Consumer Electronics Show 2012 Preview

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the one time a year where consumer electronics and other gadgetry hits an all-time high. The entire technology industry converges in Las Vegas, Nevada for a week of press events, unveilings and demonstrations of the latest toys and concepts that have yet to hit the public market. Needless to say, it’s the craziest time of the year for anyone that’s into technology.

CES 2012 will officially run from Tuesday, January 10th to Friday, January 13th, but we guarantee that much will occur a couple of days before the official opening, including the opening keynote. Many companies will also be hosting their own private press events days before CES actually begins.

So what kind of things should we expect to see at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show? Fortunately, there’s never been a moment when a CES preview has put me to sleep and this year is no different. Here are some of the important highlights of what we should expect at CES 2012.

Windows 8

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will once again be giving the opening keynote of CES 2012, and you can bet that he’ll be using the allotted time to discuss Microsoft’s most recent project, Windows 8. It’s rumored that Ballmer and company will be publicly releasing a second beta of Windows 8 at CES 2012. Ballmer also might be showing off a handful of ARM and Intel-based Windows 8 tablets that will end up launching later in 2012. Also, you should expect the Microsoft CEO to talk at least a little about the Xbox 360 and some of its recent updates as well as future plans for the console.

Microsoft has also announced that CES 2012 will be their last major appearance. This will be their last keynote and they won’t be setting up a booth on the show floor, but they did say that they will still attend CES “to connect with partners and customers across the PC, phone and entertainment industries.” Just don’t expect any big things from them at CES in the future.

Ultrabooks

Trademarked by Intel, the term “Ultrabook” refers to a very thin and lightweight laptop, similar to a MacBook Air. Be assured that Intel is hitting the ground running with this (and has been the past few months) to try to prevent rising competition from ARM-based tablets, so we’ll probably see a lot of Ultrabooks being announced at CES by companies like Asus, Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba.

Android Devices

In all honesty, I will be absolutely surprised and appalled if Android conversation doesn’t come up at least a few times throughout CES 2012. However, I don’t think that will be a problem at all.  We should expect to see faster Ice Cream Sandwich devices being unveiled, as well as just as much hype of 4G LTE as last year.

As usual though, all of the big mobile phone contenders will be at CES 2012 in some fashion or another. However, Motorola has, in fact, cancelled their press conference (but will still have a booth on the floor) and HTC has yet to schedule their own presser.

Gaming

Both Sony and Nintendo will be strutting their stuff at CES this year. Sony will be putting their PlayStation Vita on display, as well as a few games to check out. As far as the PlayStation 3, Sony will most likely continue to delve into the 3D portions of the console, so don’t expect the 3D fad from last year’s CES to die off just yet.

Nintendo will apparently be alive and well at CES this year. Their current project, the Wii U, will be making its second appearance at CES 2012; its first appearance was at E3 2011 back in June. CES goers should be able to get a more thorough hands-on session with the console this time around.

Other Fun Stuff

– Nokia’s having their press conference on Monday the 9th and from the looks of their invitation, we’re going to take a shot in the dark and say that they just might be discussing Windows Phone. Some brand new devices, perhaps?

– Nvidia has also scheduled their press conference for the 9th, which leaves the door wide open for speculation of a Tegra 3 announcement.

– Google TV might be a talking point at CES 2012. It’s even been rumored that LG plans to unveil a Google TV-ified television sometime that week.

– Car tech will most likely be a hot topic at CES 2012, since the big wigs at both Mercedes-Benz and Ford will be there to give keynotes.

Keep an eye on Techerator for full upcoming coverage of CES 2012!

