Like all computers, netbooks have internal RAM (random access memory). Over the years, as RAM prices have declined steadily, however operating systems and programs have gotten more bloated (they have higher RAM requirements to support those glittery, new features), desktops and laptops are now have gigabytes of RAM. Even so, it’s a bit weird to see a low-end computer stuffed with 4 GB of RAM, because usually, it hardly uses more than 2GB. When you are considering about netbooks, you may be surprised that a few models only have 512 KB of RAM. You may ask, “Won’t the netbook run as slow as thick molasses in the end of December?”
Actually, no, both Linux and Windows XP can easily run on 512 Kb of RAM and still have satisfactory performance – if you don’t have many files or programs open at once or run a memory-intensive program, like editing a 50 MB image in Photoshop CS3. That said, 1 GB of memory will give you better performance and you don’t have to worry so much about curbing the multitasking. Netbook makers offer 512 KB of RAM in cheaper netbooks and 1 or 2 GB in standard models. Most netbooks can only support 2 GB of RAM. It is not caused by technology limitation, Microsoft’s licensing agreement stipulates that makers can’t sell netbooks that run Windows XP, with more than 2 GB of RAM.
Choose netbook with at least 1 GB of RAM, or if you are stuck with 512 KB, make sure it is possible to upgrade the memory some time in the future. Also make sure your RAM is the DDR2-800 type to get better performance.
If you are having trouble choosing between Windows and Linux for your netbook, here are a few advices to steer you into the right direction:
Choose Windows if you…
Have plenty of experience with Windows and don’t have time to learn other operating systems.
Plan on using certain Windows programs that can’t run in Linux.
Have hardware (scanner, printer, and so on) that doesn’t work in Linux.
Choose Linux if you…
Prefer free, open-source environment
Already use Linux for at least a few months and feel comfortable with it.
Are ready to trade off a couple of quirks for a really secure operating system.
Are willing to invest more time in learning a new OS. (If you are an experienced Windows user, you can become a good Linux user in just a week or two.)
Each day, Linux is getting closer to become a solid competitor to Windows on desktops and laptops, but it still has a few quirks that can frustrate average Windows users, not to mention the compatibility and hardware support issues.
If you go to retail outlets to look for netbooks, there is a good probability you will find a Linux netbook. But, stores are increasingly stocking only Windows netbooks – a few reports said that netbooks with Linux have a slightly higher return rate; it is likely because the new GUI and compatibility issues frustrate impatient Windows users. If you need a netbook only to go online and do light office works, you should use Linux and spend one or two days learning the new GUI. Ask the retailer to install your devices, for example; USB modem or portable printer, to the netbook, since occasionally installing hardware in Linux requires complicated settings. If you have a netbook with Intel processor (Atom or Celeron), keep in mind that you are not tied to using the pre-installed OS.
That means you are allowed to dump Windows and replace it with Linux.
You should first find a suitable distro. Check out related online forums, often you’ll find a lot of discussions about a popular distro and it is a good idea to ask for the easiest way to install the distro to your netbook.
Download the distribution and burn it to a DVD or CD. (It is also possible to put the distribution image on a USB flash drive or an SD memory card, but having an external optical drive is usually the easiest route.)
Back up all important files
Boot from the installation disc – it typically involves changing the boot-up sequence in the BIOS menu.
After you run the installation disc, follow the installation instructions.
Restart the netbook, and Linux will run.
Many distributions have “live” versions; it means you can run Linux from the CD, without reformatting the hard disk and replacing the original Windows OS. It’s a good way to test whether a Linux distro suits your needs or whether it works nicely in your netbook. Some netbook manufacturers provide a copy of the installation package in a separate hard disk partition. It could be easier to reinstall Linux because you don’t need a CD/DVD. But if you format the hard disk and want to reinstall Linux, then you’re out of luck. If a Linux installation disc is not provided with your netbook, contact the seller to see whether it is possible to get one.
Because Netbooks first introduced at the end of 2007, you’d think the little notebooks would be running the cutting-edge, greatest, latest OS. But guess what? The most favored Netbook operating system is the venerable Windows XP (especially Windows XP Home), which was first came out in October 2001. In the past few years, Microsoft has tried its best to supplant the dated operating system, but has not had much success. Even though the company has ceased mainstream support for Windows XP, it will continue providing free security updates until 2014. Microsoft’s marketing problem is obvious, XP just works. It’s easy to use, predictable, reliable, supports all kinds of hardware programs and devices, and is as convenient as an old sweater. Six months after the release of Windows Vista, sixty-three percent of PCs connected to the web are still running Windows XP – compare that to a meager twenty-four percent for Windows Vista, with the remainder split up evenly between Mac and Linux. Windows 7 has a better chance to replace XP or even Vista, in the next few years. Aside from overall consumer popularity, Windows XP is well suited for underpowered Netbooks. Even a 1st generation Netbook with just 512 Kb of RAM and a 900 MHz CPU can run Windows XP and many Windows applications reasonably well. Netbooks with more RAM and a faster CPU are even better. Surely, aside from a dinkier screen, you should expect Windows XP to run on a Netbook just like it does on a normal desktop or laptop – and that means almost all the Windows programs work with acceptable stability.
At first, the fame of Linux in Netbooks took many by surprise – certainly, including Microsoft. When mini-laptops were first introduced, they exclusively ran lite flavors of Linux OS. Manufacturers provided instructions for putting in Windows XP if the user happened to own a spare copy, but a buyer could not purchase an off-the-shelf mini-laptop with the Microsoft OS installed.
Then all of a sudden, Windows XP Netbooks became available in many stores – for the equal price as Linux Netbooks. This was strange because Linux was free and did not need any manufacturer licensing fees, like Windows did. Some industry experts (and naturally, conspiracy theorists) thought Microsoft recognized a looming threat to its hegemony. The stories go that the Redmond executives started offering computer manufacturers some very attractive incentives and licensing deals if they sold Netbooks with Windows XP Home edition installed. And in just a few months, Windows XP Netbooks were outselling their Linux counterparts by a wide margin of 9 to 1. Some suggested Microsoft was only making about $15 from a Netbook that uses XP – just compare that to around $55 each time a notebook with Windows Vista is sold. Nobody knows what had happened, but even that’s true, it’s unlikely that Linux community will sue Microsoft.