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How-To: Upgrade Your Netbook, Easily

Test Netbook Specs

Both of these netbooks feature fairly standard configurations, although perusing Dell’s outlet store will quickly show that many buyers add numerous bells and whistles to the base unit. The Asus Eee PC 1000HE we used was completely basic, but the Dell Mini 9 we purchased from the Dell Outlet added a built-in Bluetooth module (at a cost increment of $20) to an otherwise stock model.

Machine
CPU
RAM
Drive
Networking / Bluetooth
1000 HE
Atom N2801 GB DDR2-667Seagate 160 GB 5,400 RPMWired: Atheros AR8121 GbE
Wireless: Azurewave 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth: Broadcom BT-253
Mini 9
Atom N2701 GB DDR2-800STEC 8 GB mini-PCI SSDWired: Atheros AR8121 GbE
Wireless: Broadcom 802.11 b/g
Bluetooth: J613H BT module
Machine
Display
Ports
Video
Battery
1000 HE
1024x600 10.2"3x USB 2.0
SD Card slot
RJ-45 LAN
Microphone
Headphone jacks
Mobile Intel 945 Express
Standard VGA D-15
6 cell Li-on 48 WH (min 2.9 Ah) 7.4 V 10.7 oz/305 g 137 x54 x 37 mm
Mini 9
1024x600
9.0"
3x USB 2.0
SD Card slot
RJ-45 LAN
Microphone
Headphone jacks
Mobile Intel 945 Express
Standard VGA D-15
3 cell Li-on 64WH (min 2.1 Ah) 14.8 V 7.5 oz/ 215 g 140.6 x 68.5 x 44.7mm

What You Need

Our obvious candidates for upgrade are RAM, which we upgrade from 1 GB to 2 GB in each machine, and storage. Even though our Dell model shipped with 1 GB of DDR2-800 installed, we upgraded both machines to 2 GB of DDR2-667 (PC2-5300) because 333 MHz is as fast as the Atom processor family can access RAM. For our testing, we paid $24 for a 200-pin Transcend DDR2-667 SO-DIMM. Ours came from Newegg, but you can get it anywhere, sometimes as cheaply as $20-22.

When it comes to storage, the machines diverge. For the Asus, we replaced the stock 5,400 RPM 160 GB Seagate ST9160310AS with two different drives to see how they fare. The drives were a 7,200 RPM Seagate ST9250410AS 250 GB hard disk (goes for $60 or less) and a SuperTalent MasterDrive SX SSD SAM28GM25S (goes for $325 to $350). For the Mini 9, we replaced the stock STEC 8 GB mini-PCIe with a SuperTalent 32GB SSD FEM32GFDL (goes for $87 and up at etailers). We also found a Class 6 32 GB SDHC memory card from Ritek (goes for $82 and up).

The best news here is that the only tools you need appear in the last photo on this page (in fact, we used only the small Philips head screwdriver in this small set to make all of our system modifications).

  • jlee0585
    ActiveMP made a similar set of tutorials as videos for the EeePC and the Mini 9. You might want to check it out.

    Here are the links:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TciyrKjLfU (EeePC)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARz6GbQnCwg (Mini 9)

    Btw, you might want to remove the batteries before you remove and replace any internal parts. Just to be safe. ActiveMP also sells SSD replacements so you might want to check them out.
    Reply
  • mikestech
    I upgraded my Dell Mini 9 from the stock 8GB SSD to the 64GB Runcore SSD. I noticed a significant performance improvement. It's amazing what this little machine can do with a fast SSD and 2GB of RAM. I even occassionaly use it for video editing in Sony Vegas 9.

    Mike
    http://solidstatedrivehome.com
    Reply
  • I recently upgraded the hard disk in my Toshiba Satellite pro that had a 60 GB hard drive, with a Seagate 320GB 7200.3 drive. The disk cloning process I did using the DOS version of Seagates Seatools. In all I managed to complete the cloning and disk changeover in 40 minutes. It runs like a dream and is detectably faster in operation.

    Seatools is free, fast, small and relatively simple to use with a nice GUI in DOS. I have to admit I have tweaked the basic DOS configuration to recognise USB drives.
    Reply
  • mr_tuel
    Total cost of a netbook plus upgrades is > buying a full size laptop that is more powerful to begin with.
    Reply
  • aspireonelover
    another netbook article with the aspire one left out. what is this?
    Reply
  • Well, mr_tuel, if you want to lug around 5 or 6 lbs with an optical drive you rarely use, feel free to carry your large, awkward full-size laptop. Size, portability and low weight are why these little beauties are such hot sellers. I just bought a 1000HE and love it.
    Reply
  • Luscious
    2GB ram upgrades are a no-brainer at $25. I'm anticipating Win7 will replace XP as the de-facto Windows OS for netbooks.

    Not all netbooks come with 2.5" drives, and finding replacements for 1.8" models or units that use proprietary connectors/cradles will create trouble. Not all netbook hard drives are as easy to get to either.

    Bumping up storage and ram won't do much though if you need more performance or a higher-res display. I was lucky to grab a HP 2133 last year that's still working well for me, but I'm eager to trade up to a Pinetrail unit as soon as Intel gets its act together.
    Reply
  • jn77
    Ok, so I have had a Toshiba NB-205 for about 4 weeks now and I have upgraded it to 2gb, a 500gb 7200rpm drive, and Windows 7 RC. ( I understand that these are not suppose to be "Notebooks") but I want to know if there is any way to get around the 2gb ram limit.

    Is it a bios update, is it tied to the hardware, what will happen if I get a 4gb module to put in the netbook?
    Reply
  • michaelahess
    I've got a Mini 9 with the same 32GB SDD you guys used. Also have a touchscreen, gps, 8GB SD card, and an internal 4GB microSD card/reader. I use OS X almost exclusively for it and it works wonderfully. The stock 4GB SSD sucked and would pause at random. i've had no issues with speed on this guy. Best most usable laptop I've ever had. I always bring my normal laptop with but hardly ever use it except for work.
    Reply
  • etittel
    Thanks for all the great comments and pointers. As for 4 GB in the netbooks, everything I've researched seems to indicate that Intel limits RAM to 2 GB as part of the Atom chipset/motherboard design specs. That said, I'm buying a couple of 4 GB SO-DIMMs for another machine of mine and will definitely pop one into either or both of these netbooks to see what happens. If they work or not, either way I'll report back here.

    As for the Aspire omission: I purchased both of these netbooks with my own hard-earned cash. The chancellor of the exchequer--my wife, that is--forbade me to purchase a 3rd netbook for cost reasons. If you want to loan me your Aspire, I'll gladly make the upgrades and photograph them, then return it to you exactly as it was sent to me (and cover shipping both ways). I wanted to get one of those, and a Samsung, and a ..., but "you can't always get what you want."

    Thanks again to one and all,
    --Ed--
    Reply