Archiv der Kategorie: Windows

Computers that run Windows.

Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo P (MS-7293VP) Windows upgrade

Once again I am upgrading a Windows desktop computer for a friend. This time it is a Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo P, also known as MS-7293VP (from the BIOS), featuring an Intel Core 2 Duo 6400 processor (two cores @ 2.13 GHz), a GeForce 7500 LE graphics card and 4 GiB of memory. I honestly didn’t check all the specs and AFAIK the support website is no longer available.

The system came with Windows Vista Home Premium 32-Bit. Since the CPU can handle 64-Bit and it has 4 GB of memory installed I figured I’d go with a 64-Bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium first, but the goal really was to get a working Windows 10 system.

System specs

  • FSC MS-7293VP mainboard, revision 2.00
  • BIOS: Phoenix Technologies LTD, Version 2.36 (03/09/2007)
  • PCI-Express 1.1
  • VIA P4M890 chipset with VIA VT8237A southbridge
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 CPU (socket LGA755), 2.13 GHz, “Conroe”, CPU ID 06F2h (indicating that it is the new L-2 stepping)
    This CPU includes the x86 extensions EM64T (Intel 64, the equivalent of AMD64 i.e. 64-Bit-x86 aka x86-64 aka x64) and VT-x (see Intel ARK and CPU-World for details).
  • DDR2 memory, 266 MHz, PC2-4300: 2×2048 MB Kingston 2G-UDIMM, 1.8V (manufactured 12/08), CL 4-4-4-12
  • TerraTec Aureon 5.1 PCI Audio (CMI8738 from C-Media)
  • ASUS Nvidia GeForce 7500 LE (G72 rev. A3) PCI-Express graphics card @ 550 MHz, 256 MB DDR2 video memory @ 263 MHz
    BIOS version 5.72.22.52.06, ASUS EN7500LE VGA BIOS Version 7.72.22.43.AS017
    This card is supposedly an OEM variant of the Geforce 7300 GS, which also uses the G72 core.
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320820 SATA-II hard disk drive
  • DVD-ROM

Specs can be most easily gathered using the Windows tools CPU-Z and GPU-Z.

Fujitsu-Siemens still offers driver downloads for this system for Windows Vista 32-Bit (but not 64-Bit), here the link that worked in December 2017.

Fresh installation of Windows 7 Home Premium

I found an unused Windows 7 Home Premium OEM license, also from FSC (Fujitsu Siemens Computers), so I used this for installation and activation. Surprisingly, with Windows 7 SP1, everything except the PCI expansion audio works from the start. The VIA chipset is supported out-of-the-box as well as the Fast Ethernet, apparently a VIA Rheno II. The drivers for the graphics card, Nvidia 7500 LE, get updated online with Windows Update.

The unsupported audio device has the hardware ID PCI\VEN_13F6&DEV_0111&SUBSYS_1144153B&REV_10. An internet search leads towards C-Media, where I found drivers for a device called CMI8738, which is the same thing (the variants SX, MX and LX lead to the same driver for Windows 7, as of December 2017 this was version 8.17.40). Installing this under Windows 7 names the device as TerraTec Aureon 5.1 PCI audio device. I used Device Manager, update driver, manual path and pointed it to the unzipped directory of _PCI-8738-091211-7.12.8.1740(W7-RC-01).zip, i.e. C:\Path-where-you-upzipped-the-driver\PCI-8738-091211-7.12.8.1740(W7-RC-01)\SoftwareDriver, include subdirectories. (Note that the C-Media websate states: “For CMI873x or CMI876x series, C-Media no longer support Win10 driver.”)

After that I updated everything using Windows Update, which takes the usual day at least for all the updates to complete.

