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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  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…


    • 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 using a DVD/CD drive on either one of my HP Mini’s (Mini 2133 from May 08 to Sept 09 and Mini 5101 from Sept 09 to now) besides Windows installations. Assuming you have at least a 4 or 8 GB thumbdrive, you could transfer files across from a DVD/CD on your main computer in any event before installing.

      The 1024 x 600 display is fine for typing and documents, but less so for reading or doing more than 1 task at a given time.

  4. Mike January 14, 2010 Reply

    Hi Brad… No worries on the delayed response…

    So since I had just purchased my 5101 and it was still in it’s “no questions asked” return policy timeframe, I decided to trade it up for the HD display…

    My wife hates it because the text is so small… But I am personally finding it a LOT more useful… I compared it side-by-side, and the amount of text and images that can be seen on this HD display compared to the standard display is great… It was a big hassle going through the whole RMA process of returning the first one… But in the end, I want this unit to last me for 3-5 years, and I don’t want to b*tch and moan about how I should have upgraded when I had the chance to do so…

    I am going to try to perform the Windows 7 upgrade via a USB stick drive… It’s currently loaded with WinXP Pro, which is a great place to be… Are you finding Win7Pro an improvement to WinXP Pro on the mini platform?

    I have Win7 on a few of my desktop and full-sized notebooks, and really like it…

  5. Brad January 14, 2010 Reply

    Hi Mike, glad you traded up for the higher-resolution display, that’s a great decision you made there. I was one of the few early adopters of the Mini 5101 so I wasn’t given a choice. Even without a side-by-side comparison of the two displays, stepping down is noticeable and difficult for those who are really used to HD (or higher) displays.

    I personally still find the 1024 x 600 resolution of my Mini 5101 a big annoyance at times, despite having used it for 4+ months now. The unfortunate part is the Mini 5101 plays a big role when I’m on the go and it’s almost the perfect netbook save for the low-res display option. I’m still contemplating whether to go look for a “HD display” part for my Mini and swap out the display myself, or save up (and if the price is right) for the upcoming Touchsmart tm2 tablet before I move to California this fall.

    Yes, I think Windows 7 is a great step up over XP. Primary reason why I switched was because mine came loaded with XP Home, which can’t connect to some networks (especially corporate ones that use their own proxies and stuff). Of course, there are also other nice touches I haven’t been able to live without since Vista appeared, such as the tweaked File Explorer interface, built-in non-browser based Windows Update, Windows Aero “window auto snap” (it’s more useful than it sounds), sticky notes (for minor to-do’s that don’t need me to use Outlook) plus Windows 7’s jump lists, widgets, advanced power management, etc. The differences are not major and I’m sure XP is still tolerable after an initial adjustment period (depends how long ago your last XP experience was), but it’s the small little things in 7 that do make life easier/better for me.

    Stability wise, my Mini 5101 has been very reliable with no crashes (it does run a little slow at times, but that’s just a hint for me to close some windows) and I’ve been pleased with performance (it can even run Paint Shop Pro X2 and Adobe Lightroom for any basic photo editing I need to do on the go, though not heavy functions like batch processing or HDR)

  6. Mike January 14, 2010 Reply

    Does an aftermarket screen upgrade cost much? (sounds expensive just typing the question!)… It’s something you use all the time, so if the price is right, it might be worth it…

    While I don’t know all the Windows 7 features, I have to agree with you on the ability to snap windows to the right and left… I just don’t know how useful it is on a mini… I love it on my big 24″ widescreen on my desktop computer though!!!

    Good to hear that Win7 is an improvement from XP… Since the 5101 is in HP’s business notebook product line, I am a little surprised yours did not come with WinXP-Pro though (mine did)…

    I’ll let you know how the upgrade turns out… I am glad you have a link (above) to the HP site with all the drivers I’ll need!

  7. Mike January 19, 2010 Reply

    Hi Brad… Just wanted to let you know that I have Windows 7 Professional up and running on my HP Mini 5101! Thanks for all of your help on this…

    As a comparison, I wonder what your Windows Experience Index is… Here is mine:

    Overall: 2.0
    – Processor – 2.3
    – Memory (RAM) – 4.5
    – Graphics – 2.0
    – Gaming Graphics – 3.0
    – Primary Hard Disk – 5.9

    Other observations:
    * Even though I have successfully installed the webcam driver, and the device manager indicates it is operating correctly, I don’t have access to it like I did in WinXP Pro… I think I was able to see the device in “My Computer” and actually see it working… I guess I need to install Skype or some other application to verify that it works correctly…
    * HP Support Assistant – This utility came with the HP disk provided with the free upgrade… I installed it…but it was never included with WinXP Pro… Not sure if I am keeping this installed or not…
    * Volume/Brightness Control – A weird anomaly occurs now… When I am lowering the volume, the on screen display visually shows it going lower…but when I press the button to raise the volume, the first press of the button to raise the volume actually shows up as the volume lowering one notch visually… Weird… It also happens with the brightness control… Anytime you change the direction (from high to low and vice-versa) it exhibits this weirdness…

    Overall, I am very happy with my HP Mini 5101 loaded with Windows 7 Professional… It’s reasonably peppy, and its portability is exceptional…I can tuck it under my arm with my morning paper and no one is the wiser that I even am carrying a computer!

  8. Vipdictionary [--] June 15, 2010 Reply

    Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get anything done… Regards…

  9. Stihlmotorsense [--] June 15, 2010 Reply

    I just cant stop reading this. Its so cool, so full of information that I just didnt know. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Youre a great blogger. Please keep it up. I cant wait to read whats next.

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