Image Credit: TechCocktail, chialinshih, blogeee, Sham Hardy

Why I Ditched My Netbook for an iPad

When the iPad 2 came out, I was extremely tempted to get a used or refurbished 1st-gen iPad which are currently selling for around $350 on eBay (dirt cheap for an iPad,) but in the end I forced myself to just stick with my netbook. The biggest problem was that the iPad wasn’t meant as a productivity tool (or at least people didn’t use it that way), but I kept thinking about the possibility and after some more thorough research, I ended up purchasing a used 1st-gen iPad and sold my netbook. Here’s why.

iPad Office Suites Do Exist

The iPad actually has quite a few options when it comes to office suites, which is really all I’m concerned about as far as productivity. iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers), Documents To Go and Quickoffice are just a few options that pop into my head. If it’s a free solution that you’re looking for, Google Docs is pretty much all you need. Personally, I ended up getting Quickoffice since it seamlessly supports Dropbox (which I use religiously).

I haven’t had the need for the keyboard dock yet, but I’m sure I’ll get one sooner or later when I end up having to crank out a large document on the road.

iPads Are Extremely Portable

I once thought netbooks were the closest to portability that anyone could get. Boy, was I wrong. Very wrong. The iPad is a device I can easily bust out of my bag and start playing with immediately. My netbook, on the other hand, took a little bit more work to get up and running, including waiting a few minutes for it to boot up and connect to Wi-Fi before I could really do anything.

I also don’t need to lug around that annoying AC adapter brick. There have been times when I would simply just let my netbook die because messing with the AC adapter would have just been a pain. Laziness on my part? Maybe, but with the iPad, all that’s needed is a convenient USB cable and the tiny wall adapter.

iPads Are Faster

Even though iPads have a slower-clocked processor (1GHz compared to the 1.8GHz dual-core my netbook had,) the lightweight OS of the iPad means that applications load way faster than they would on any netbook.

iPads Have Incredible Battery Life

The first-gen iPad’s battery life clocks in at around 10 hours according to Apple, but tech review site Tested did their own test and were able to get almost 16 hours of non-stop video playback. My netbook usually mustered up only a measly five hours of juice — six hours tops.

Weaknesses of iPads (and Overcoming Them)

Obviously (and unfortunately) the iPad isn’t awesome at everything. There are still some downsides of Apple’s tablet that don’t make it an adequate option for a handful of on-the-go users. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that the iPad doesn’t have any other ports besides the 30-pin connector and the headphone jack — in other words, the iPad lacks USB. To this I say, “the cloud is your friend.” Take advantage of Dropbox, Google Docs, iDisk or any other cloud-based service. You’ll end up quickly forgetting about flash drives and external storage (at least I did.)

In the end, the simple fact is that there are things that you’ll just have to sacrifice for portability in general. It’s not just with tablets, but with any netbook or laptop. You won’t be able to run specialized software or have a full-sized physical keyboard with a mouse. The browsing experience won’t be as solid as if you were on a desktop and you won’t have some of the advanced features of a desktop with you while you’re on the go. That’s simply the nature of the [portable] beast.

I’m interested to hear what thoughts you have for using an iPad/tablet over a netbook or laptop (or not). Shout ’em out in the comments!

Image Courtesy: Yagan Kiely



Chrome OS: Even your mom will like it

Last week after work, I came home to find a package slip from UPS stuck to my door.  This was a bit odd because I wasn’t expecting any deliveries. Always one to take advantage of a misdelivered box of goodies, I headed to the UPS shipping center to check things out.

The serviceman came out of the back room with a box with my name on it. So far so good. It was pretty heavy, but what was in this mysterious package from Kentucky?

Fully accepting the possibility of anthrax, I ripped into the package and I’m sure the moments after were something straight out of a movie: camera on me as a golden light emits from the box as I sit there spellbound, a crazy smile curling onto my face.

Holy guacamole. I was selected for Google Chrome OS pilot program.

I do want to emphasize the surprise factor here. I had applied for its program very early into the registration period and heard absolutely nothing from Google since. Fast forward several weeks, and this nearly no-strings-attached netbook lands at my front door.

At any rate, thanks, Google. I’ll disperse my initial impressions….now.