The only thing that came as a surprise to me is the fact that despite 4&nsbp;GB of memory is installed Windows 7 x64 indicates that only 2.94 GB may be used by the system. GPU-Z hints towards why this is the case: the automatically installed ForceWare 309.08 Nvidia driver software for the GeForce 7500LE, graphics driver version 9.18.13.908 WHQL Win7 64, takes 1247 MB as shared memory for graphics…

The Windows Experience Index (WEI) of this computer is as follows:

  • Processor: 5.2
  • Memory (RAM): 5.2
  • Graphics (general desktop work): 3.4
  • Gaming Graphics (typically 3D): 3.4
  • Primary Hard Disk: 5.9
  • Base score: 3.4 (lowest subscore)

Windows 10 free upgrade

The free upgrade supposedly ended on the 29th of July 2017, but it still works to enter a valid Windows 7 product key when installing Windows 10 from an installation media such as a DVD or a USB pen drive. All that is needed is to download a Windows 10 ISO, at least this is reported to be true for Version 1709 of Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update. AFAIK, for the download to work you need to run a genuine Windows 7, 8 or 8.1.

The download for customers in need of assistive technologies the free upgrade offer ends 31st December 2017, as of this writing (the 10th of December 2017) this is very soon. Anyway, since it is free anyhow I decided to use the later upgrade offer, which basically leads to the same free Windows 10 Home x64 as would the ISO method.

The upgrade took a couple of hours, but everything went smoothly. The Windows Upgrade Assistant I used installed Windows 10 1703 build 15063.726. However, 1709 is current.

Remember that the audio device was reported to not feature support for Windows 10? Well, surprisingly the audio drivers work just fine and are still installed after the upgrade, but now the display drivers are acting up. Windows 10 initially operates with a Microsoft Basic Display Adapter driver, not with the Nvidia ForceWare drivers, even though they are listed as being installed. Anyhow, this was easily fixed by re-installing the Geforce WHQL drivers 309.08 (German version).

I tried to upgrade to Windows 10 1709, the Fall Creators Update, using Windows Update, but the “function update 1709” failed twice. I ended up downloading the official Upgrade Assistant (Windows10Upgrade9252.exe), which also failed with code 0xc0000005. An internet search hinted towards an access issue, like the upgrade wasn’t able to access (write/delete) certain (already existing) files or directories. As it turned out the previous installation, Windows 7 in this case, was still on the system partition in directory C:\Windows.old. So I used the Disk Cleanup utility (cleanmgr.exe; needs to be run as administrator) to remove old files and directories, especially the “previous Windows installation”. Still, after running Disk Cleanup twice (without reboot) there were still files left inside C:\Windows.old, probably moved by the utility into C:\Windows.old\Cleanup\0000.~BT. I tried to delete the Cleanup folder, but Explorer wouldn’t let me, stating that I didn’t have the required access rights. So I rebooted Windows 10 1703 and tried again to delete the folder, this time finally with success.

I then re-ran the Upgrade Assistant, which finally succeeded as well. Hence the conclusion: if you get the upgrade error code 0xc0000005, delete C:\Windows.old by any means necessary first and try again. This might be the solution to your upgrade problem.

Running!

So, there we are: Windows 10 1709 x64 running on a 10 year old machine, and running well too! Compared to Windows 7 the big advantage is the Fast Startup mode of Windows 10, which reduces the boot-up time perceivably.

The only real issue might become future driver support, as the Geforce drivers are officially only supporting Windows Vista, 7 and 8 x64 and they are from 2015 (there are also drivers for 32-Bit, but also only for Vista, 7 and 8). Future versions of Windows 10 may change the driver model which will ultimately lead to an unsupported graphics card. The same is true for the audio drivers for the C-Media CMI8738/TerraTec Aureon 5.1 PCI. While the later one is optional (there is also on-board audio available) at least the PCI-Express 1.1 graphics card is replaceable…

Usage

This computer will serve as an Internet PC as well as for Microsoft Office for school. It may also be used for low-end gaming, who knows. In the end I can only recommend installing Windows 10 on older hardware and to continue their use, since this is a step towards environmental responsibility and longevity. Anyone can do it, anyone should do it. Installing an operating system is’t that hard—as a side effect you learn a great deal about computers too.

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Intel US15W “Poulsbo” Ultra Mobile chipset, SSDs and SATA TRIM

I have bad news. A lot of (very slow) netbooks with Intels US15W chipset—also known under its codename “Poulsbo”—use a PATA-to-SATA bridge chip, simply because of the fact that the chipset doesn’t feature SATA at all. So what netbook vendors did back in ~2008 was to add this bridge chip in order to get an Atom-based notebook at a low price with a back then already standard SATA interface. Apparently SSDs were not the standard back then: they used standard HDDs with either SATA I (1.5 GBit/s) or SATA II (3 GBit/s).

