When Microsoft made the Windows 7 Beta operating system (successor to Windows Vista) available to the public, I immediately downloaded the one-and-only beta version to be released to the general population. Since this beta version will expire in July 2009, I will need to uninstall Win7 from my PC and reinstall my previous OS to continue using my PC after that expiration date. As such, I decided to not install Win7 on my main desktop PC since I don’t want to go through the process of reinstalling Windows Vista, load all my applications, etc.
Since at that time I was getting a Dell Mini 9 Netbook laptop, I decided to install Win7 Beta on that machine as a test. The Mini 9 used a low-power Intel Atom CPU, a slow Solid State Disk (SSD) drive, and had 1 GB of RAM memory, so I would definitely see how well Win7 ran on a lower-powered system. Surprisingly, it ran very well on my Dell Mini 9 (lengthier discussion here). So even with the slow hardware and relatively slow CPU, Win7 did very well (I expected just the opposite, since it seems that with every new release of Windows the requirement is more powerful hardware).
Since the Dell Mini 9 ran Win7 quite well, I decided to install this beta OS on my 4-year old Dell D610 laptop. Here’s the specs on my D610:
- Intel Pentium M Celeron 1.86 GHz CPU with 2 MB L2 Cache
- 2 GB RAM (533 MHz)
- 80 GB, 5400 RPM Disk Drive
- Intel 915GM Graphics Video (integrated in motherboard) 128-bit
- 14-inch LCD screen, 1400×1050 max resolution
My big concern was that Vista and Win7 drivers would not be available for my D610 since the laptop is so old (Vista wasn’t even released when I got this laptop). The Dell site only had Windows XP drivers for my D610, so my only hope was that the Win7 install CD had the necessary drivers, or I could find them some where on the Internet.
My first step was to backup my existing disk drive by “cloning” it, which essentially makes an exact copy of the data bits on the drive and store it in an image file. That way, I can restore the disk drive completely if necessary and be back up and running like nothing had happened. My favorite disk cloning software is Clonezilla, which has been around a while and is free. I created a bootable USB Flash Drive with Clonezilla installed on it, and had the D610 boot up from the USB drive to start the cloning process. I then had Clonezilla store the backup image on a external USB hard drive for safe keeping.
Once the clone backup was complete, I installed the Windows 7 operating system from a DVD I burned with the Win7 install files. I did a clean install (wiping out the main drive in my D610 and reformatting it), and the entire process took less than one hour to complete. When I was done, I made a connection with my home WiFi system and began downloading the various Win7 updates. Once that was completed, I worked through the hardware management settings and tried to resolve all the various drivers issues. For the most part, the Win7 updates fixed a lot of issues. The big one that I had was the video display, as the OS used a default VGA resolution at 1024×768. Since the native resolution of my LCD screen was 1400×1050, I needed to find the appropriate video driver to achieve that resolution. Luckily, I came across a nice bit of freeware called DriverMax that scans your hardware and makes recommendations on where to find the neccessary drivers for your current system. Using this application, I was able to find the proper video driver that I needed (HP had a Vista driver for the Intel 915GM Graphics Video that applied), and installed it on the spot. After doing so (along with another Windows 7 update), I had the required video driver to run my LCD screen at 1400×1050 resolution!
So, I’ve got my D610 laptop up and running and it seems to be doing well. Considering that my D610 hardware is 4 years old and not the fastest, I’m pleasantly surprised that Win7 runs so well. I’ve read numerous times online that “Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been”, and I believe it. It seems Microsoft has fine tuned and optimized the bloated Vista OS in creating Win7. Definitely something worth looking into when Windows 7 is ultimately released sometime next year.