Home network update Part 2: Laptop’s operating system upgrade

As mentioned earlier, I kept having issues with my home laptop. It is an entry-level Lenovo G550, with basic specs like 15,6-inch screen, Intel Celeron Dual Core T3100 CPU @ 1,9 GHz, 2048MB DDR3 RAM, a modest Intel GMA X4500 GPU and 250GB HD. The laptop is othing special, but obtained back in 2010 for serving basic tasks, such as web browsing, word pr

After a batch of recent updates, the laptop started freezing temporarily every now and then and I suspected the Internet Explorer update to version 11, as freezes occured while using the browser for watching YouTube video. Even though I use Chrome myself, my wife uses Explorer in her user account, so I had issues with that. Since I had never formatted/refreshed the laptop before, I decided to take some time, back everything up (a really time-consuming process, as there was not enough free space in the 2nd partition of the hard disk and the external one was not the fastest around) and re-install the original Windows 7 Home Premium. However, I remembered that I had purchased a Windows 8 Pro license some months ago to be used with my Acer 751h netbook, hoping that iy would bring some fresh air in the low-end hardware; however, due to the fact that the GMA500 GPU was not supported, I decided to uninstall Windows 8 and keep the license for another instance.

ocessing and  movies, among others. It has been through a lot during these years, such as frequent falling (my son liked to push it from the desk down to the floor), and it became rather sluggish over the years. It came with Windows 7 Home Premium which were never upgraded or formatted. It is the core of my home network, which also consists of my netbook (Acer 751h), a Lenovo A1 Android tablet and my LG Optimus 7 (E900) Windows Phone (7.8).

Installation was quick and easy; all hardware was correctly identified. However, I faced an issue with the license key: Despite the fact that it has long been inactive and uninstalled from my netbook, I was unable to activate my license in this case. I tried all methods I found online but the only one that actually worked was to call Microsoft’s line and follow the guidelines in order to get my license back again. In the end I managed to activate the license properly but still I was frustrated by the fact that I had to go through this process despite the fact that there were no two machines using the same license.

The next step was to update to Windows 8.1; I left my laptop working overnight for downloading and installing this large update. After that, I started setting up my software again (e.g. Google Chrome, 7zip, Dropbox/Sugarsync/Skydrive etc.) and everything seems to be working properly. I realized that there were some things still not working properly (e.g. Windows Experience Index missing, some distortion with the graphics and the lack of Aero functionalities). After uninstalling the GPU’s driver at least the distortions were minimized (if not totally eliminated). In addition, there was an issue with the touchpad (the part for scrolling up and down) which was also solved after installing some official drivers from the web).

Despite the fact that I have not used the laptop intensively during the last days, I have the impression that the laptop is more responsive now with Windows 8.1 compared to Windows 7 Home Premium. Maybe a re-install of Windows 7 would be sufficient but since I had the opportunity to try Windows 8 Pro. At least there are no freezes or lags yet so everyone seems to be happy with the update.

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(Re-) Installing Windows (and the required additional software)

I took some time during weekend to backup some things from my Acer Aspire One 751h, format the hard disk and re-install Windows, as it started being laggy and the hard disk kept reading and reading for long periods. In addition, there was a noticeable lagging in almost every function (e.g. Skype), which made the netbook almost unusuable in some cases (leading to several “Not Responding” messages. I had a dual booting system with Windows 7 Pro and Jolicloud installed, but I heard that Windows Home might be easier for my netbook to cope up with, having lower minimum requirements (even though I didn’t manage to confirm this statement from the Microsoft website). On the other hand, I rarely used Jolicloud (or Joli OS now) during the last months; despite them being advertised as an OS designed primarily for netbooks, it was too cloud-based for me and I found myself missing access to files etc. when I was working ofline. Joilicoud is one of the few Linux distributions with native support for the GMA500 of Acer 751h (which is a really problematic piece of hardware, when it comes to software support/drivers in both Windows and Linux), but I was not ready to

So, this time I went for the Windows Home Premium. Installation was pretty snappy, using a bootable USB with Windows 7 that I had created some time ago.

In the meantime, I tried to install an alternative OS, Zorin OS, which is considered as the Linux distribution closest to Windows interface, so I thought that it might be handy. I downloaded the free version, created a bootable USB stick with UNetbootin Even though the interface was really close to Windows (so familiar), there was no native support for GMA500, so I had to quit it really soon. Unofrtunately I do not have the time nor the knowledge to tweak any Linux settings on my own…

The netbook seems more responsive now, and I started installing my favourite freeware apps in order to bring it closer to my needs:

A, System addons:

  1. Java: A must for the system, as a lot of web sites are depending on Java.
  2. Flash/Shockwave player: Flash installation is not needed when using Chrome, as it is integrated in the system. On the other hand, Shockwave Player is a must, especially in some social networking sites.
  3. MS Sliverlight: Just in case it is needed for the playback of videos in some web sites. Makes video playback smooth.