Since the Intel Atom of this generation, Z5xx mostly, isn’t really a fast processor anyway, it really makes not much of a difference if the ATA (IDE) i.e. “parallel ATA” or SATA i.e. “serial ATA” interface is used. Speed will always be limited by the processor, making the Atom Z500 series a bad choice for a real SATA-based system. BUT 2.5 inch disk drives from 2008 were mostly SATA, so they kind of had to add the PATA/SATA bridge to get it. In this view–and only in this view!–it makes perfectly sense to even think about adding such a PATA-to-SATA bridge chip.

The problem

Actually there wouldn’t be a problem, and with SATA HDDs there is none. Specifically, the problem is the PATA-to-SATA bridge chip they used. It doesn’t know about SATA TRIM. Which, by itself, is not a problem either, BUT for unknown reasons it doesn’t correctly relay the TRIM command, thus TRIM is never sent to and never received by the SATA SSD, therefor TRIM doesn’t work.

“Not so bad,” one might think. “Then I use an SSD with a good garbage collection mechanism and I’m okay.” Right? Wrong!

How the operating system handles SATA TRIM…

Every operating system I know of will check the ATA interface and the HDD/SSD for its supported features i.e. capabilities. Windows supports SATA TRIM since version 7 (2009). Therefor Windows up to Vista simply ignores the TRIM feature, even if it is supported by the SSD: it doesn’t check for it, doesn’t use it and will simply ignore it. Not even third party programs are able to use TRIM on Windows prior to Windows 7, which is normal, because every program that wants to send TRIM relys on kernel functions which were not yet implemented before Windows 7. On Linux and Mac OS X it is the same. Linux supports TRIM since Kernel version 2.6.33 (February 2010), Mac OS X since version 10.6.6 (special MacBook Pro version, February 2011) and 10.6.8 (June 2011), but only for selected Apple SSD hardware (which can be hacked to work with any SSD).

But if the operating system does have support for the TRIM command, it will ask the HDD on the ATA or SATA bus about its capabilities (features). A SATA SSD (or ATA SSD) will report that it supports TRIM through the standard ATA protocol. So far the used PATA-to-SATA bridge chip does everything right. So the SSD reports to Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and any other operating system and tool that it has TRIM capability.

Windows (and FreeBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD, Linux, Mac OS X and any other OS with TRIM support) will then try to use this reported feature. And here the problem with this particular configuration starts, because as soon as Windows tries to use TRIM, this command will not “get through” the PATA-to-SATA bridge chip. One way to deal with this may be to simply ignore it, but apparently Windows does not do that… and hangs. My guess is that it somehow checks for a successful TRIM command, which fails, and any further disk input/output is therefor impossible from this point on. (Which is why the installer does not really crash: the mouse cursor is moving normally, only without any further disk i/o nothing can be done, not even to cancel the installation.)

Linux continues to work. This may be either because it doesn’t check for a successful TRIM command or because the US15W chipset may already be blacklisted. I did not do research any further, because quite frankly I don’t care that much. It is only important to notice that dispite the reported TRIM feature and all the trim functions enabled in Linux, trim still does not happen on the SSD. But the system will not hang, only you will not know about the non-working TRIM.

Work-around?

So, since now we know about the WHY? we can start asking about the HOW? to get around it. The logical answer: disable TRIM support on Windows. The other possiblity would be to make the SSD not report that it has TRIM capability. But this would mean to modify the firmware of the SSD, something only a very very very qualified hacker could do or the manufacturer of the SSD, both very unlikely…

So there we go: disable TRIM on Windows 7 and newer. How would we do that? The solution is not trivial, but can be accomplished with a bit of know-how.

First, you need the following things prepared:

  • Means for partitioning and formatting an NTFS volume on a TRIM-disabled SSD.
  • Means to change the windows registry in order to disable TRIM.

