Installing Windows 7 on the HP Mini 5101 (guide)

I got hold of the Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit disc  the other day and went straight to install it on my HP Mini 5101. Yes, after about five days using Windows XP for the first time in year (at least in normal day-to-day use), I felt like tearing my hair out using the now-ancient UI. No Aero Peek for my windows, crummy file explorer, no ability to search directly for a program, rather basic (versus Vista and Seven) power management area, very crappy Windows Update interface (yeah, you know, the browser-based ActiveX one…), and the list goes on. My initial plan was to install Windows 7 alongside XP and have a system that I could dual boot, but the fact that Windows XP Home couldn’t connect to corporate networks (versus XP Pro) was the last straw.

So I wiped the hard disk clean and did a clean installation of Windows 7. What I was surprised with was the fact that a fresh installation took a mere 32 minutes on an Intel Atom netbook, which is pretty darn fast in my book. I remember that both XP and Vista took longer than that – on more powerful systems too! Installation of Windows 7 was hassle-free for me, the system basically took care of everything after entering the product key up to its ‘first’ boot-up.

I didn’t have to download many drivers manually from HP’s website since Windows 7’s Windows Update utility knew exactly what to do. The drivers I DID download from the official HP Mini 5101 drivers page for Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit include:

  • SoundMAX audio driver (Great stuff, it has the same interface and ‘Sonic Focus’ feature found on higher end HP notebooks such as the Elitebook 8730w)
  • Wireless drivers (Gotta have these if you want to use WiFi)
  • HP 3D DriveGuard (Invaluable protection for your hard disk)
  • 2 MP webcam driver

The things that Windows Update automatically found and installed include the Synaptics Touchpad v7.2 driver and Intel graphics driver (a good thing too, since the Intel driver from HP’s website couldn’t work on Windows 7). All-in-all, my Windows 7 installation on the HP Mini 5101 was very smooth with no hiccups. The OS runs on Atom like a champ – everything on Windows 7 is prettier, more functional and flashier than Windows Vista, yet there wasn’t much noticeable ‘lag’ in the animations and starting up of applications.

Bootup time with an ’empty’ system took about 15 seconds (excluding BIOS screen display). However, bootup time was not as fast as I hoped for AFTER I installed my favorite apps (which include Office 2007, Firefox, AVG Free + Spyware Blaster, TweetDeck, Windows Live Essentials and Foxit Reader) – it now takes about 100 seconds to cold boot the Mini, but I’m cool with that – the old Mini running Vista with the same software/content takes almost five minutes nowadays. I’m now putting the Mini 5101 into either Sleep or Hibernation mode most of the time since they run a LOT faster than older versions of Windows. Sleep mode, especially, screams fast, fast, fast! – the Mini 5101 goes to sleep in about three seconds after I hit the power button, and wakes up in four.

Another post-installation issue with Windows 7 on the Mini 5101 is not really a big issue, in fact… but I was disappointed that the ‘glowing’ Windows logo startup animation is only possible on screens with 1024 x 768 or 1280 x768 resolution and above. The HP Mini 5101 I have has a crappy 1024 x 600 screen: so no pretty animations for me during bootup – instead, there’s the boring Vista-style blank screen with ‘running status bar’ animation. I have plans to get the Mini 5101’s replaced by a third party to the 1366 x 768 high-res option and I’ll post about that if I do.

If you have any questions regarding Windows 7 on the Mini 5101, feel free to fire me an e-mail or post in the comments area below!

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12 Comments

  1. trhbay October 30, 2009 Reply

    Great article!

