written by: Ryan C.•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/7/2009
In this guide, we look at a few quick and easy software tricks that you can use to speed up your netbook. We go over overclocking Intel graphics, updating drivers and the BIOS, and getting Windows XP to start faster.
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In our previous section, we covered some hardware upgrades for your netbook. Now here’s how to get the most from it using a few tools on the software end.
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GMAbooster is a small, lightweight program that overclocks or underclocks your onboard Intel GMA 950 graphics card allowing it to run at a faster or slower frequency. This can be beneficial for HD video content, games, and saving battery life. This little program is very simple and safe to use. It only has four presets for the GMA 950 card - 166, 200, 250, and 400 Mhz - allowing for at most a 2.4x boost in frequency. With the program running on my Intel Atom-based EEE PC 1000H, I was finally able to stream HD videos from Hulu (480p), Youtube, and Vimeo. Games also ran smoother at a higher frame rate.
The program is “donateware," meaning it is free to use for a limited time (one week) before it expires and has to be re-downloaded. To remove this restriction, the author just asks for a small donation to use the program indefinitely.
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Update the BIOS
Keeping your computer up to date with the latest BIOS firmware is another great way to ensure that your computer is performing as it should. Each manufacturer periodically releases updates for its hardware, and you should ensure that you are running the latest version. The latest firmware allows for bug fixes, maximum hardware compatibility, better battery life, better wireless signal strength, and new settings.
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Up to Date Drivers
In addition to keeping the motherboard’s firmware up to date with the latest BIOS, you should also periodically update your drivers for important components like your graphics card, sound card, network (wireless) card, and touch pad. These can be found on your netbook manufacturer’s website. They usually compile the latest drivers from the original manufacturer. The latest drivers help these individual components perform as they were meant to run.
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Using Included Software
Many netbooks come pre-installed with software that helps your specific netbook to run better. Many regular notebooks and laptops come with a lot of bloated software. so included software often gets a bad rep. I have to hand it to Asus especially and the other netbook manufacturers for keeping bloatware to a minimum.
In the case of Asus’s EEE PC line, they have included a utility called "Eee Super Hybrid Engine" which allows you to clock the CPU frequency at half the default speed (“power saving mode" or roughly 600-800 Mhz), the default (“high performance" speed or 1.6Ghz in the case of the Atom N270), or the “Super Performance Mode" at 1.8 Ghz, which is a 200 Mhz overclock. By using this simple utility, you can squeeze every last bit of power easily and safely from your processor. Note that at the higher speeds, you will generate more heat and draw more power (or battery when not plugged in).
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Accelerating your computer’s startup of Windows (any version) can be done by going to Start → Run in Windows XP and typing "msconfig" (without the quotation marks) or entering "msconfig" in the Start menu if you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7.
In msconfig, click the Boot tab, and check the box that says “No GUI boot." This will disable the startup graphics during the booting screen. Next, head over to the Startup tab, and uncheck the box of any items that you don’t need or want to start when the computer starts. Lastly, clear your desktop of unnecessary icons, the fewer the better! With all these tricks, you should be able to shave at least a few seconds off your boot time.
Another alternative to booting up each time you want to use your computer is to put it in standby or hibernate. The difference between the two is that standby is almost instant-on while drawing a small amount of battery while hibernate saves the current state to the hard disk and does not drain any battery life. Hibernate saves all your settings and puts your computer into a deep sleep.
This concludes our software tips and tricks. Read our next page regarding maintenance of your netbook!
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Hard Drive Upgrades for Your Netbook - In this article, we look at how replacing the existing hard drive in your netbook can speed up, expand the storage, extend the battery life, and quiet your netbook. Read more to find out if the benefits are worth the effort!