Geek Adventures: Using Windows 8 on a Netbook

A while ago I wrote about how I installed Windows 8 on my old Toshiba NB-505 netbook, which wasn’t really supposed to work with Windows 8. The installation went reasonably smoothly and when I finished the article, Windows 8 appeared to be working fine. I’ve had the opportunity to use that netbook for nearly a month now, so I thought I’d post an update on the experience. Is Windows 8 running well on a netbook? What issues will you encounter? Was it worth the effort? Should you do this at home?

Is everything OK performance-wise?

I wish I’d thought to do a benchmark before I did the installation so I’d have data to back up my subjective feeling that the netbook runs a little faster with Windows 8. It boots faster and the interaction with the operating system and my desktop applications seems to be livelier.

I had honestly expected to have to remove Windows 8 and put Windows 7 Professional back, because Windows 8 would have lots problems with the hardware. I was not looking forward to that at all—but the upgrade worked far better than I’d hoped.

I can safely store all those backup disks in my disk cabinet and not worry about reverting to the old operating system.

A faster response, a touchier trackpad

One down side of the livelier response to the operating system is that the trackpad has gotten annoyingly touchy. I have never been a fan of trackpads, and now I’m even less so. Seems like if I just breathe in the direction of the trackpad I get some kind of action I do not want. Attaching a mouse fixed that problem (I had a "travel size" mouse that I used with it before) and in the next few weeks I’m going to be experimenting with some Bluetooth mice to see whether those will be better. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am happy that the netbook appears to be working faster overall. The slower response with Windows 7 Professional was always a minor annoyance, even though I was not doing anything resource intensive. I was primarily using the netbook for internet access and for writing, and that’s what I will continue to do with it.

I’ve gone to sleep and I can’t wake up

There is one big problem that I have not yet found a solution to—if there is a solution to be had. If I shutdown the computer from Windows 8, when I press the power button to start it up again, the power lights will go on and the hard drive will whir momentarily, and then the computer shuts itself down again. When I press the power button again, the computer will boot normally and eventually ask me if I want to send a report to Microsoft about why it didn’t start properly. I’ve been choosing to send the report, but heaven only knows what Microsoft is going to do with it.

Something similar happens if I use the Sleep command. The computer will sleep just fine, but afterwards nothing I can do will wake it up again. I have to hold the power button down till it shuts completely off—and then start it and go through the "it won’t start the first time" routine (and send another report to Microsoft).

My solution to this was to set the computer to hibernate when I shut the lid, and I just shut the lid when I’m done with it. There have been no problems at all waking it up from hibernation.

Testing, testing

I have not put the computer to any really extensive use yet because this has been a very busy month for me (you’ll see an upcoming report on how we re-did my corner of our home office) but I can report that both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 10 work fine. Chrome seems faster than before. My favorite word processor (on both PC and Mac) is Scrivener, which now says it is Windows 8 ready. I haven’t had time to do a lot of work with it yet, but the early indications are that this is correct. Scrivener has always been one of the speediest word processors I’ve ever used, and seeing its lively performance under Windows 8 was a treat.

The screen resolution will not let me try out apps from the Store, and some of my previous software (like Microsoft Office 2003) absolutely will not run, so I will have to look around for some appropriate applications to try out. If any of you have suggestions I would love to hear them!

Thoughts and Recommendations

If you take a computer that is not really supposed to run something and insist on installing that something anyway, you do have to be prepared for interesting issues. And to be honest, you have to be the kind of person who has plenty of patience and who likes to experiment. I certainly said "It’s a good thing I like doing things like this" a few times during the installation process. :)

Would I recommend that other people try this? I’d say yes, if you take all the appropriate precautions in making thorough backups, and if you have a good span of uninterrupted time to spend focused on the upgrade process. It also helps to be very flexible and willing to "think outside the box" when it comes to solving problems. And, of course, you must keep in mind that there is always the possibility that after you’ve spent all that time you’ll need to put everything back the way it was.

All in all, though, I think that the Windows 8 installation was a success and I’m glad I spent the afternoon doing it.