Fresh slim Windows XP install on the Dell Mini 9 speeds things up

After running out of room on my Dell Mini 9 (that has a tiny 8GB SSD) I figured that something had to be done to make it my great little netbook again. Before anyone comments, yes I have the drive compressed, yes the pagefile and hibernation are turned off, yes I delete temporary internet files on exit from my browser. I have tried everything to maximize the space available but to no avail. And so I started to investigate some solutions to my problem:

  • I started using some SDHC cards for data while leaving the programs and OS on the SSD. Not only was that a temporary solution but I found the responsiveness slow on the SDHC cards. After 1 week my SSD was topped up again but I knew that solution was not going to work.
  • I investigated getting a Runcore high speed SSD from MyDigitalDiscount (http://www.mydigitaldiscount.com) but I was not eligible for the MS Live Search Cashback program (http://mydellmini.com/forum/modding-your-dell-mini-9-to-utilize-a-70mm-pata-ssd-t6312s0.html#p52484) since I am from Canada and the program is US only (*grrr*). To get a Runcore 32GB SSD it would cost me an approx $119US for the unit, $18US for ship to Canada, and the exchange rate which would cost me about $165CAD or more. This kind of defeats the purpose of the low cost netbook and I might as well have bought a full sized for that price.
  • Lastly, I had the Ace up my sleeve. There is a program that I use occasionally to “trim the OS fat” off of some OS installs while making the installation process automated. This little program called nLite (http://www.nliteos.com/) is a great tool for shrinking the footprint of a Windows XP (there is a Vista variant) installation considerably by removing components from an install CD. This was my saviour for my SSD space issue.

Just to fill you in on my Mini 9 specs:
Dell Mini 9 – Inspiron 910 netbook (White) with 8GB SSD hard drive (the rest is standard) http://www1.ca.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/laptop-inspiron-9?c=ca&cs=cadhs1&l=en&ref=lthp&s=dhs
No bluetooth or webcam
2GB of Kingston PC2-5300 667MHz SODIMM {KVR667D2S5} that I got from a local dealer for $25CAD and installed in 5 mins (highly recommended)

I have an old Windows XP Pro CD around that hasnt been installed on any of my computers since they are all on Vista now, so I decided to use that instead of the stock Dell Windows XP Home CD that came with the unit. My Windows XP Pro CD is so old (how old is it, Tim?), it is so old that that it did not have any service packs preinstalled. No problem. I downloaded the newest XP service pack (SP3 from http://www.microsoft.com/downloadS/details.aspx?familyid=5B33B5A8-5E76-401F-BE08-1E1555D4F3D4&displaylang=en) and will now slipstream it onto the XP disk. Using nLite, I copied the XP disc to my hard drive (to C:\nlite\WinXP) and then used the Integrate > Service Pack feature on the nLite main screen. nLite will then prompt you for the SP3 exe location and then slipstream SP3 into your XP disk. Once completed the C:\nLite\WinXP location is now, for our use, a Win XP Pro SP3 CD! What I did at this point was to make a copy of C:\nLite\WinXP to C:\nLite\WinXP_working since we will be modifying the install and it is always nice to have the baseline files ready in case you tweak your nLite settings over multiple tries like I did 🙂 If you feel inclined, you could have added more patches/addons/drivers to the slipstream operation such as Internet Explorer 8, the .Net framework, or the Mini 9 drivers. I did not do this as I have taken the “install em if I need em” approach.

Next we are on to the more time consuming (yet rewarding) part which involves trimming the fat and optimizing configuration options. Exit out of nLite and come back in, but this time switch the Windows installation folder to be C:\nLite\WinXP_working so that we can break this one and keep the original intact. On the nLite main window, select the Remove > Components, Setup > Options, Setup > Tweaks features and press next. The Components section is where you can select items (using the check boxes) for removal. The Options and Tweaks sections are to put in configuration options for Windows before you even get to the login screen. Since this section can take multiple iterations and multiple hours to get right, I have linked my “Last Session.ini” configuration that I used for my nLite build here: https://tpinet.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/nlite-config-for-slim-windows-xp-install-on-dell-mini-9 . Keep in mind that I dont have Bluetooth or a Webcam on my Dell Mini 9 so I have removed those components. You should be able to use my configuration and then add/remove components from there. For more information on what to keep and remove trying googling “nlite dell mini 9” or “nlite eee“.