First Contact: Hardware and Appearance

Ok, I know the whole point of the Pilot Program isn’t to analyze the computer itself, but I have to acknowledge that the hardware and OS combine into one fancy little unit. For starters, the netbook features a sharp and bright 12.1” display and embedded microphone and web-cam. Under the hood, you have a 1.66 GHz Intel Atom processor (which I’ve heard will be upgraded in later models). The unit also features standard wi-fi and not-so-standard 3G built in.

Before even turning this thing on, I was impressed by the general layout and understated look of this device. All black and relatively featureless, this netbook is chic enough to get some puzzled looks. I’ve been asked by complete strangers on three separate occasions, “What kind of netbook is that?” by people who could see no discerning logos or decals. Two people thought it was a tiny MacBook because of the keyboard layout and large touch-pad (that’s right, it’s one giant button).

I was getting a good vibe from the Cr-48 before I even turned it on.

Chrome OS: Features and Usability

Before I say anything else, I should point out that I’ve been using Chrome OS for a week now and it is very hard to tell that it is part of a pilot program. It’s a very polished, simple OS that appears to operate just as Google intended. The operating system is a very direct interpretation of the Chrome browser, and because I’ve been using Chrome for my web activity for several months already, there was zero learning curve from the moment I opened the lid on this baby.

Login and Setup

User log-in is streamlined in that all of your Chrome OS activity is through your existing Google Account. I logged in without a problem, and bam, I was presented with a blank tab of a fresh browser and positively nothing else. My bookmarks and extensions synced automatically and I was impressed by the turn-key mechanism of it all.

Wi-fi vs. Verizon 3G

After my login, my connection to the Internet through my wi-fi router was a little wonky. There were brief connectivity interruptions, and then my University’s authentication system seemed to be incompatible at times with Chrome OS — the authentication web page would spit out a bunch of garbage rather than its usual log-in screen. This sort of problem seems to be isolated only to users that are forced to log-in through SafeConnect (as my University requires) because I experienced no wireless connectivity problems at my local coffee shop.

Until I received this netbook, I had never dealt with a 3G device that wasn’t a smart-phone. I didn’t pay much attention to the 3G card inside until a few days ago when I was stuck in a medical school late at night with a malfunctioning wireless network. I decided to check out the details for the Verizon Wireless connection and was surprised to find a FREE option. This option allows you 100 MB per month of data, which is nothing amazing (I used mine in a few days), but certainly a good safety net in the event you’re stranded in the woods and need to tell people on Facebook that “Forests are lame [sadface]”.

User Experience

My first week with Chrome OS has been free of both headaches and frills. Google has polished this OS to be a spittin’ image of the browser, and that’s a good thing if you just want to surf the internet, do some simple business tricks, and get on with your life. For those that like to delve into customizing and optimizing their configuration, this may be a bit frustrating. Your configuration options are limited to touch-pad sensitivity, language, privacy, and a few other odds and ends.

Very, very basic configurable system settings.

All of the basics of web surfing operate exactly as you’d expect with Chrome OS. Tabs function just as they do in the Chrome browser, and there are very few surprises when it comes to e-application functionality. There are a few hiccups with Adobe Flash, as some websites utilizing the web-cam don’t function correctly (Facebook and Cameroid).

Perhaps the biggest adjustment I had to make in using this netbook was with the file system. Google is de-emphasizing local storage, so it isn’t surprising that the file space is as simple as a single folder. This isn’t a bad thing for most people, as many Windows configurations can confuse casual users when they can’t effectively navigate through the folder arrangement of their PC.

That tiny window is the entire file manager.

Another perk I’ve noticed with Chrome OS is how snappy things are. When you turn it on, a few seconds later you’re at the login page. You close the lid, it’s instantly asleep, and just as quickly it wakes. You plug in a USB mouse and there is no dialog about drivers — it just works! That seems to be the major theme with this OS.

