For those wondering whether Windows 7 will run on a typical netbook, the answer is yes. While testing out Toshiba's NB200 mini laptop, I took the liberty of installing the release version of Microsoft's new operating system and found it runs with no trouble at all.
Interest in Windows 7 on mini laptops - otherwise known as netbooks - was piqued by Microsoft's claim back at the Professional Developer Conference in 2008 that the new platform would run on such small systems.
Currently, these devices are most often shipped out with Windows XP Home edition pre-installed, since Windows Vista is simply too resource hungry to give a satisfactory experience on netbooks.
As Windows 7 is based on the same core code as Vista, many people were understandably sceptical about Microsoft's claim.
Toshiba's NB200 netbook has the typical hardware specifications seen on many other netbooks: single-core Intel Atom processor, 1GB of memory and 160GB hard drive, plus a 10in display.
Like most compact laptops, the Toshiba doesn't have a DVD drive, so I used a USB Flash drive instead, first turning it into a bootable drive and then copying the setup files to it.
[A step-by-step guide on how to create a Windows 7 USB install disk is given here on one of Microsoft's blogs. Note that you need a drive at least 4GB in size.]
The install took about half an hour and re-booted the system a couple of times, after which I had a working Windows 7 netbook - see the screenshot above.
I was surprised to find that the Toshiba seemed just as responsive with Windows 7 as it did before the upgrade when running Windows XP.
However, Windows 7 rates the upgraded system with a Windows Experience Index (WEI) of just 1.0 - the lowest score possible. A look at the individual subsystem scores revealed that the integrated graphics in Intel's 945 Express chipset is holding the score down.
This means that playing the latest 3D shoot-'em-up game is probably out of the question, but in reality, most people buy a netbook like this because they are affordable, portable, and are good enough for surfing the web, email, and the odd spot of word processing, rather than for anything fancy.
Nevertheless, I was able to turn on the Aero user interface with its translucency effects (it was disabled by default after installation), and a few checks showed that the netbook was perfectly capable of playing music and video content.
So it seems that Microsoft's promise was no idle boast, and Windows 7 will indeed run perfectly well on a netbook.
Potential buyers should note that if netbooks do ship with Windows 7, the version included may well be the Starter edition, which has a number of limitations such as the Aero user interface disabled.
However, Microsoft has now lifted the earlier restriction that limited the Starter edition to running no more than three concurrent applications.
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