Microsoft may ship Windows 7 on thumb drives for netbook users

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Microsoft designed Windows Vista under the assumption that the computer industry was only moving in one direction: Faster, more powerful machines. The company was wrong, and a lot of people found that Vista simply didn’t run well on their older or slower hardware. Or on netbooks which tend to have slower processors than their more expensive brethren.

So Microsoft went back to the drawing board, and you know what? The pre-release versions of Windows 7 I’ve tried really do work quite well on netbooks. Just as well as Windows XP, an operating system designed to run on hardware that was state of the art 10 years ago. It’s likely that a number of computer makers will begin loading up netbooks with Windows 7 Starter Edition or Windows 7 Home Premium this fall. Netbooks can handle Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate Editions, but the other two will be significantly cheaper.

But what about users who want to upgrade the operating system on their ancient netbooks purchased in 2008 or early 2009? The problem with Windows is that you typically need an optical disc drive to install it and most netbooks ship without CD or DVD drives.

CNET reports that Microsoft is considering several options to make it easier for netbook users to install Windows 7. The company could sell the operating system on a USB thumb drive that would let users upgrade or install Windows 7 without a disc. Microsoft could also partner with retail stores to let users bring in their netbooks for an upgrade. Or users could be allowed to download Windows and install it using their own thumb drives.

Or you could just pick up a cheap USB DVD drive. But it seems silly to purchase a piece of hardware that you may only use once.

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  • Ohio Red

    How about a thumb drive sold with a sampling of Linux distributions and applications? I am frustrated by Linux magazines that enclose a diskette that virtually no netbook can use.

  • Mikez

    With maybe four or five of the major GUIs to try out (KDE, GNOME, XFCE, +++) ;
    Use the iso-9660 format on the usb sticks, because it supports mult-arch – -
    (one stick, boots Intel, PPC, ARM, MIPS, etc)

    - – – -

    The really big thing would be a *good* “librarian” application – -
    rather than face the user with a long list of application names, include
    good: “what you use this for” and “what other things on here do similar”
    plus, of course, topic and subject indexes.

    $20 (retail) + price of the stick (yeah, we could do that) – -
    Bulk orders accepted – there are sticks thin enough to sticky inside
    of a magazine – -
    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchT

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  • DG

    Quite an inspired possibility, and with gig-class sticks going for only a couple of quid (galling when I paid £60 for mine not so many years ago!) hopefully they'll be sensible and realise they are reaching out to an otherwise unattainable market and NOT charge a premium.

  • DougC3

    Here's around a half-dozen different bootable Linux OSs on USB flash drives for ~ $10-$15 turned up by a simple google “product search” (obtained by clicking on their little brown bag icon).

    These are mostly at eBay, but, as I mentioned last week in the liliputng forum, I think I've seen some actual Linux sites several months ago that offer various distros on thumb drives for modest prices. I'll look through my faves (more difficult than searching the web) and get back if I find some.

  • rampage jackson

    Im not a geek but know how to get around a computer and know how to follow instructions.
    I discovered Unetbootin which shows you how to put any Linux distro on a USB key from both a Windows or Linux system.
    Again, you have to be able to follow instructions, that's all.

    I installed Kubuntu 9.04 on my Dell Mini because I hated the fugly look of Ubuntu (more specifically the Gnome desktop which apes Mac). It looks like an ugly 90's Windows with all the taskbar annoyances of Apple.

    I bought the 2Gb usb key for 6.99$, the distros are free as is Unetbootin.
    It was low risk.

    Google it.

  • TL

    I agree.

    I am a linux-on-the-desktop user of 6 years now, as well as running numerous linux-based servers, yet when I want to get a task done, I find it hard to figure out what app I need to really do it. The quirky names in most of the OSS world are really a major downfall.

  • Nam

    This is the best idea ever. Ever since Vista's release, I have been booting and installing Windows using USB stick. It is the most convenient way and cost effective. I have a 8GB Sandisk USB (pictured above) with Vista X86 and X64 + Win 7 RC1. Just swap the files to root whenever I needed.

    I dont think it will be wasted if Microsoft ships a 8 gb flash drive with 3 GB reserve for installation files and the remaining can be used by user.

  • DougC3

    I agree with rampage and Nam and plan to go the Unetbootin route myself, but for those who would rather fork over $20 than bother with “cook book” procedures, <A HREF=”http://on-disk.com/index.php/cPath/280?osCsid=bc2afcd1e029f9d78112a3fa48a9eeb0″_this outfit_ is an example of sites which offer OSs already loaded on USB flash drives.

    They were on page two of the google search I posted above and offer at least 15 Linux versions, including one Ubuntu with swappable KDE and Gnome already installed. They ship anywhere in the world.

  • Mikez

    I was guessing when I wrote “$20″ – but that seems like a common price.
    Now all we need is to learn what popular magazines O.R. is reading. . .
    Get them to run a “Linux of the Month” promotion with the little 6 gram
    sticks sticky'd inside each issue – minimum order: 2 million sticks.

  • DougC3

    On the front cover, they could say “Rip off this sticky'd stick!” ;)

    But seriously, they probably wouldn't lose any more sticky sticks than they do CDs.
    I think you're being pretty prescient here… too bad we can't get rich from this prior knowledge.

  • DougC3

    I agree with rampage and Nam and plan to go the Unetbootin route myself, but for those who would rather fork over $20 than bother with “cook book” procedures, _this outfit_ is an example of sites which offer OSs already loaded on USB flash drives.

    They were on page two of the google search I posted above and offer at least 15 Linux versions, including one Ubuntu with swappable KDE and Gnome already installed. They ship anywhere in the world.

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  • Mikez

    I was guessing when I wrote “$20″ – but that seems like a common price.
    Now all we need is to learn what popular magazines O.R. is reading. . .
    Get them to run a “Linux of the Month” promotion with the little 6 gram
    sticks sticky'd inside each issue – minimum order: 2 million sticks.

  • DougC3

    On the front cover, they could say “Rip off this sticky'd stick!” ;)

    But seriously, they probably wouldn't lose any more sticky sticks than they do CDs. Also, there would be articles in the magazine that would give important information about the OS(s) in question.

    I think you're being pretty prescient here… too bad we can't get rich from this prior knowledge.

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