The keyboard possesses some different features that make for a more user-friendly experience. There is no caps-lock; instead, there is a “search” button that when pressed brings up a fresh tab for your query. In addition, the keyboard has a “full screen” button to quickly rid yourself of distracting tabs at the top of the screen and increase your viewing area. Finally, there is a “change window” button that lets you quickly change between different sets of tabs. For example, if you open a boat load of tabs, many will be loaded outside of the viewable screen. Simply press the “change window” button to view them.

See the magnifying glass? Press it for a new search window.

Conclusion

After using Chrome OS, I can honestly say I’m surprised by how well everything works. I expected to be reporting bugs to the Google team every day, and I’ve only reported two so far (a flickering screen at login and problems that are probably the fault of my University). I enjoy the streamlined experience that Chrome OS offers for mobile computing. There isn’t much to fiddle around with, so I find myself much more efficient with my time on this netbook. Heck, I’ve even started using Google Docs with great success despite not being much of a fan until now.

If I had to state my biggest problem with Chrome OS, I would say that it is not yet capable of streaming movies from Netflix. I suspect this has something to do with Silverlight, a Microsoft technology similar to Adobe Flash, but Netflix is ensuring all Chrome OS users that the problem will be short-lived by saying:

We’re working with Google to ensure that Chrome Notebook users can instantly watch TV shows and movies from Netflix.”

Yeah, Netflix…but what do I do in the meantime? I don’t think you’ve heard yet that we, as a generation, have come to expect certain things.

WHAT?! *cries* Netflix does not work with Chrome notebooks....yet.

Overall, the Chrome OS has been a joy to use. The operating system of a computer should provide a platform for your software without intrusion, and that is just what Google has accomplished. The transition for Windows-based Chrome browsing to Chrome OS has been easy as pie, and I’ve seriously considered giving this netbook to my completely computer illiterate mother when I’ve finished thoroughly testing it. There simply isn’t anything here that can confuse her or any other infrequent computer user.

Time will tell, but I think Google will burst onto the scene with great reviews when Chrome OS is released later this year. It’s not for heavy computing, but that really isn’t the point. People that use Chrome OS for the lightweight internet platform that it is intended to be will be impressed.

5 Reasons Why A Netbook May Be Right For You

With their initial release in late 2007, netbooks are quickly becoming a large part of today’s line of consumer computers.  It is estimated that netbooks now make up 20% of new PC orders (MaximumPC).  I recently purchased my first netbook and have thoroughly enjoyed using it for the reasons I’ll explain in this guide.

I often get several questions when using my netbook such as “Why is that laptop so tiny?” and “What kind of programs can you run on a computer that small?”  I have put together a short list of reasons why I would recommend someone to consider purchasing a netbook.

Portability

Portability is the biggest factor when considering netbook.  With their small size and minimal weight, netbooks are ideal for people always on the move.  Some common places to use your netbook include while traveling, in a backpack for school, or just sitting on the couch watching TV.

Long Battery Life

Netbooks often remove power-hungry components that are found in a standard size laptop.  Many netbooks offer highly efficient processors such as the Intel Atom, which allows for even greater battery life when compared to other mobile processors.  The smaller screen size also makes a difference when looking at total battery life.

Compatibility

Netbooks originally started off as a Linux product and many Linux distributions offer a optimized version of their operating system specifically for netbooks.  With the increased popularity of netbooks, however, Windows XP is estimated to be on 90% of netbooks sold (PCWorld).  This means you can use all the software you use on your desktop without converting any files or switching operating systems.

Speed

Netbooks originally received their moniker because they had poor hardware specifications and were primarily intended to browse the internet.  While netbooks still can’t compete with a full-fledged desktop system for processing power, most modern netbooks come with fast processors and 1+GB of RAM, all of which is more than capable of running all modern software packages.  You probably won’t be playing any games on these types of machines, though.

Size

A major advantage of a netbook is its physical size.  Most netbooks will have an 8 to 12 inch screen.  This smaller size makes netbooks great for taking them anywhere, and with a a smaller physical size comes a lighter device.  Most netbooks weigh right around 2-5 lbs.