For the first one there are a couple of possibilities, all of which come down to using either an operating system that doesn’t support TRIM or one that at least doesn’t crash when partitioning and formatting the target drive and partition. I would like to point out two:

  • Partition the HDD/SDD and format the target NTFS partition using Linux: parted or fdisk and mkntfs (from NTFS-3G).
  • Use Windows installation media (USB pen drive or DVD) of a Windows prior to Windows 7 to partition the drive and format the partition. Ideal: Windows Vista.

This is necessary because Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 installation media will stall when formatting any partition with NTFS, because it will try to TRIM the whole partition. Windows Vista on the other hand will not use TRIM at all, therefor the creation of an NTFS partition will be successful and it will not hang.

For the second task we need a Windows live system, such as Windows PE. It will, of course, also work to remove the SSD from the netbook, connect it to another PC running Windows and to import the registry hive there. If this is not an option or too complicated (when performing an upgrade this has to be done twice!) the live media is the better solution.

  • BartPE, at this time the only Windows live environment I know of.
  • Theoretically any Windows PE or Windows RE system that includes/supports running the Registry Editor regedit.exe works.

There are other Windows live solutions around, but BartPE seems the most easy to create and is available free of charge.

To create a BartPE live boot media (either USB or DVD) you need a copy of Windows, preferrably the one you try to alter the Windows Registry with, so I would suggest a Windows 7 version of BartPE. I did my modification with a Windows 8.1 version of BartPE and it worked, and I assume that a Windows Vista version will also work, nevertheless it seems logical to use the same version. Note that Windows Enterprise Edition is available free of charge for download and can be tested for 90 days for free, so you will have no problem to get a Windows version for the use with BartPE.

So, if you don’t have a bootable live Windows like BartPE yet, there will be a lot of downloading to do:

  • Download a Windows ISO image. If you register with Microsoft, Windows 10 Enterprise is free.
  • Use WinBuilder to create a bootable Windows PE live media, either a USB pen drive or a DVD.

Once you have done all that, start with a normal installation of Windows 7 or newer. Select the already prepared NTFS partition as installation target but do not format that partition! The Windows installation routine will copy all necessary files from the installation media to the NTFS partition and also copy and configure the boot loader and prepare the next installation steps after restarting the computer from the HDD or SSD. Luckily no TRIM is needed to write files.

When the Windows 7, 8/8.1 and 10 installation program reports that it has finished copying all files it will display a count-down in order to restart the computer automatically. You can start the reboot, but do NOT start the freshly installed Windows from the SSD!

Instead, do one of the following: 1) turn the PC off when the display gets dark, i.e. the reboot is in progress and the BIOS resets and initializes all the integrated devices. When you turn the computer back on again later, make sure to boot from the prepared Windows PE live media. 2) during the reboot, select the prepared Windows PE live media to boot from right away.

Selecting the live media as boot device requires you to know exactly what type of BIOS (or UEFI) your computer has. Some BIOS/UEFI implementations use the Escape key for a “BBS POPUP” i.e. the boot selection menu. Others expect the F5 key. Some want the F8, F9, F10, F11 or F12 key pressed during BIOS initialization. And so on. You really have to look into it. Try it first, so you already know how to boot from the live media when you need it after the first part of the Windows installation.

Disable TRIM in the Windows Registry

This is a step-by-step guide to disable the TRIM command for Windows. BTW, I was surprised to find that this is actually a registry key, and only that. If I would have had to guess, I would have guessed it must be a boot loader parameter. But it isn’t… (it appears that boot parameters have been discontinued by Microsoft…)

You have just started from the prepared BartPE (or any other Windows PE based live media). Now run regedit.exe. In the registry editor select HKLM i.e. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. From the “File” menu select “Import Hive…” and load C:\Windows\System32\Config\SYSTEM. When asked for a name, give it a temporary name that you can easily identify, like “TEMP”. (Note: when you upgrade an existing Windows you have to do this on the C:\$Windows.~bt folder before, reboot, continue with the installation and on the next reboot load the registry hive again with the C:\Windows folder!)

Now, all you have to do is find all “ControlsetXXX” keys in the hive and change the Control\Filesystem\DisableDeleteNotification from 0 to 1. So, if you chose “TEMP” as name, the registry path will be HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\TEMP\ControlSet001\Control\Filesystem. In this path you will find the DWORD entry “DisableDeleteNotification”. Double-click it and change the value from 0 to 1. Check if there are other control sets, like HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\TEMP\ControlSet002, and change it there too.

