Upgrading my Acer AspireOne to Windows 7

Last week I decided to upgrade my Netbook, an Acer AspireOne 8.9', to Windows 7. Since I believe that many people around the world are in doubt whether to do such a thing, I believe this is a subject that should have its place on this site.

Netbook Windows 7 001

First thing that must be said: from the picture above you can tell that this story has a happy end. However, even though the process was not difficult, it reserved for me its share of bumps and lessons learnt. You will see about that after the break.

The beginning

I began by donwloading from the Microsoft site the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor which I believed would tell me if my system is able to run Windows 7 or not. After I ran it I got a report which reported more than 20 issues with upgrading to Windows 7 that computer. Around 8 were connected to software I had installed and had to find new versions for, and the rest was connected to drivers which according to the advisor will not run. Those included the camera, the Wifi card, the mousepad, the card readers, and other happy things that might happen. Some browsing in the Internet made me understand clearly that all those drivers would be exchanged at installation time by Microsoft drivers; additionally, I found some reports of people that managed to upgrade successfully and were happy with it. So I decided it was a "go".

With the decision made, I went and bought a copy of Windows 7. According to my usage of the Netbook, I decided that the Home Premium was too limited for me and the Ultimate was too heavy for the computer, so I went for the Professional version.

Processing the upgrade

One of the right things that the advisor told me was that since the computer ran XP, I couldn't do an upgrade of the OS, and would have to install it and re-install all the programs I had in the computer. That was not a problem, and I proceeded to backing-up my computer, and from that to a sleepless night waiting for tomorrow to come and the installation to begin.

Tomorrow arrived quickly and I proceeded to install. First I had to copy the Windows CD to a USB FlashKey since the AspireOne doesn't have a CD drive. I checked that I could boot from the USB, and I was ready to go.

As expected the initial setup did not allow me to choose the upgrade option, and I could only do the clean install.

After 3/4 of an hour my computer did the last installation reboot, and I was ready to begin checking the system and reinstalling the software. My first good suprise: although I really lost the installation of the programs, my disk was not formatted so all my files were still there at the right places and I wouldn't need to loose time with a restore.

So, time to begin checking the system. Here was the moment that I began seeing the small problems that resulted from the process.

a. As expected, the storage card drives were not working. But Windows took me (through its "Solve Issues" functionality) to the new drivers made by the maker of the hardware, installed it automatically, and in a question of one minute they were ready to work.

b. Something strange was happening with the Synaptics mousepad. Though it was working and I could move the mouse and click the buttons, it had lost the functionality of selecting by tapping the pad. At the Control Panel, I saw it had been installed as a... Microsoft Mouse? WTF? Well, I tried to uninstall it and let Windows re-install it, and got the same result. Then I went to Acer's website and downloaded from there the Synaptics driver - yes, the one meant to run on XP! Maybe it was of a newer version that also accepts 7, but I don't know. What I know is that I downloaded it, installed it, and it immediately substituted the original Microsoft Mouse driver, and I was back with full functionality.

c. Well, I noticed that the Windows Aero was active, something that surprised me. So I went to rate the computer at the Windows Experience:

Netbook Windows 7 003


As you can see, it got a 2.1 rating (out of 7.9 maximum rate) at the Windows Experience. This is only because of the Atom processor (2.4) and the Graphics processor which got a 2.1 (the final result is aligned to the minimum rate of the components). All the rest of the components got from 4.0 to 5.5, which are good rates. And the most important is the final result: the computer was running faster than originally with XP.

Suddenly, Windows Aero disappeared. After being puzzled for a moment or two, I noticed that the computer was not connected to external power. I reconnected it, and Aero was back. It seems that Aero has higher power demands, so the battery economy profile turns it off at the moment we are on battery.

I began installing the programs, and most things went well. Acrobat reader, Skype and MagicDisc demanded a newer version, which was immediately downloaded and installed. Office 2007 was installed and configured, and so with other software, and around two hours after I began reinstalling the software I was missing only two packages that I still had to download and install.

Then, suddenly, PUFF !!!! The Wifi card died on me. I tried to turn it on using the Acer Wifi enable/disable button, and found that the button was not reacting at all. I also noticed that an area at the bottom-front of the computer was very hot.... really very hot. I turned the computer off, waited for it to cool down, and then turned the computer on. Well, it was back working. But if I tried to enable/disable it again with the button, the system did not respond to the button. Back to the Control Panel and I see that this component was also installed with a Microsoft driver. I downloaded from the Acer's website the Atheros driver by Foxconn, installed it, and the button was back working. It seems everything was well now.

But some minutes later the Wifi died again. I went to the Network cards and saw that the installation of the Atheros driver did not substitute the Microsoft driver, but rather created an additional card that was working on the same card in parallel to the Microsoft driver. I disabled the Microsoft driver, changed the power management profile so that even when power is connected the Wifi is in medium economy mode (and I couldn't really find any difference in network response comparing to maximum performance - as I did feel in "maximum economy" mode), and since then I can tell that I have had no problems at all from the Wifi connection.

Netbook Windows 7 002

In summary, I can tell that the surgery has succeeded and the patient is alive and feeling well. I have had no problems with installing all the software I needed, except for the Gizmo5 dialer which gave me a message that it can only install "on Windows XP, Vista or higher". Again, Gizmo's forum already had the answer for that, running the installer in compatibility mode. And this was the last issue. All the buttons, function keys, etc, are working perfectly and the computer is really doing great.

Yesterday I installed my Bluetooth adapter to it, which was immediately recognized by the Microsoft driver and installed, and I could immediately tether the computer through my phone to the internet and connect my Microsoft Presenter 8000 mouse to it. Regarding the mouse, you need to download and install the newest version of Intellipoint from the Microsoft Downloads site in order to have the Powerpoint buttons in the back of the mouse working again.

Last collateral effect: I think Windows 7 calculates better the battery usage time left; I have a 9-cell battery on the AspireOne, and though XP used to say at full battery that I have 8 hours of usage left, I never managed to get more than 6 hours or 6.5 hours from the computer. Now with Win7, a full battery says 6:32 left, much closer to my experience. But I must use more to see if it just says so and gives 4 hours (meaning I will need to adjust the power saving features better) or if it is really giving what it says.

The Windows Sidebar is working perfectly as well, and I already have the widgets I want installed there.

Anyway, I can summarize the experience by saying that I recommend the procedure to anyone that has this computer and wants to get more out of it.