Are you interested in purchasing a netbook?  Do you think they are just a fad or are they here to stay?  Let us know by commenting below.

Checkout more of our articles on netbooks here.

EeePC 900A: Add More Hard Drive Space with a SDHC Card

If you’re looking for a small, cheap, and powerful netbook, the Asus Eee PC 900A is a great buy. Included by default in the 900A is a 4GB solid state hard drive (called a SSD).

Although the SSD is large enough to run the included Xandros Linux operating system, you may find yourself running into storage space limitations if you install a mainstream flavor of Linux.  (Note: I am focusing on Linux because the 4 GB SSD is nowhere near enough space for any Windows version after Windows XP.)

A great way to add storage space at a low cost is to take advantage of the removable card slot on the 900A by purchasing an SDHC card like this 16 GB SDHC card.

Once you have inserted the card into the card reader you can install your chosen Linux distro.  Since the 900A does not have an optical drive, you’ll have to install Linux from a USB flash drive.  When installing the OS on this system, it is important to have a good partitioning scheme otherwise your netbook may experience performance issues due to the decreased transfer speed of the SDHC slot.

I have found that the partition scheme described below works quite well for both the Fedora and Ubuntu Linux distros.

4 GB SSD
4 GB SSD
16 GB SDHC
16 GB SDHC

Partition Scheme Explanation

/boot

  • It is common practice to place the boot partition at the beginning of the first drive.  100 MB is enough space for the boot loader and the Linux kernel. I recommend using the ext3 file system for this partition because the GRUB boot loader could experience compatability problems with the newer ext4 file system.

/usr

  • This is the Linux equivalent of Program Files in the Windows OS.  Placing /usr on the faster SSD will greatly increase system performance.  3.9 GB could be a restriction but it is unlikely considering the few applications that are commonly used on a netbook.  The ext4 file system is used since its read and write speeds are greatly increased over ext3.

/

  • The rest of the OS file system will remain here.  Since the “Program Files” of the Linux OS are on the /usr partition, mostly small text and configuration files remain and are easily accessed on the SDHC card.  Ext4 is used for root due to its increased read and write speeds.

swap

  • You’d think that since swap space is the use of the physical disk space as extra RAM, that you would want to place it on the faster drive.  While I do agree with this practice, I believe that in the case of a netbook is different.  The 900A comes with 1 GB of RAM.  If you are using more than 1 GB of RAM on a netbook, you probably have too many programs open or are using the system too hard.  It is important to have swap space available to Linux in the case you do use all of the available RAM to prevent a hard system crash.

I have been using the above partition scheme on my Asus Eee PC 900A using Fedora for a few months now and have not experienced any problems.  My partition scheme is only one of the many possible.

What do you think of this configuration?  Have you tried other partition configurations?  Let us know by commenting below.

Essential Add-ons for Firefox #3: Netbook Edition

firefox_addons_poweruser_thumbIn the third edition of our Essential Add-ons for Firefox series, I’ll be showing you how to maximize your usable workspace in Firefox.  This is especially useful for netbooks, which have small displays and typically offer a very limited amount of vertical space.

The goal of this guide is to free up as much vertical space as possible and put a clear focus on the most important part of your netbook: browsing the internet.

Personal Menu

firefox_addons_poweruser_personalmenuPersonal Menu allows you to completely remove the standard Firefox menu toolbar which frees up valuable vertical space.  This add-on creates a series of buttons to the right of the address bar (similar to Chrome and Internet Explorer 7/8), which contain your bookmarks, history, and one fully customizable menu.  I edited my custom menu to contain standard menu items (File, Edit, View, Tools) and also a handy “Restart Firefox” item.

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Tree Style Tabs

treestyletab_thumbTree Style Tabs converts your horizonal tab bar into a vertical column with a tree-style hierarchy.  Not only does this add-on give you great control over your tabs, you also save valuable vertical space by removing the standard horizontal bar.  If you want more horizontal space with this add-on, it can be set to automatically hide.