Now, select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\TEMP, go to the menu and unload the hive („File“ menu, „Unload Hive…“ while „TEMP“ is selected in the registry tree).

Reboot and continue with the installation, i.e. your BIOS boot selection will be the internal SSD. Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 will now no longer use TRIM and therefor it will no longer stall.

Note: when you upgrade from a previous version of Windows, you need to do the registry change twice: once for the registry have in a directory called $Windows.~bt after rebooting for the first time, and a second time in the Windows directory when rebooting the second time. This is due to the way the Windows installer is built. It will have to move the previous Windows installation from C:\Windows away, which cannot be done when the installation program is run from that very Windows installation. It will use an intermediate installation step, which is in the $Windows.~bt directory. When the actual installation is performed after the first reboot, the old Windows installation will normally be moved to C:\Windows.old and the new one will be placed in C:\Windows, where the registry change is necessary once more.

Resources

Windows 10 on Sony Vaio VGN-N21E/W

This Sony Vaio is very old. It has a 32-Bit-only Intel Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73 GHz and only 1 GB of main memory. The original Windows Vista was slow too, so I thought I might as well try Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insider program, thus this is Windows 10 Pro.

Installation and performance

Installation takes ages. But everything takes ages on this laptop. Performance simply isn’t something to expect from this kind of out-dated hardware. The upgrade to 1511 took at least two hours to finish.

Working with the laptop on Windows 10 doesn’t feel any slower than on Windows Vista though. So I think that Windows 10 x32 is a good alternative to Vista x32 on this hardware, but quite honestly I wouldn’t buy Windows 10 in order to replace the existing operating system. Alternatives like verious Linux distributions should do the job as well and are free of charge.

Missing drivers

In general Windows 10 hardware support is good on this hardware. Since the T2250 processor doesn’t support the 64-Bit extension you’re left with no choice but to take the x32 (32-Bit) edition of Windows anyhow.

After installation, only two devices lack drivers.

  1. unknown LPC device ACPI\SNY5001
  2. unknown PCI device PCI\VEN_104C&DEV_803B&SUBSYS_8212104D

You cannot get any drivers for these devices directly from Sony for this model, the VGN-N21E, because Sony dropped support years ago and – as it is common in the Windows world – driver situation is a mess.

So, for the first device I found a driver for another Sony Vaio, the VPC115FM, for Windows 7 x64. This will not install as Windows 10 blocks installation after it has started, but you can copy the temporary created folder which contains the required driver. First download the driver from here:

Getting the required driver works like this:

  1. When you try installing this on Windows 10, at some point Windows will stop installation because it thinks the driver is not compatible. You can acknowledge that message.
  2. Then the Sony driver installation package will show an error message telling you where you can find the temporary folder. In my case this was C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Temp\GLFF261.
  3. Open Explorer and navigate to that folder. You will have to type the path in directly since the AppData directory is normally hidden.
  4. Copy the whole folder to another location, like the desktop or your downloads or documents or whatever.
  5. Now, since you’ve got the needed files, close the error message from the Sony driver installation. This may or may not delete the temporary folder, which was the reason to copy it before closing the installer.

Now we’ve got the driver. You may have noticed that I am using Windows 10 x32 and the driver is for Windows 7 x64. Yes, but in that folder we find a driver for Windows 7 x64 and x32. Since the driver model did not change for this device from Windows 7 to 10 it also works in Windows 10. To install it, open the Device Manager and choose to update the driver, pointing it to the folder we copied in step 4. Done.

Now the second device: a PCI device. The hardware IDs can be used to find the device using your favorite internet search engine. The IDs are: vendor 104C, device 803B, subsystem 8212 104D. Some operating systems, like Linux, write this like this: 104C:803B, subsystem 104D:8212.

Using the internet I found that this is a Texas Instruments Multi Card Reader. Which one remained unclear though. So I did find a Sony driver called “Texas Instruments PCIxx12 Integrated FlashMedia Controller”, but somehow this did not work.

Using the same technique to extract the actual driver one can see that the driver has the filename “ti21sony.sys”. So it can be that it actually is for TI PCIxx21 devices only, not PCIxx12 devices. But it is also possible that this driver is 64-Bit-only.

