Saturday, May 14, 2011

ASUS Eee PC: Windows 7 Tweaks: First Cut

As described in a previous post, I had altered partitions on an ASUS Eee PC, and had tried to replace its factory installation of Windows 7 Home Premium with a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate that I had installed on a desktop computer.  The reason was that, as detailed in a series of previous posts, I had tweaked that desktop installation in a number of ways, and I didn't want to have to do that all again manually.  But while I appreciated the advantages of Windows 7 over Ubuntu, in this particular regard Ubuntu installation was vastly superior:  you could preserve your customizations when you upgraded your operating system or installed it on a new computer.

But this was the reality of Windows 7, and there seemed to be no alternative at this point but to bite the bullet and plod through the re-doing of all those tweaks -- or, more precisely, of the tweaks that would be useful for the Eee.  My particular model was the ASUS Eee PC 1215T-MU17-SL.  The manufacturer's webpage reported that it had an Athlon II Neo K125 1.7GHz single-core processor, so it is not as though I expected to be doing video editing on it.

My first step was to set up the partitions as I wanted.  I had already started this process.  I had bought Acronis True Image Home 2011 partly to experiment with its Universal Restore feature, which was allegedly able to restore to dissimilar hardware; but as noted in the previous post, that had not worked.  If I were starting over, I would have replaced Acronis with one of the several positively rated freeware drive imaging programs mentioned near the start of the previous post; I would have used one of those programs, as I had used Acronis, to make a backup image of the Eee's factory Win7 installation; I would have used GParted (since I was able to get it to boot from a USB drive, as described in that previous post; my Eee did not have a CD/DVD drive) to arrange partitions; and then I would have restored the factory Win7 installation using that same imaging program.

At the start of this present post, I had just used Acronis to restore the factory Win7 installation, and was now ready to start tweaking.  There was, however, a slight problem.  The Acronis restore had gone without a hitch, but now Win7 was extremely slow in starting up.  In its first boot after restoring it, I found that it took the system perhaps an hour to show the taskbar.  At that point, it gave me an error message:  "The Recycle Bin on F:\ is corrupted.  Do you want to empty the Recycle Bin for this drive?"  I said yes.  Then I rebooted into Safe Mode.  It functioned well there.  Back in Normal Mode, it now seemed to be better.  I proceeded with my tweaking.  In this first cut on the Eee, I was combining notes from several previous posts with the unique Eee environment, so I took the following steps as listed.  I expect that subsequent installations, and any accompanying blog posts, will be more organized.  That said, the basic process succeeded.  The steps are as follows:

