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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.