At this point C:\nLite\WinXP_working could be converted to an iso (via nLite as well), burned to a CD, and installed with an external CD/DVD drive….but I dont have one of those. I do have lots of USB sticks laying around and lucky for me the Mini 9 can boot from a USB stick. It took me 4 nights of sifting through procedures online with different ways of making the USB bootable that all failed, but I eventually fell on one way that worked flawlessly. Since the article is written so well and the instructions are so clear, I will not re-write them. Please follow all steps http://www.scartech.net/2008/08/22/installing-win-xp-pro-via-ufd-universal-flash-device/ BUT when asked for the Windows XP Setup Source path CD drive (Step 20 of the guide) select the C:\nLite\WinXP_working directory. Note that the last couple steps can take about 20 minutes so you can walk away from the computer and come back every 5 minutes to check if there is a prompt. Also, there are some additional steps at the end that I would add from the point where you put the USB into the target computer:

  1. Put the USB into the Mini 9 and start to boot up. When prompted during boot, Press 0 (zero) for Boot Options. If all of the above steps worked correctly then USB Storage should be an option. Select that.
  2. The next screen asks “Please select the operating system to start:” select option “1. TXT Mode” which is second in the list oddly enough. This will take you through the normal Windows XP install procedure. Warning: you need to remove all partitions on the SSD for this to work since this hacked installation is hard coded to exist on partition 1. If you do not remove all partitions before installing Windows then you will get a hal.dll error when installing the next part. Complete the text installation and reboot.
  3. When prompted during boot, Press 0 (zero) for Boot Options and USB Storage again. This time choose “2. GUI Mode” and proceed through the GUI part of the install. There will be another reboot here.
  4. When prompted during boot, Press 0 (zero) for Boot Options and USB Storage again (last time I swear). Choose “2. GUI Mode” and this time Windows XP will be started. Only when you see the Windows XP desktop should you remove the USB card since it is not needed anymore.
  5. When you get into Windows, make a backup copy of C:\boot.ini called C:\boot.ini.bak. Now edit C:\boot.ini and remove the “multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\Windows=”USB Repair NOT to start Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /noexecute=optin /fastdetect” line since this will not be needed. This lets Windows XP start up without asking which OS you want to run at boot (an artifact of the USB install).

That should be it for installing Windows! At this point I went to My Computer > Properties > Advanced tab > Performance Settings > Advanced tab > Virtual memory Change and selected “No paging file” and pressed “Set” (this removes about 2GB for me). Reboot. Once back in Windows XP I can see that my SSD is sitting at about 500MB usage 🙂 But now to fill that up again with drivers and applications 😦

I downloaded the drivers from the Dell support website from one of my other machines and through them on a USB stick. Luckily the USB ports work on a fresh install without any drivers. The driver name and order used is below:

  1. BIOS > Dell BIOS (Windows install) for Inspiron 910 (I installed version A05 and then rebooted…remember to have the netbook plugged in for power or it will not work)
  2. Chipset > Intel Driver for Mobile Chipset (motherboard drivers)
  3. Chipset > JMicron Driver (for media card slot…SDHC support)
  4. Video > Intel Driver for Graphics Media
  5. Network > Realtek LAN Driver
  6. Network > Broadcom Arcadyn Wireless LAN Driver
  7. Audio > Realtek ALC268 HD Audio Driver
  8. Input Device Drivers > Synaptics TouchPad Driver
  9. Applications > Dell Battery Meter/Wireless Select Switch software (If you have trouble installing the Wireless Select Switch then try ftp.us.dell.com/app/R192570.EXE)

If you would like a quick list with links and the correct order of installation, see http://mydellmini.com/forum/drivers-for-dell-inspiron-mini-9-910–t2827.html but be warned that the links may be out of date.

And now that everything is setup nicely, why not grab a sweet wallpaper from http://mydellmini.com/forum/your-1024×600-desktop%C7%83-t648s10.html, maybe a nice black theme from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=75078, and Open Office suite software http://download.openoffice.org/.

Last but not least, clean up the crap left over. I recommend checking out http://www.mydellmini.com/forum/windows-xp-pro/5486-windows-folder-has-bloated-2-3gb-after-updates.html as it has a post about deleting the C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download folder (saved me ~500MB) and running CCleaner http://www.ccleaner.com/ (which cleared another 160MB). Also, it never hurts to run a DiskCleanup just to compress any old and unused items. My installation with nLite WinXP, SP3, all Dell drivers, all hotfix and application updates (including IE8, WMP11, .Net 3.5, etc), OpenOffice 3.1, Eclipse 3.4.1, 7zip, etc is at 2.35GB of my 8GB drive. Needless to say that I am verrrrry satisfied with this solution 🙂

I hope this helps someone!

