Hot rodding that netbook (Part 2)
A few weeks ago, we mentioned a free, simple tip that should make that aging netbook infinitely more useful (in a nutshell, install a lightweight Linux distribution).
Now, Linux is a free operating system and most of the applications for it — including a full-featured, Microsoft Office-compatible office suite — are also free. While some folks may believe Linux is difficult to use, that’s simply not the case these days as the most popular distros work well right out of the box and feature interfaces that are as easy to navigate as Microsoft Windows XP.
In fact, slapping the right version of Linux on a netbook will speed up that tiny computer in a hurry. Bear in mind there’s no easy way to make a typical netbook lightning fast — you’ll still be driving an AMC Pacer in a world full of Mustangs, but it’s quite possible to make a netbook very useful. Would I get rid of my 64-bit Windows 7 laptop in favor of my Compaq Mini 100c? No, but that little Compaq is still a great system to take on the road, so why not spiff it up a bit?
For having already discussed installing Linux on a netbook, it’s time to talk about a couple of simple hardware modifications. Yes, it will cost around $50 for those modifications, but it’s money well spent.
First off, slapping another gigabyte of RAM in a netbook will result in a nice performance boost. While there are some netbooks out there that came standard with two gigabytes of RAM, the most common configuration for the mini laptops appears to be one gigabyte of RAM matched up with a single-core, Intel Atom CPU. You can’t do much about the CPU as it’s typically soldered to the motherboard in a laptop, but you can spend a few bucks and boost the RAM. In a lot of netbooks, the motherboard won’t support more than two gigabytes of RAM, so it’s a good idea to grab as much memory as the netbook can use.
A couple of words of caution are in order. Make sure to grab the RAM that your specific netbook will accept and bear in mind that netbooks with only one RAM slot (and that’s most of them, seemingly) can either take a 1 GB strip of memory or a 2 GB one. In most cases, then, you can’t simply add another stick of RAM to what you already have.
Another handy modification to a netbook is a six-cell battery Most netbooks come with a three-cell battery, so it’s easy to see how doubling the battery size will greatly increase the amount of time you can spend away from a charger. Of course, you need to get the new battery that fits your netbook and keep in mind that eBay is possibly the worst place to pick up a battery. I know this to be true as I wound up buying two of them on eBay — the first one charged up to about 80 percent capacity and the second one worked flawlessly but has a capacity of 4,400mAh instead of the advertised 5,200mAh. I figure I could have returned both of them, but they each cost about $15, so why bother?
At any rate, the 4,400mAh battery boosted my Compaqs battery life from about three hours under typical conditions to 6 hours. That battery life shrinks considerably when the computer is doing more complex tasks, but it will still stream two full movies over my wireless network before it needs to be recharged.
If you’re going to get a six-cell battery, keep in mind that it will stick out from the bottom of most netbooks. That’s not a bad thing as it does elevate the back of the netbook at an angle and that allows for better cooling.
So, there you have it. If you’re not pleased with the performance of your netbook, consider putting Linux on it, increasing the RAM and getting a bigger battery. Your netbook still won’t be blazing fast, but it will be more responsive and a lot more enjoyable.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.