Thanks to a nice check sent to me by Uncle Sam, I got to upgrade my living area a little bit this past week. A new LCD HDTV, a console, and some new furniture. And I paid a few bills that I would otherwise ignore until I got a letter saying that it was sent to a collection agency, which I would also ignore. I also got something I’d been wanting for awhile but was too cheap to buy with my usual hard-earned money. A netbook.
These things are freaking tiny, and I can barely get my giant sausage fingers to type on it properly. But compared to checking email and watching movies on a PSP whilst stuck in the Pittsburgh airport for nine hours (which happened to me last week), this is going to be a nice little peace of mind.
After a little detective work I managed to track down an Asus EEE 900a on EBay for $150. It comes equipped with a 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 4GB Solid State HDD. I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail on this thing since this isn’t a review; this is a little too old to consider reviewing anyway. What it comes down to is what it does and doesn’t have. It has a media card reader built in, LAN and wireless networking, and three USB 2.0 ports. That pretty much sums it up. No optical drive whatsoever.
Asus Eee Netbook and Linux Easy Peasy, but we’re going to install Windows 7
It took me about a day of messing around with Linux’s Easy Peasy OS, designed for the EEE netbook, to realize that I wanted anything but Easy Peasy. So I went on a Google search trying to figure out how to get Windows 7 on my netbook without springing for an external optical drive. The answer was obvious; I had to use a flash drive. Now, getting a computer to see a flash drive as a bootable source isn’t easy. You basically have to turn your flash drive into a hard drive with boot sectors, an exact replica of the original Windows CD or DVD. It sounds hard, and unless you know what you’re doing, it is. It took me hours of searching before I came across a forum that had instructions that worked. That’s what I’m sharing with you today.
You’re going to need the following things:
- A USB 2.0 Flash Drive, preferably with a 4GB capacity.
- Your Windows XP or 7 CD/DVD or an ISO image of your OS.
- A separate computer, with an optical drive if using a physical OS disc.
- Your Netbook.
- About 20 minutes, not counting install time on the netbook.
I like customizing my Operating Systems before installing. There is a program called nlite that is free for download and can be used to customize pretty much any Windows OS, which I used to remove various things such as Internet Explorer and add drivers for my most used USB items. You can really slim down your installation and have much more free space using this program.
Pick one of your spare USB flash drives
So here’s what you have to do. Plug your flash drive in and note the drive letter and the size in My Computer. You’re going to need this information soon, so write it down some place. Bring up your command prompt in Windows XP and type DISKPART. If you’re using Vista or 7, you can type DISKPART in the Search box and hit enter. Same result either way. Now follow these instructions:
1. Type LIST DISK and hit enter.
2. Look for your USB drive’s number. Type SELECT DISK 1 (replace number with your drive’s number. Hit enter.
3. Type CLEAN and hit enter.
4. Type CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY and hit enter.
5. Type SELECT PARTITION 1 and hit enter.
6. Type ACTIVE and hit enter.
7. Type FORMAT FS=NTFS and hit enter. This could take some time depending on drive size.
8. Type ASSIGN and hit enter. This assigns your drive a drive letter and enables the PC to see it.
9. Type EXIT and hit enter.
Locate the proper drive letter of your USB drive
The command prompt should close after you hit enter, so now it’s time to add a boot sector and put your install files on the drive. You’ll need to load your Windows disc in your optical drive, note the drive letter of your optical drive. If you’re mounting a disc image using mounting software, note that particular drive letter. Now, it’s time to add a boot sector.
1. Bring up your command prompt, type CMD in the Search box in Vista and 7.
2. Type D:CD BOOT and hit enter. Replace “D” with your optical drive letter.
3. Type CD BOOT and hit enter.
4. Type BOOTSECT.EXE/NT60 H: and hit enter. Replace “H” with your flash drive’s letter.
5. When it’s all finished, close the command prompt.
Now all you have to do is copy everything from your Windows disc or image onto the root of the flash drive. Once this is done, you have a fully functional, bootable OS flash drive. Now it’s time to install Windows. Plug in your flash drive before turning on the computer. Once you’ve done that, boot into the bios and change the boot order so that your flash drive is the first boot device. On the Asus EEE 900a, you have to change the boot order to USB, and then change the drive itself to the flash drive. Otherwise it’ll go straight to your hard drive every time.
Save your changes and restart. Presto, Windows 7 on your netbook. Goodbye Easy Peasy. If it doesn’t work, double check all the steps and make sure you did them properly. Also make sure that your bios is set properly. I had to play around with mine for a good fifteen minutes before it would accept the USB boot.