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Omnibar

essential-addons-netbook-omnibarIf Google Chrome has shown us one thing, it’s that a browser doesn’t need a separate bar to perform a web search; it can be combined with the standard address bar.  The Omnibar add-on for Firefox does just that, and gives you intelligent results based on what you are typing into the address bar.

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Smart Stop/Reload

essential-addons-netbook-smartstopreloadTo save some additional space in your browser’s toolbar, the Smart Stop/Reload add-on combines the refresh and stop buttons into one intelligent button (you can’t press them at the same time anyway, right?).

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Fission

essential-addons-netbook-fissionQuite possibly one of the most useful add-ons on this list, Fission removes the status bar at the bottom of your browser and places it in the address bar instead.  The address bar will then display page loading status with an optional progress bar (Safari style) and can also display links when you hover your mouse over them.  Be sure to check out the settings for this add-on (under Tools -> Addons) and customize it to your liking.

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Honorable Mention

autoHideStatusbar – This add-on can be used in place of Fission to automatically hide your status bar when it isn’t needed (like Chrome).  Please note that this add-on is still considered “experimental” and has not been extensively tested by the Mozilla community.

Tiny Menu – Similar to Personal Menu, Tiny Menu combines Firefox’s menu toolbar into one button on your toolbar.

Additional Browser Tips for Netbooks

Small Toolbar Icons – You can save quite a bit of space in your browser’s toolbar by making your toolbar icons smaller.  To do this, go to View -> Toolbars -> Customize and check the Use Small Icons button at the bottom.

Remove Bookmarks Toolbar – I know it’s handy, but those vertical pixels can be better used for browsing the internet.  With the Personal Menu add-on, all of your bookmarks (including your bookmarks toolbar) are available from a toolbar button.  To remove Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar, go to View -> Toolbars and deselect Bookmarks Toolbar.

Browsing in Full Screen – You can enter full screen browsing mode by pressing F11 on your keyboard or going to View -> Full Screen.  This will turn your entire screen into a browser window.

firefox-collections-logo
If you’d like to install all of the add-ons in the Techerator Essential Add-ons for Firefox #3: Netbook Edition pack, check out our Firefox Collections site.

For more great add-ons, check out Essential Add-ons for Firefox #1: Power User Edition and Essential Add-ons for Firefox #2: Socialite Edition.

Have any add-ons that improve browsing on your netbook or laptop? Share them with us in the comments!

How to Install Linux from a USB Flash Drive

usb-flash-driveSince many ultra-portable laptops (commonly known as netbooks) do not come equipped with optical drives, users are typically forced to purchase an external optical drive to install an operating system such as Linux.  In this guide, I’ll show you how to easily install a Linux operating system with a USB flash drive and a piece of software called UNetbootin.

If you want to install Windows instead, check out our previous guide: How to Install Windows from a USB Flash Drive.

UNetbootin, which stands for Universal Netbook Installer, is a program for Windows and Linux that can create a bootable USB drive for many Linux distributions.  UNetbootin can not only use an existing disc image (.iso) to create a bootable USB drive, it can also download dozens of Linux distributions through a handy dropdown menu.

Step One – Installation

Download and install UNetbootin.  When you open the program, you will presented with the following window:

unetbootin-linux

Step Two – Select a Linux Distribution

UNetbootin can automatically download dozens of Linux distributions.  With the Distribution button selected, use the dropdown menus to choose your favorite distribution and version of Linux.  Be sure to read the installation notes if they are available.

If you already have a Linux disc image (.iso) downloaded, click the Diskimage button and select the image file.

Step Three – Formatting the USB Drive

At the bottom of the main screen, verify that USB Drive is selected and then select the drive you would like to use (Note: All data will be lost on the selected drive).  When you are ready to create the bootable USB drive, click the OK button.  If you chose to download a Linux distribution in Step Two, the duration will vary based upon your internet connection speed.

