Randy Guthrie – Microsoft Academic Developer Evangelist
I just received a new ASUS Eee PC 904HA from Amazon.com today. This ultra small laptop [netbook] retails for $311 US and comes with 1GB RAM and 160GB hard drive. The OEM operating system is Microsoft Windows XP Home edition, and the netbook also comes with some nice utility programs, but the inability of Windows XP Home edition to join a domain made my decision to upgrade to Windows 7 very easy. Within 5 minutes of powering up the netbook for the first time, I was wiping the hard drives in preparation for a clean installation of Windows 7 beta, build 7000. The Eee PC 904HA does not come with an internal DVD/CD drive, so I had to borrow a friend’s USB DVD drive for both the wiping software (PDWipe) and Win 7 installation DVD.
First I had to go into the BIOS and change the boot order so that the DVD loaded first. Then I was able to wipe the drives, which took about 30 minutes. The Windows 7 installation seemingly went without a hitch, as did the Office 2007. Only later did I discover a few things that were broke. The first is that Windows 7 did not have a native driver for the LAN adapter, which did not work. Fortunately the wireless adapter did work, so I was able to connect to the Internet that way. I was then able to locate a Vista 32 driver on the ASUS website, but the installation utility didn’t work. I finally got the LAN adapter working by going into the device manager and updating the network adapter driver and in the process pointing to the folder with the Vista 32 driver. The other thing that is broke are several function keys (the ones you have to press “function” and the key to work). The keys that are broken are the wireless radio toggle (important for us frequent fliers), and the mute and volume up/down keys. These all have work-arounds in Windows 7, but I’ll be contacting ASUS to see if they can suggest a way to fix the keys (hope its not a hardware problem!).
Since Windows 7 is beta software, I’m not too worried about these driver related problems. Some of these might have already been fixed since build 7000 was released. But here is the good news. I’m running Windows 7, Outlook 2007 and Office 2007 with no problems on this very light-weight, basic hardware platform. I ran the Windows Experience rating utility, and got a 2.2 overall for graphics and processor speed, which is the lowest rating I’ve seen on a relatively new PC, yet it runs just fine. Aero works, and I’ve played some sample video that came with the Media Center software, and the quality is great. What I believe this means is that Windows 7 will provide great experiences on older computers that were designed for Windows XP. I am still putting my ASUS Eee 904 through its paces, but so far it looks like I’ll have a great piece of hardware with an even better operating system than it was designed for. I’ll let you know how it goes next week.