This did not work out, thus I had to search further… and soon found a driver that worked:

Even though this driver is from HP, it worked on my Sony Vaio VGN-N21E. The driver is for x32 and x64 Windows, it is dated 1 April 2009 (no joke!) and it supports “TI-PCI xx12/x515/xx21“ card readers.

After the installtion worked, the naming becomes clearer: it seems to be the subsystem ID. The one in the Vaio VGN-N21E is (104D) 8212. So this will likely be a “TI-PCI xx12” (8212) card reader.

UPDATE: After the Anniversary Update of Windows 10, now version 1607 (2nd of August 2016), the driver for the SD card reader no longer worked. Luckily I found another one here:

Effect

Now there are no more unknown devices on this Windows 10 Pro x32 installation. At least for the Sony Firmware Extension Parser this seems to be the only effect, since it doesn’t seem to do anything without additional software.

The Media Card Reader driver on the other hand allows the use of the integrated SD card and MemoryStick slots.

Good luck!

I hope that this will help others in their journey to acquire working drivers for their Windows installation on older hardware, as the techniques shown may also work for other devices on other laptops and PCs… with other Windows versions…

Bauvorschlag für eine Steam-Box

Was eine SteamBox ist, weiß hoffentlich jeder. Auf meiner Wohnzimmer-SteamBox soll Windows und/oder Linux laufen. Der Bauvorschlag basiert auf dem c’t-Artikel „Dampfmaschine“ aus c’t Heft 7/2013. Mehr dazu auf der Projektseite c’t Steam Box: Spielkonsole selbst bauen.

Ingredienzen

Damit sollte alles laufen. Zusammenbauen und loslegen.

Begründungen

Das Gehäuse ist das alternative Gehäuse aus dem c’t-Bauvorschlag. Es gefällt mir einfach besser als die erste Wahl des originalen Vorschlags. Nachteil: das Netzteil ist nicht debei.

Das Netzteil im c’t-Bauvorschlag ist ein be quiet! Pure Power L7, aktuell ist anscheinend das Pure Power L8.

Das Mainboard aus dem Bauvorschlag gibt es nicht mehr – zumindest nicht in Österreich. Darum ebenfalls eines von MSI, aber mit A88X-Chipsatz statt mit A75-Chipsatz. Kann hoffentlich nur besser werden. (Fingers crossed!)

Die CPU wurde von der c’t als Steam-CPU empfohlen.

Software

Ich habe ein Windows 7 Home Premium, das ich damit verwenden werde. Der einzige Grund dafür ist, dass ich auf Steam ein paar Spiele habe, die leider noch nicht unter Linux laufen. Allerdings werde ich eine Dual-Boot-Installation mit Debian testing einrichten.

Der Plan ist, Steam im Big-Picture-Modus automatisch mit dem Betriebssystem zu starten.

Status

Dieser Bauvorschlag ist derzeit noch ein Projekt. Die Finanzmittel stehen noch nicht zur Verfügung 😦

2014-11-02

Installing Windows Vista on an ASUS Eee PC 1101HA

I’m installing Windows Vista on this Netbook for a friend.

The reason to choose Vista is that he has a 32-bit license i.e. “Product Key” for Windows Vista that he doesn’t otherwise use at the moment. The reason not to use the original Windows XP (the Product Key sticker is on the back of this very Eee PC) is that Windows XP is depricated and no longer supported as of 8th April 2014, hence it will no longer receive security updates. On the other hand, according Microsoft Support Lifecycle Windows Vista will be supported until 11th April 2017.

Hardware sepcifications

The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA isn’t very fast. It uses parts optimised for low power consumption.

  • Processor: Intel Atom Z520 1.33 GHz
  • Chipset: Intel US15W Ultra Mobile chipset
  • Memory: 1 GB 533 MHz DDR2
  • Graphics: Graphics Media Accelerator 500 (GMA500)
  • Display: 11.6 inch 1366×768
  • Ethernet: Atheros AR8132 10/100
  • WiFi: Atheros AR9285 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: ?

