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Optimising Windows 7 for the AA1

 |  Geek

I finally reached the end of my tether with Linpus on my netbook last week. Although it has the potential to be a nifty, quick operating system, it’s so restrictive that it makes the iPhone look good ;) Despite there being guides detailing how to unlock certain parts, remove unnecessary bloat etc, any power user soon gets itchy fingers trying to have things their way.

So, I considered my options… and decided to go with Windows 7. Ubuntu do a nice netbook remix but I’ve seen Win7 on Karl’s netbook and have been fairly impressed. Not wishing to just fangirl over another Windows OS without even trying it I got him to flatten Linpus and put it on a few days ago. Colour me impressed. Bearing in mind that the default spec of the AA1 is a single core 1.6GHz Intel Atom with 512MB RAM, it fairly nips along with the whole Aero kit and kaboodle turned on — transparency, special effects and everything.

With that said, a few small optimisations later and this thing is flying. I’d even say (without benchmarking, you must understand) that it’s faster than Linpus. So, what have I tweaked and what should you do?

  • Turn off Aero — it looks good but with only 512MB RAM you do notice the difference between having it on and off. No need to go back to Windows 95 effects though, the Win7 Basic theme is fast and still looks shiny. You can take this further by telling windows to Adjust for Best Performance in the control panel, but I like to customise each option.
  • Install Chrome — Chrome is a much faster browser than the rest on offer. It’s not my first choice normally but I ran Firefox under Linpus and it crippled the netbook.
  • Turn off the browser cache — as I have a relatively speedy connection, it’s faster to fetch images/etc from the server each time than wait for them to be written to the SSD. HOWEVER, this is not ideal for long term browsing because it kicks the arse out of web servers, and bandwidth limits. Karl has an alternate solution that makes use of portable Firefox and relocating your cache folder, I’ll get him to write it up.
  • Disable services — don’t do this if you don’t know what you’re doing (insert proper disclaimer here). I personally disable the Firewall (our router has one built in), Windows Search, Windows Updates, etc. You’ll find help with which services do what job elsewhere on the ‘net.
  • Use ReadyBoost — I’ve an 8GB SD card which I was using for extra space on Linpus, although I didn’t necessarily need it (I only use it for IRC and coding when Izz is asleep on my lap or on the boob anyway) so I have dedicated 2GB of it to ReadyBoost. I can’t tell yet if this has made any positive difference, but it can’t hurt, right?

With all that said, Windows 7 is definitely netbook friendly. Considering the trend of OSes and programs getting more bloated with each version, it’s odd to be running something so new and actually noticing a positive speed difference. I’m considering buying the cheapo XP upgrade version and popping it on the Dell, too.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

10 comments so far

  1. Jem said:

    Yeah, URL shortener fail – I’ve fixed it now.

    Next blog entry: downsides to URL shorteners… you could accidentally send your visitors to some random dude’s facebook ;)

  2. Audrey said:

    I love the culture surrounding Linux for its creative and do-it-yourself vibes, but for my primary OS I enjoy something with a litany of documentation easily available. Google probably makes that true for Linux, but I am just more confident with something familiar. If I had a netbook though I’d totally be throwing Linux versions on there to play with. (:

    I love your ideas. It’s given my a reminder to consider Chrome again. Although I like the speed over Firefox (my dearly beloved FF is becoming bloated with age I am afraid), I would miss my Echofon (Twitter feed) Add-On.

    Turning off Aero and Services is also a great idea for resource management. Customizing preferences is a must! I don’t know what ReadyBoost is, but using an SD card for data or storing it off of your primary partition helps keep things organized for sure!

    Thanks for the tips. (:

  3. Vera said:

    Hah, I have Windows 7 at my new workplace. Guess what the first few days consisted of: googling "how to do X,Y,Z in windows 7".
    I actually like the aero features… well aside the times my cursor goes crazy and it suddenly moves over to a pinned (and opened) aplication.

    What I don’t like about it (so far) is that there seems to be some weird bug going on with Mozilla software: both Thunderbird and Firefox. They suddenly lose the icons while being opened (docked). I googled about this and apparently nothing short of reinstalling them helps (and I cba to do that :P). Also, from time to time, for no apparent reason, my FF window would start flickering like mad (thankfully not the actual content, just the parts covered by the persona background. Very very weird effect.

    BTW, I much prefer the quick launch to the docking.

    Also the way to see the desktop is really really crazy. Apparently you have to click on the blank section that is on the right of the clock. And there’s nothing telling you what it is (i.e. the OS doesn’t say anything).

    Resource-wise, I didn’t have any trouble: Intel Core 2 Duo, with 2GB RAM. So yeah, it works quite fast. :)

    All in all, I still prefer my home version of XP.

  4. Scott said:

    Nice, Jem! Do you still have your college e-mail address? If so, you can get Windows 7 for £30 ( email address), so maybe that’s worth a shot? ;)

  5. Tran said:

    I am overall impressed with Windows 7 too! I hadn’t installed Vista previously, cos of its nightmares which lingered across the Internet. I keep hearing of some "blue or black screen of death". But anyway, thankfully W7 has been receiving good reviews.

    Also, thanks for the optimisation tips! My W7 works fine without optimisation, but it never hurts to get the computer to work more efficiently.

    Having said all that, did you find the Control Panel to be overly cluttered? It may have been just me used to the XP Control Panel, but Christ, when I checked it through W7, I found myself using the search tool more often haha.

  6. Rise said:

    Erm…How exactly do "optimising" and "Windows 7" fit into the same sentence? I’ve not read this blog, but I think I will so as I can "optimise" my boyfriend’s computer and make him think I’m really clever. =^.^= Okay, maybe I’ll tell him where I got the information. :p

  7. Rebecca said:

    I have Windows 7 on my EEE1000HA netbook, and it’s great. I haven’t actually ‘optimized’ anything yet, but one of the things I would consider is the disk indexing. I’m not really doing anything with it in terms of lots of local development or musics/movies, so I don’t have much to run around and try to index. If most of what I’m doing is browser stuff, not much of the data is going to need to be super persistent. What’s the point in wasting precious Atom clock cycles on indexing?

    I also have debian and ubuntu on my netbook and they’re also great :)

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