BOOT CAMP 558 (07/01/09)

Installing XP on Netbook PCs, part 4


We are now ready to do the deed and install on your Netbook PC the cut-down version of Windows XP that we prepared last week using a program called nLite. However, before we begin make sure that you’ve saved everything on the Netbook that you want to keep because the Netbook drive is going to be formatted and this deletes everything on it. By the way, in case it all goes horribly wrong, or you don’t get on with XP, don’t forget you can easily return your Netbook to it’s factory-fresh condition using the supplied recovery disc.


One final check and in addition to your pre-prepared XP installation disc you should also have a set of Windows drivers. These should be on the recovery or utility disc supplied with the machine, alternatively they can be download from the Netbook manufacturer’s website. The only other item you will need is an external CD/DVD drive with a USB connection. If you haven’t got one you may be able to borrow one from a laptop-owing friend or colleague, otherwise they’re readily available from ebay and online sellers for around £20 - £25.


Failing that you can press a spare computer CD/DVD drive into service. You’ll need an IDE to USB adaptor (available from Maplin for around £25.00) or if you have an external USB hard drive you can use the built-in IDE to USB connectors as a makeshift adaptor.


Installing nLited XP on a Netbook is little different to a standard Windows installation but there are a couple of points to bear in mind. The solid state drives (SSDs) used in budget netbooks tend to work more efficiently using FAT32 formatting and this is something we will address in the early stages of installation. The computer should be set to boot from the external drive. On some models you have to press the Esc key after switch on, on others you need to change the ‘boot order’ in the BIOS. Whilst we’re on the subject, some Asus Eee PCs have an unusual BIOS setting that should be changed when a new operating system is being installed. After switch on press the F2 key, select the Advanced tab then OS Installation and change it to Start. Save and Exit the BIOS.


Connect the external drive with your XP installation disc inside to the Netbook and switch on. Press the ESC key, select the USB drive as the boot device or, if the screen says ‘Press any key to boot from CD ROM’, do so and the Windows setup screen appears.


After a few moments you’ll be asked if you want to setup partitions on the disc. You do, but first you must delete the existing partitions. Using the up/down arrow keys select each partition in turn and press D, then Enter to delete it. Repeat until they have all gone and the display says that you have a little under 2 or 4Gb (depending on the model) of free space. Next, press the C key to create a single partition and follow the prompts. When asked how you want to format the drive select the FAT32 option, press Enter and the installation begins.


If you followed last week’s suggestions that’s pretty much all you have to do, as you will have already entered your XP activation code plus the various language, region and display preferences. It should only take around 15 minutes and at the end of it you will have a basic but working XP computer. Exit and reboot and if you are installing on an Eee PC go back into the BIOS and set the OS Installation setting to Finished.


At this point things the display will probably look a little odd, there won’t be any sound, wireless LAN, web cam and so on. Windows doesn’t know how to communicate with your computer’s hardware, and that’s where the Windows drivers mentioned a few moments ago come in. Load the driver/utilities disc in the CD/DVD drive and work your way down the list, installing each one in turn. Even if the PC doesn’t request a reboot after each one is installed it’s a good idea to do so. I would also test each function before moving on to the next driver. For example, as soon as you’ve installed the video drivers set the screen to the correct resolution. After the audio drivers have loaded check System Sounds in Control Panel. Finally make sure that everything is working properly in Device Manager (Winkey + Break > Hardware > Device Manager). There should be no yellow exclamation marks against any of the entries. If there are you need to locate and re-install the appropriate driver.


That’s more or less it, your newly invigorated Netbook is good to go and you can set about configuring your preferences, install your applications and transfer your data files, see also this week’s Top Tip for a way to claw back some disc space. Lastly, don’t forget to install an antivirus program and a decent Firewall.


Next Week – Startup and Shutdown Problems




FAT 32

File Allocation Table -- disc/storage device file indexing system used in Windows NT, W2K and Vista to control where and how data is stored



Windows pre-installation configuration tool, used by system builders to optimise and automate Windows installation



New Technology File System – more efficient disc/storage device file indexing system used in Windows NT, W2K and Vista to control where and how data is stored



By default Windows uses a chunk of the hard disc drive as ‘virtual memory’ but on this type of installation it’s just a waste of space.  Press Winkey + Break to open System Properties, select the Advanced tab, under Performance click the Settings button, select the Advanced tab and click the Change button. Either select ‘No Paging File’ or if you have more than 4Gb of system memory and 1 – 2GB of RAM click Custom Size and change the Initial size setting to around 500Mb, say, and click the Set button.



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© R. Maybury 2008, 1712

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