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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