Performace isn’t great but sufficient for general office tasks. Windows Experience Index (on Vista from 1.0 to 5.9) reports a 2.7 score for the processor, and a 2.9 score of graphics performance. So the CPU plus the chipset, which includes the graphics, really is what makes it slow on the one hand, but it’s also what makes it burn only a few watts of electrical power on the other hand. The detailed score after all updates on Windows Vista SP2:

  • CPU: 2.7
  • Memory: 4.2
  • Graphics (Aero): 2.9
  • Graphics (3D business & gaming): 3.0
  • Disk: 5.9 (with a SATA-SSD installed)

ASUS support

I have to say that this took me by surprise. Apparently, Windows XP and Windows 7 (x86 i.e. 32-bit) are supported operating systems for the Eee PC 1101HA. This of course means: Windows Vista is not supported directly by ASUS.

This is also reflected when visiting the ASUS support site. You can download all required drivers for Windows XP and for Windows 7. The BIG problem was to find the display driver for Windows Vista.

Installation

Installing Windows Vista failed initialy due to the hard disk drive being not supported. I don’t really know what this means, but the hard disk drive was not found and the Windows installation pointed towards loading it from an external source (a floppy disk, CD or DVD or a USB drive). I guess it failed due to the chipset, Intel US15W, not being supported by stock Windows Vista from 2007.

So, I got the chipset drivers from the intel page, unpacked them on another computer that also ran Windows Vista, and put them on an USB pen drive. I had this pen drive connected when I re-tried to install Windows Vista and this time it worked without even a notification if a driver from an external source (the USB pen drive) was used or not.
Anyway, it worked. And that is what matters.

After Windows Vista was installed, I had the greatest trouble finding a driver for the graphics. It used “Standard VGA” and was limited to a 800×600 resolution.

It took some time to find out that the graphics is an onboard graphics card, Intel calls it “Integrated Graphics Device” (IGD), and that it actucally is an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500. The problem is thou that this one requires a very special driver, because the regular GMA500 driver doesn’t support this particular chipset.

I eventually found it as “Intel US15 Ultra Mobile Integrated Chipset drivers”. It all comes down to the one major truth, that the only hard part was to identify and find the driver, because firstly ASUS doesn’t provide any Vista drivers for this Eee PC and secondly Intel has a blurry way of naming their drivers.

Also, in order to download the drivers, I needed to install the LAN drivers for internet connectivity. Stock Windows Vista has four devices it lacks drivers for:

  1. ACPI: I got lucky and Windows Vista solved this problem all by itself, once connected to the internet!
  2. Ethernet (Atheros AR8132): use Windows 7 driver from ASUS
  3. Graphics (Intel GMA500): use Intel driver
  4. WiFi (Atheros AR9285): provided from Vista Service Pack 1

Luckily, the Ethernet drivers package for Windows 7 provided by ASUS also includes the Windows Vista drivers.

So, these are the initial drivers required after Windows Vista is installed:

  1. ASUS ACPI
  2. Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 500 for Atom processor driver for Windows Vista*32, Version 4.0.2 (08/11/2009), size: 27.72 MB
  3. Intel INFupdate utility

Strange enough, I got a Security Warning message every time after startup with the Intel GMA files, specifically IgfxTray.exe, IgfxExt.exe, hkcmd.exe and PersistenceThread.exe, all of which are located in C:\Windows\system32. While selecting “Unlock” in the preferences of these files did not work, removing their streams completely did. For this I had to use the command line and the Sysinternals streams.exe utility.

Windows Update

I was also surprised that using Windows Update I wasn’t able to install any Service Pack. Firstly, Windows Update installed about 250 GB worth of pre-SP updates. Then it presented Service Pack 1, but installation failed. Maybe a download problem? So I decided to download it from Microsoft directly. I installed it, which worked. I then used Windows Update to download remaining updates, so again I got 250 GB worth of SP1 updates. Then Windows Update failed to present Service Pack 2 altogether. I manually downloaded Service Pack 2 and installed it, again, which worked. Once more, starting Windows Update I then got 250 GB worth of SP2 updates.