Once the process has finished, you can now use your USB flash drive to install Linux.

Using the USB Boot Drive

Most modern computers support using USB drives as a boot device, but if yours does not you can check your manufacturer’s support site to see if a BIOS update is available.  To set your USB drive as a boot device, you can typically press the ESC key just as your computer turns on and select the drive from a list.

If pressing the ESC key doesn’t work, you may have to enter your computer’s BIOS to manually set the drive as a boot device. You can typically access your computer’s BIOS by pressing DEL, F2, F10, or F12 at system startup, but refer to your manufacturer’s support information for more details.

Installing an operating system from a USB flash drive is much faster than using an optical disc.  In our tests, we were able to install Ubuntu in less than six minutes which is much faster than performing an installation with a LiveCD.

Have a better method of installing Linux on your computer?  Let us know by commenting below.

How to Install Windows from a USB Flash Drive

usb-flash-driveNetbooks, which are ultra-portable laptops, have exploded in popularity due to their small size and ease of use.  Unfortunately, that tiny form factor comes with some drawbacks – most netbooks don’t come equipped with an optical drive.  This means that most users are stuck with the operating system that was installed by the manufacturer.

Luckily, Windows 7, XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 can be installed from a USB flash drive with a few simple steps.  In this guide, I’ll be using a program called WinToFlash to create a bootable USB drive for Windows 7.

Prerequisites

  • A Windows installation disc or disc image (.iso)
    • If you have downloaded a Windows installation disc (such as the Windows 7 Beta or RC), you should already have the .iso file.
    • If you have a physical installation disc, skip to Step 2.
  • A USB flash drive – minimum 3 GB.

Step 1:  Extract the Windows .iso

win7-thumbdrive-extract7zipIf you have an installation disc image (.iso), that file contains all of the files from the Windows installation disc.  To extract these files, download and install 7-Zip (free) and browse to the location of your Windows .iso in the file browser.  Click ‘Extract’ and wait while the files are expanded.

Step 2:  Processing Installation Files with WinToFlash

Download the latest version WinToFlash and extract the files.  Open WinToFlash.exe and click the ‘Windows setup transfer wizard’ button to get started.

win7-thumbdrive-wizard

After clicking Next, you need to select the path to your Windows installation files and your USB drive.  If you have a Windows installation disc, select your optical drive.  If you had an .iso image, choose the location where you extracted the files from Step 1.

win7-thumbdrive-select

WinToFlash will configure your USB drive and transfer all installation files.  This will take approximately 5-10 minutes.

win7-thumbdrive-processing

Once the process has finished, you will receive an “All done” message.  Click Exit to close the application, and your USB drive will now contain a bootable version of your Windows installation files.

Step 3:  Install Windows

Now that you have your USB drive prepped and ready to go, you need to set your netbook to use your USB drive as the primary boot device.  This can be done by accessing your computer’s BIOS by tapping the key your manufacturer specifies (typically Delete or a function key like F2) just as your computer starts.

In my instance, I had to go to the Boot tab and select ‘Hard Disk Drives’ first to set my USB drive (listed as USB:SanDisk Cruzer) in the 1st Drive field.  I then had to go back to the Boot Settings menu and open ‘Boot Device Priority’ to set the USB:SanDisk Cruzer drive in the 1st Boot Device field.

win7-thumbdrive-bios

Note: While most newer computers support USB drives as a boot device, some older models may not.  Refer to your manufacturer’s support information or check if an update to your BIOS is available.

After setting the USB drive as your primary boot device, save your changes (typically with F10) and restart your computer.  While booting up you may see a message to “Press any key to continue…”.  You can now proceed through the Windows installation like usual, and once the installation is finished be sure to go back into your BIOS and change your settings back to the way they were originally.

Have another method to install Windows on a netbook?  Share it with us in the comments!