    3 quick questions-

    1. What SW did you use wipe the HDD clean?

    2. What version on Win 7 did you install ( Starter, Home Premium, etc..)?

    3. Did you use the “full version” copy or ‘Upgrade” copy of Windows 7?

    • Brad October 30, 2009 Reply

      Hi, glad you found it useful
      1. I used the installation format (click Advanced installation) when installing Windows 7. It first asks if you would like to keep the old Windows as ‘Windows.old’ or create new partitions/reformat.
      2. I installed Windows 7 Ultimate, 32 bit retail
      3. Used a full retail version. It was not bundled with my Mini 5101, but it’s a legit, licensed copy, that’s for sure 😉

  2. Mike December 28, 2009 Reply

    Hi Brad… Any update on how your experience is with the Windows 7 powered HP 5101? I have a Couple of questions I hope you don’t mind answering:

    (1) How did you perform the upgrade? Where you able to transfer the Windows 7 upgrade DVD to a USB stick and mount the USB stick as a bootable drive? Or did you have access to an external DVD ROM?

    (2) This is not a Win7 question as much as it is a general mini question…how is the 1024×600 screen from a usability/experience perspective? I have one on order and did not go with the HD option…so I am going to be stuck with this same screen…

    Thanks!

    • Brad December 29, 2009 Reply

      Hi Mike, my HP Mini 5101 has been running on Windows 7 for around 3 months now and the experience is great. The system is quick on its feet and as a frequent (and usually heavy) user of my netbook, I can say I’m genuinely surprised that my Mini 5101 has not crashed even once, at all (compared to my Mini 2133 which did at least once every few weeks due to excessive load) – I typically have two instances of Firefox open with multiple tabs (4-5) in each instance, Microsoft Word 2007, Winamp/VLC, File Explorer (one or two windows) and Windows Photo Viewer all open at the same time. I did a clean install (not upgrade), wiping out the pre-installed XP system and installing Windows 7 from DVD. I borrowed a HP external DVD drive from a friend, which has a single connector that connects to the Mini 5101’s powered USB port on the right side.

      Well, it’s hard to answer your second question, since it’s a subjective type of thing – some people like me tend to complain while others may find 1024 x 600 completely adequate. I myself have been pampered by higher resolution screens (even my old Mini 2133 had a higher resolution display) and this is the lowest resolution I’ve ever used. I haven’t got the hang of it, and perhaps I never will – being a power user, I usually have two windows open side-by-side (yes, even when using Mini’s) and the Mini 5101’s 1024 x 600 resolution isn’t the most usable thing around. I also have to do a bunch of scrolling when it comes to web pages and Office 2007 (I tend to hide the Office Ribbon as it gets in the way, making reading/writing real estate even smaller than ever). However, you could always use lower magnification or “zoom out” in your browser/documents to around 70-80% to “simulate” the effect of a higher resolution screen. I say simulate, because it’s not exactly the same as using a real high resolution screen (the real thing is always better). The Mini 5101’s matte display makes up somewhat for the compromise though, as I’m finding the Mini 5101 a lot more usable under a variety of lighting conditions (vs my ex-Mini, the 2133). The display is also very bright, and I can use the lowest brightness setting indoors while still being able to view what’s on it.

      Hope this helps. Do let me know how you find your Mini 5101 once you receive it =)

  3. Mike December 29, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for your comments Brad!

    (1) Have you found a subsequent need for a DVD/CD ROM? I guess what I am trying to figure out is whether this is really just a one time need or not… How many times have you had to borrow your friend’s drive since the load? I want to get a gauge on whether I should be looking for someone to borrow too…or just bite the bullet and buy one…

    (2) I am a power user as well… I provide “tech support” to family, friends, co-workers… I build and upgrade my own PCs, etc… Of the two desktop computers on my office desk, one has a 24″ 1920×1200… The other is running dual monitors (a 24″ and a 20″ side by side)… I absolutely HATE low resolution screens, and it frustrates me to death…

    Honestly, I am even thinking that the HD 1366×768 would be less than I want… But what I do know is that this is a netbook…and one has to make sacrifices… and since most netbooks are coming with the 1024×600, I was hoping and praying that the screen was “usable”, even by a super user who understands that sacrifices are necessary… What I am hearing you say is that it is as frustrating as I had anticipated… 🙁

    • Brad January 11, 2010 Reply

      Hi Mike, sorry for the delayed reply as I’ve been flooded with emails and comments lately because of CES.
      Nope, I haven’t found the need for