All in all I downloaded around 1.5 GB updates:

  • ~250 MB updates after installation (pre-SP)
  • 434 MB for the Service Pack 1 (Five Language)
  • ~250 MB updates (post-SP1)
  • 348 MB for the Service Pack 2 (Five Language)
  • ~250 MB updates (post-SP2)

Looking back it would have been better to download SP1 and SP2 first, install both, and only then check for remaining updates. For what it’s worth, it was interesting to see if and how updating works. I would have expected Windows Update to perform better.

Another thing to consider is time. The hardware isn’t really fast. Every update takes quite long to complete. Doing all the updates took the netbook a day to finish – that was including me looking after it from time to time to see if user input was required (like: restarting it).

But, there was one thing that surprised me in the positive sense: A problem was detected and a solution was found: Windows Vista pointed me to downloading the ASUS ACPI driver, installation was simple and successful. This very driver also installs the EeePC Tray Utility which then complained on every startup about the missing VGA driver (which was solved once the Intel GMA500 driver was installed). But the point is: Windows Vista pointed me to installing the ACPI driver! That was great!

SSD over HDD

An SSD in a netbook is always a good upgrade choice. Especially netbooks get carried around a lot, and sometimes (due to their size) get used in strange places. The idea behind it: an SSD does not contain any rotating parts. While rough handling will not affect an SSD any more than the rest of the netbook, it will greatly affect a HDD with rotating discs inside and might even damage it, destroying vital data.
Another advantage is of course energy consumption: while the HDD constantly has to spin, consuming energy, the SDD only requires power when data is written or read. That is, disregarding the power required for the internal controller of any disk drive i.e. SSD and HDD likewise.

The bad news is that Windows Vista does not support SATA TRIM. Even though this exact hardware setup would support the TRIM feature, Windows Vista will not take advantage of it. On Windows before Windows 7 the SSD will solely rely on the internal garbage collector and/or overprovisioning, since it is not being informed which blocks on the file system have been deleted and are no longer in use by the operating system. On the other hand, Windows 7 will use the TRIM feature by default. On Linux, the “discard” mount option will make sure it is used as a live feature. Various tools will provide means to manually initiate trim throughout the whole file system (e.g. fstrim). Likewise, such a manual invokation of the trim command is also possible on the NTFS partition, but only when booted from Windows 7. This would make NTFS be trimmed (once), including a Vista installation that would be started from that partition afterwards. Since the operating system has to support TRIM, which Vista does not, this would only be useful on dual-boot installations of Windows 7 and Windows Vista; simply put, on a Vista-only installation: no luck with TRIM. (Linux doesn’t have the capability to trim NTFS.) On Linux, only ext4, swap and btrfs among others support trimming i.e. discard. On ext2 and NTFS, trim is not (yet) supported, propably never will be.

Windows 7?

Windows 7 would definitely be a better choice as a replacement for Windows XP on such a limited hardware. The featureset of Windows 7, like the support for SATA TRIM, is also a point in favor for the newer Windows. Only, who has an unused Windows 7 32-bit license lying around? With Windows Vista, there are a couple of computers around that used the 32-bit flavour and that have been dumped in favour of a newer computer, be it a desktop of notebook. I don’t know why, but that is my experience. A lot of computers were updated from Vista to 7, sometimes even from a 32-bit version of Vista to a full 64-bit version of Windows 7. That left a couple of Vista licenses available and ready to be used to upgrade older Windows XP installations.

The other possibility is of course to buy a 32-bit version of Windows 7. But I would rather install, say, Ubuntu Linux or Debian GNU/Linux or openSUSE Linux or… yeah, any Linux distribution at all. Just be sure to use a lightweight one, because of the limited performance of the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA. But that is a completely different story. Only so much: Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS works out-of-the-box. SSD-TRIM optimizations have to be manually enabled, but there are a few good guides like the one from Debian and the one from Arch. IMHO, depending on the available memory, using RAM drives (like tmpfs) is also a good idea.

Weblinks

Appologies

This article is incomplete. Some links are missing, and overall it could have been better. But I spend long enough writing it by now and I will not update it, so it stays as it is. I just hope that it will be of any use, or even help an EeePC 1101 owner. I’m sure btw that you’ll figure out how to use streams to remove the security warning and how to get the SATA-chipset drivers from intel unpacked in order to copy them to an external USB pen drive so that the Windows Vista installation can access the internal SATA drive.