Ask Lifehacker: Can I Make Windows 7 Run Better On My Netbook?

Ask Lifehacker: Can I Make Windows 7 Run Better On My Netbook?

Dear Lifehacker, I just figured out how to install Windows 7 on my new eMachines/Acer 350 netbook. Problem is, it’s kinda sluggish. Even though I’m only using it for the internet in my lounge, both Firefox and Chrome run sluggishly.

I’ve removed all but MS Essentials and a Gmail checker running at start-up. I’ve tried Ubuntu for Netbooks and whilst it does run quicker (I may yet go back to it) I find I’d rather not get into Linux (too confusing, I prefer a more basic desktop). I’ve been building my own PCs for 20 years and prefer Windows. My question is: what is the absolute minimum install I can use for a netbook PC running Windows 7 which is only being used for the Internet? Thanks for the help, if any, in advance, Nodeity

Dear Nodeity,

While we will offer a couple of suggestions below (and I imagine readers might chime in with a few more), I suspect you’ve largely answered your own question by trialling Ubuntu and finding it runs faster. Windows 7 generally does a better job on minimal hardware than its predecessors, but it does an even better job if you give it a decent processor and plenty of memory to play with. If you’ve already tried booting into Ubuntu and found it more responsive, then I suspect there’s not too much you can do to strip Windows 7 back to deliver the same performance.

If your main aim is purely to surf the Net, then it really shouldn’t matter much which OS you use: in practice, you’ll barely see it (especially given that running the browser maximised is pretty much essential on notebook models). If you’re not a fan of Ubuntu’s slightly quixotic decision to shift the windows controls from right to left, it’s pretty easy to change that, and there are plenty of other thin netbook installs which might also deliver better results. (Hit our list of live CDs for even more ideas.) You can also install Ubuntu without losing Windows 7.

We offered up a guide to stripping back Windows to the bare essentials in 2008, but that related to Windows XP. If you’re that committed to the Windows experience, installing XP would be a possibility, though whether it will actually deliver better performance is an open question.

Cheers, Lifehacker


  • Windows Xp was so much slower on my netbook then windows 7.

    I would do what Dave said and nlite windows 7 or i would install ubuntu.

    Also if the asker has only 1GB of ram i would up that to two, makes the world of difference.

  • My netbook has only 1GB RAM which cannot be upgraded easily, running Windows 7 starter edition. I’m thinking of installing Ubuntu alongside it, but I’ll wait until October for the next release version 🙂

  • Problem with ubuntu 10.04 is if you have a ralink 2860 wireless adaptor (common in eee pcs) you will habe to compile your own wireless driver or face not being able to join WPA2 password protected networks. So there is reason for those not familiar with Linux to avoid it 🙁

  • Hey, thanks guys. I really appreciate the help! I’m actually still fiddling around with configs for Windows and Ubuntu. I must say I like the Idea of running W7 with “7lite” so I’ll give it a test too. However I just put the full version of Ubuntu 10.04 on to see what the difference is, and find that it actually gave me more control than I do with the netbook edition, (which seems a bit crippled to me) and it seems to be just as fast. So in the end as “Lifehacker’s, Angus” has suggested, I will probably land there. Thanks again all 🙂

  • My wife triple boots JoliCloud, XP Pro and Win7 Ultimate on a Lenovo S10 (Atom N270 1.6ghz, 2GB RAM) and really only uses Win7 because there aren’t any performance issues that we’ve noticed. Zips along perfectly. Not bad since my processor alone cost more than the S10. I was surprised 🙂

  • I read through this yesterday and tried out Jolicloud.

    It looks good and will probably suit me while travelling on holiday, but for work I would rather boot up in XP.

    The sensitivity of the mouse is annoying though.

  • Try adding an large SD card with Microsoft ReadyBoost. This will reduce paging to the hard drive and should speed up the machine and maybe improve battery life. ReadyBoost is this next best thing to adding more RAM, although I would advise doing both. On my MSI Wind netbook, I have 2 Gb RAM and 2 Gb Readyboost on an SD card.

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