B. Apps

  1. Google Chrome: I went for the Chrome when I realized how sluggish was Firefox a couple of years ago. Through the years I appreciated the speed and simplicity of Chrome and I have become a fan since then!
  2. 7zip: A must for handling compressed files. It is free, with friendly user interface and minimum user intervention.
  3. GOM Media Player: A great video player, especially for low-end machines like my netbook. Customizable, supporting a wide variety of formats through internal codecs, while additional codecs can be downloaded for free, if needed.
  4. Filehippo: Helps me keep my apps updated. The utility is small and quick.
  5. DriverMax: Helps me keep my drivers updates. I am not sure about how it works, but I get some updated versions of drivers every now and then.
  6. Windows Mobile Device Center: For syncing my Windows Mobile phone (an HTC Touch HD featuring a kwbr WM6.5 ROM)
  7. Dropbox:  For keeping my precious working documents synced between my various computers. I currently managed to have 3GB of space there.
  8. Sugarsync: For keeping my precious working documents, as the 3GB of Dropbox are not enough. I think I currently have 5GB of space in Sugarsync.
  9. Irfanview: A great image viewing and editing app. It is small, light and has a comprehensive package of plugins.
  10. Foxit Reader: A lightweight PDF reader with a lot of useful options (e.g. commenting, post-it notes etc.). I prefer it over the official Adobe Reader app (which is really chunky) but it seems to have issues when it comes to online forms and submitted forms.
  11. Bullzip PDF printer: A great app that allows the conversion of almost all file types to PDF through the Print option.
  12. CCleaner: Helps me keep my hard disk clean and free of temp files. You would be surprised by the amount of space allocated to temp files in your computer. It also clean the registry, by removing useless entries.
  13. Skype: A must for communicating with colleagues and family. Even though I was an old and loyal MS Messenger user, it seems that almost everyone has migrated to Skype (Messenger has even dropped the option for video calls). Using Skype for internal office communication and online meetings with colleagues is really often.

(Re-) Installing Windows (and the required additional software)

I took some time during weekend to backup some things from my Acer Aspire One 751h, format the hard disk and re-install Windows, as it started being laggy and the hard disk kept reading and reading for long periods. In addition, there was a noticeable lagging in almost every function (e.g. Skype), which made the netbook almost unusuable in some cases (leading to several “Not Responding” messages. I had a dual booting system with Windows 7 Pro and Jolicloud installed, but I heard that Windows Home might be easier for my netbook to cope up with, having lower minimum requirements (even though I didn’t manage to confirm this statement from the Microsoft website). On the other hand, I rarely used Jolicloud (or Joli OS now) during the last months; despite it being advertised as an OS designed primarily for netbooks (and it is indeed really user friendly and responsive), it was too cloud-based for me and I found myself missing access to files etc. when I was working ofline. Joilicoud is one of the few Linux distributions with native support for the GMA500 of Acer 751h (which is a really problematic piece of hardware, when it comes to software support/drivers in both Windows and Linux), but I was not ready to migrate to a solution other than MS Office at the moment.

In the meantime, I tried to install an alternative OS, Zorin OS, which is considered as the Linux distribution closest to Windows interface, so I thought that it might be handy. I downloaded the free version, created a bootable USB stick with UNetbootin Even though the interface was really close to Windows (so familiar), there was no native support for GMA500, so I had to quit it really soon. Unofrtunately I do not have the time nor the knowledge to tweak any Linux settings on my own…

So, this time I went for the Windows Home Premium. Installation was pretty snappy, using a bootable USB with Windows 7 that I had created some time ago. The netbook seems more responsive now, and I started installing my favourite freeware apps in order to bring it closer to my needs:

A, System addons:

  1. Java: A must for the system, as a lot of web sites are depending on Java.
  2. Flash/Shockwave player: Flash installation is not needed when using Chrome, as it is integrated in the system. On the other hand, Shockwave Player is a must, especially in some social networking sites.
  3. MS Sliverlight: Just in case it is needed for the playback of videos in some web sites. Makes video playback smooth.

B. Apps

  1. Google Chrome: I went for the Chrome when I realized how sluggish was Firefox a couple of years ago. Through the years I appreciated the speed and simplicity of Chrome and I have become a fan since then!
  2. 7zip: A must for handling compressed files. It is free, with friendly user interface and minimum user intervention.
  3. GOM Media Player: A great video player, especially for low-end machines like my netbook. Customizable, supporting a wide variety of formats through internal codecs, while additional codecs can be downloaded for free, if needed.
  4. Filehippo: Helps me keep my apps updated. The utility is small and quick.
  5. DriverMax: Helps me keep my drivers updates. I am not sure about how it works, but I get some updated versions of drivers every now and then.
  6. Windows Mobile Device Center: For syncing my Windows Mobile phone (an HTC Touch HD featuring a kwbr WM6.5 ROM)
  7. Dropbox:  For keeping my precious working documents synced between my various computers. I currently managed to have 3GB of space there.
  8. Sugarsync: For keeping my precious working documents, as the 3GB of Dropbox are not enough. I think I currently have 5GB of space in Sugarsync.
  9. Irfanview: A great image viewing and editing app. It is small, light and has a comprehensive package of plugins.
  10. Foxit Reader: A lightweight PDF reader with a lot of useful options (e.g. commenting, post-it notes etc.). I prefer it over the official Adobe Reader app (which is really chunky) but it seems to have issues when it comes to online forms and submitted forms.
  11. Bullzip PDF printer: A great app that allows the conversion of almost all file types to PDF through the Print option.
  12. CCleaner: Helps me keep my hard disk clean and free of temp files. You would be surprised by the amount of space allocated to temp files in your computer. It also clean the registry, by removing useless entries.
  13. Skype: A must for communicating with colleagues and family. Even though I was an old and loyal MS Messenger user, it seems that almost everyone has migrated to Skype (Messenger has even dropped the option for video calls). Using Skype for internal office communication and online meetings with colleagues is really often.