launch manager installed (didn’t think I’d need it), some of the F key functions don’t work – including the external monitor switch. Worked fine after I added it per Acer support.


  19. New models of the Acer have the now standard 10″ screen (max for XP) and lost one of the memory card slots – one of it’s cooler features. Some have Win7. Don’t know about the keyboard – have not looked closely enough…


  20. This is very interesting… sure windows xp would run faster in SSD.


  21. Hi Marvin
    Well – that depends a little on the quality of the SSD. There is a wide range of memory speeds on these devices. One can see this in comparing the speeds of SD cards in high speed readers.


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