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ye olde dell inspiron mini 10v

Nerdy computer article time.

Back in August 2009 I bought a refurb Dell Inspiron mini 10v. I still own it because heck, it still works fine. And in fact, I'm surprised they even hold over $100 value used on eBay. Yep, it's only got a 1.6GHz CPU, just 1GB of RAM and a "small" 160GB hard drive, but it gets the job done. I will give credit where its due as the unit was built very well. In fact, it's the best built laptop I've ever owned.

The only OS that runs right on the mini is Windows XP. Every now and then I'll have the not-so bright idea of putting Linux on the mini, so I do, quickly realize it was a mistake (which it is every time) and go straight back to XP mainly because the wireless support for the card in the mini sucks in Linux and always has. Yes, it works, but under Linux the wireless connection keeps dropping constantly for basically no reason, whereas under XP it never drops. That, and Linux actually runs slower than XP does due to it being so damned chunky these days.

I run an XP installation that's so barebones that it's almost borderline ridiculous. But the end result is a really quick boot and provides a speedy browsing experience even with the latest Firefox 21.

Before I tell you how I run my dinosaur XP install, a word of caution: Don't run XP like I run it. I run it "dangerous" on purpose to get the most speed out of it.

The way I run my XP is with Service Pack 2. I do not run SP3 because I know that slows down XP. I also have a bunch of system services disabled, including but not limited to Windows Firewall, Themes, Help & Support, Automatic Updates, Error Reporting Service, Task Scheduler (which doesn't work in XP anyway) and a few more. It's like I said, I'm purposely running the laptop "dangerous", but wow what a fast system it is once you disable all the crap you don't need.

The total time it takes to get to a login screen from the moment you hit the power button is under 30 seconds, which for XP running off a platter-based HDD is amazing. If there were an SSD under the hood of this thing it would probably be less than 10 seconds, given the way I run the OS.

As for why I haven't bumped the mini up to 2GB RAM (which it does support), the answer is that it's a huge pain in the ass to take apart, and that's basically the biggest flaw with the design. The RAM is not accessible via a panel on the bottom. Looks like it is, but it's not. The whole unit has to be cracked apart just to get to the RAM slot on the 1011 model, which is what I have. And it's a freakin' nightmare:

When you watch that video you'll totally understand why I never did the RAM upgrade. It's not that I can't do it, it's just that the diassembling process is such a pain in the ass. And to be honest, it's just not worth my time to do so. Besides which, on a 1.6GHz Atom CPU there is not really any noticable difference between 1 and 2GB RAM.

Small side note: If you ever wanted to buy a Dell mini 10, make damned sure it has the 2GB in it so you don't have to do the upgrade yourself. It's a really good little laptop, but yeah, that RAM upgrade process is just such a deal-breaker. Horrible internal design for something that should be so simple.

Now I could, if I wanted to, upgrade the mini to Windows 7, as I do in fact have an upgrade license I'm not using currently. And for a time during the Win7 trial beta period, I did run that OS on the mini, and it ran flawlessly even with just 1GB RAM. The battery life also increased and I was able to get an extra 30 minutes of charge out of it due to Win7's superior power management (yes, really).

I'm debating whether or not to do the OS upgrade, and might, because heck, why not. The other Win7 licenses I have on my other laptops are all OEM-based.

However, the only reason I have to run Win7 is for the extra battery life and not much else. Well, actually yes, there is one other reason. With Win7 I don't have to use any of Dell's proprietary drivers as Win7 supports everything in the 10v right out-of-the-box, so to speak. When you can run Windows that's 3rd-party-driver-free, that makes for a rock-solid and stable system.

For now, the XP that's on the mini runs fine. I might put 7 on it just for kicks later on.

[update]

I decided to go ahead and put Win7 Home Premium on the mini. However, I forgot that the disc version I have (yes, I actually used the DVD) is pre-SP1. Although the installation went through with no problems at all, I'm basically just letting it sit there and downloading/installing a ton of updates, and that involves three "rounds". The first round is getting all the pre-SP1 updates. The second round is SP1 itself. And the third round is all the post-SP1 updates. All this involves is just updating, letting it reboot 4 million times and eventually it all gets completed. And if you wanted to add a 4th round in there, that's just add-on stuff like Windows Live Suite and IE10.

Compared to XP, I can run Win7 "stock" and it will still boot and run quick, with the only thing changed being the theme switchover to "Classic Windows" because there's no reason to run Aero Glass on a netbook. Actually, there's no reason to run Aero at all as it's just fancy window dress, but you get what I mean.

For those of you who would ask, "Why bother with all that crapola?", the answer is simple. The mini 10v, while a bit on the slow side serves two very good purposes. First, in a pinch it's a great backup laptop. And second, it is the laptop I prefer to take with me whenever traveling anywhere that I need a computer, because not only does it run all that I need, the battery life is really good and is 100% undesirable as far as theft is concerned. In other words, no thief would want to steal an old Dell Inspiron mini because the only people who actually like the little notebook are nerdy people like myself. 🙂

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