25 thoughts on “Fresh slim Windows XP install on the Dell Mini 9 speeds things up

  1. Pingback: Ways to save space in a mini9 running xp on 8gb SSD? - MyDellMini

  2. Pingback: Dell Mini 9… para los que viven en las nubes | TecnologiaNow

  3. thank you soo much the part with the cleanig helped alot saved me 800mb doing the delete the folder in windows thnx

  4. Can someone help me with this hal.dll error?
    It comes up right after I boot my UFD.

    Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    \system32\hal.dll
    Please re-install a copy of the above file.

    Sigh… Thanks in advance.

  5. Hey tpinet, I don’t have any of those options simply because I get the error right after I boot from my UFD. It remains in the “Dos” looking screen.

  6. I am not sure why you would get your hal.dll on boot. Did you change your bios to boot from the usb and follow the instructions above?

  7. Thank you, Tim. This is an awesome walkthrough. I’m converting a 4GB Mini 9 with UNR to XP. Used your tutorial and my ssd will not boot without the usb plugged in. The ssd is enabled and is 1st in boot order and I get “A disk read error occurred / Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart.” With the usb in I get the GUI/TXT screen. I can run XP and remove the USB but restart requires the USB.

  8. I am wondering two things: 1) did you somehow install the operating system to the USB drive instead of the SSD, or 2) did you ensure that there were no partitions left on the ssd before you started. Some errors present themselves when the ssd isnt clean. What is the capacity og your USB stick?

  9. I am wondering two things: 1) did you somehow install the operating system to the USB drive instead of the SSD, or 2) did you ensure that there were no partitions left on the ssd before you started. Some errors present themselves when the ssd isnt clean. What is the capacity og your USB stick?

  10. The OS definitely loaded to the SSD. Right now it’s sitting at 2.98GB of used space (haven’t cleaned up yet). There is only a single partition (verified with gParted before the second install attempt). USB is a Sandisk 2GB. I haven’t found anyone with this error in my hours of searching.

  11. I am not sure how to resolve this. It is a great security feature 🙂 If you do figure it out be sure to post back here and I will update the guide with credit to yourself. Good luck, mate!

  12. I am not sure how to resolve this. It is a great security feature 🙂 If you do figure it out be sure to post back here and I will update the guide with credit to yourself. Good luck, mate!

  13. Hey Tim. Thanks for this blog post, it helped a lot. I know you stated in the post you removed the Bluetooth and Webcam support in your nLite profile. I used your profile and installed WinXP on my Mini9. I dont have Bluetooth but I do have a webcam. I installed the Intel webcam driver from Dells site but when I load the webcam I see video for a split second but then I get a BSOD. I suspect it may be due to the removal of the feature in nLite. Is there a way to install those files without reinstalling WinXP?

    Thanks.

  14. I think that you may be out of luck…unless there is a way to add it back in via INF. If you havent used your system too much after re-install, then I would suggest restarting the process again. Once you get a good state then I would suggest burning a DVD that you can come back to. Let us know if you find a way to add it back in without reinstall.

  15. Hi Guys,

    Thanks for this wonderful tutorial. This is the only one which help me to have a bootable flash drive. However, I have a strange error when I install XP in my Acer One.

    The error says “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    \system32\hal.dll
    Please re-install a copy of the above file”

    Does some has an idea?? Thanks in advance!

  16. do you still have the original dell restore disc for XP? Would it be possible to somehow make an iso of that and send to me? I have a key already, its on the bottom of my dell mini 910, but being as its so old now its very difficult to find. I am also having an issue with windows (of any version) finding the SSD drive and using it when I try to install windows. XP simply doesnt even know there is a drive there, and windows 7 see’s it but says it cannot use it. Linux (of any flavor) happily reports it there and usable.
    I am trying to get this little computer usable for a customer, they brought it to me asking me to fix it for them. I find it curious that it came with Ubuntu install on it and a windows XP Home key on the bottom of the laptop. Anyways, I would love to just install some linux on this thing and be done with it, but the customer is admit on having XP… even though we all know there is a work around for using MS office on linux (winex)… How did you get windows to even recognize a drive there.

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