  • Create and label partitions using GParted (already done).  Drive C (which I labeled as PROGRAMS):  70GB.  Drive D (DATA):  150GB.  Drive W (INSTALL) (purpose explained below):  18GB.  Drive X (BACKROOM):  60GB.  Drive letters were installed via Win7's Start > Run > diskmgmt.msc or via Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Storage > Disk Management > right-click on drives and change letters.
  • Apparently Win7 Home defaulted to having the user run as Administrator, or possibly I had already changed that in Start > cmd > control userpasswords2.  It was thus not necessary for me to delete all other accounts and insure that I was running as Administrator.  This step was based on the conclusion that aspects of the Windows security system were largely effective in preventing me from getting work done when the need was most urgent.
  • In like spirit, to turn off User Account Control (UAC) I went into Start > type "UAC" > pull the slider to the bottom > OK > reboot.
  • I ran the Win7NewInstall.bat and Win7RegEdit.reg files that automated a number of tweaks.  This time around, these files did not run perfectly.  I would have to revise them at some point.  They did seem to have achieved what I needed at this point.
  • With that done, I now had a "Take Ownership" right-click context menu option in Windows Explorer.  I right-clicked on the top-level folders, for each drive in my system, and selected that Take Ownership option.
  • Enable the computer to download updates and defragment itself overnight without beeping or going to sleep when the lid was closed.  Start > Control Panel > Power Options > Balanced Power Plan > Change plan settings > Advanced.  Also FN > F10 to mute speaker.
  • Install router software.  This would ordinarily need to be done at this point.  My router was unavailable at the moment, so I actually did this step later (see below).
  • Start > Control Panel > Windows Update > install updates.  Keep rechecking and reinstalling until there were no more.  Also, change settings so updates were downloaded but not installed, so as to avoid nag screens and unintended reboots for newly installed updates.  Right-click on unwanted updates to get an option to hide them.
  • Install updates from the ASUS website.  When attempting to install the AHCI SATA driver, I got an error:  "This computer does not meet the minimum requirements for installing the software."  I started to update the BIOS using the downloaded BIOS Updater but then thought better of it; the system seemed to be running OK without it, and there were dangers in that process.  The (Atheros) Wireless LAN Driver identified a previous installation, and offered to update it; but I suspected this was a reference to the Broadcom (below), which was working OK, so I didn't proceed with that.  Other downloads were likewise already installed, either from the updates or from the factory, including the ASUS Update Utility, the CapsHook Utility, parts of the Chipset Driver, the ECam Utility, the Atheros LAN Driver, the Super Hybrid Engine Utility, the Update Install Program, and the (Broadcom) Wireless LAN Driver NB047.  In the end, I wound up installing only the Audio Driver, parts of the Chipset Driver, the Elantech Touchpad Driver, the KB Filter Utility, and the Synaptics Pointing Device Driver.  Then I went through Control Panel > Windows Update again, to see if these installations themselves had been updated since I had downloaded them.
  • Start > type "Disk Defragmenter." Set schedule to run in the daytime, when the Eee was likely to be on; set it to run daily, so it would interrupt me only briefly, in a series of small tasks, rather than in a large weekly one.
  • Set up the SDHC memory card that I  plugged into the SDHC slot (left side of Eee) for ReadyBoost.  Rather than rely on ReadyBoost, far better performance improvements would come from having a 7200 RPM drive and 4GB of RAM (or more, if running 64-bit Windows 7).  I did not plan to upgrade from the Eee's 5400 RPM, 2GB factory installation, so it seemed ReadyBoost (apparently much improved over Vista's version) might help, though perhaps only slightly.  At least there did not seem to be much risk that it would do any harm.  I had no other use for the SDHC slot at this time, and did have a spare SDHC card (though not the largest or fastest available).  To set up ReadyBoost, I went into Windows Explorer > right-click on the SDHC card (formatted as exFAT for performance) > Properties > ReadyBoost tab > Dedicate this device to ReadyBoost.  (Possibly something like the Windows Experience Index or the ReadyBoost Monitor would have clarified the actual benefit of this step for me.)
  • Bring over the customized Start Menu from the desktop machine.  As described in more detail in another post, I had created a Start Menu that combined the usual shortcuts (i.e., links to installed programs) with the full contents of portable programs.  In other words, going into this Start Menu, I might encounter a link to program files installed on drive C, or I might encounter the actual executable program (in the case of a portable program).  Where possible, I opted for portables, so as to reduce the numbers of programs to install on a new system.  I copied this customized Start Menu into its own folder on drive W (INSTALL).  Other copied-over folders on drive W included Technical (containing PDFs and other user guides and reference works), Saved Settings (for e.g., Firefox extensions that allowed configuration and then exporting of the configuration file for backup purposes) and Installed Programs (arranged in sequentially numbered folders (e.g., "01 Motherboard Drivers"), so that I would know which ones to install first on a new system).
  • Set Windows to create a System Restore Point every day.  The instructions were to download the Instant_Restore_Point.vbs script, whose contents were as follows:
  • If WScript.Arguments.Count = 0 Then
    Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application") objShell.ShellExecute "wscript.exe", Chr(34) & WScript.ScriptFullName & Chr(34) & " Run", , "runas", 1
    GetObject("winmgmts:\\.\root\default:Systemrestore").CreateRestorePoint "Instant Restore Point", 0, 100
    End If
    and put that script into C:\Program Files, and then call that script from within Task Scheduler.  For that last step, I went into Start Menu > Run > taskschd.msc > Actions pane (on the right side) > Create Task.  In the General tab, I called it Daily System Restore Point, clicked "Run with highest privileges," and said "Configure for Windows 7."  In the Triggers tab, I set New > Daily > 3 PM.  In the Actions tab, I clicked New > Browse > C:\Program Files\Instant_Restore_Point.vbs.  That writeup was how it looked on the desktop computer; to achieve all of those steps on the Eee, I had to open Properties at the end.
  • Adjust Windows Explorer.  Organize > Layout > turn on Menu Bar and Details view.  Tools > Folder Options > General tab > turn on both Navigation Pane items.  In the View tab, show hidden files, empty drives, extensions, protected operating system files; launch folder windows in a separate process.
  • Right-click the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop > Properties > uncheck "Display delete confirmation dialog."
  • To make Windows remember size and position of a window, I found two solutions mentioned near the end of a very long thread on the subject.  What worked for me:  right-click on the title (top) bar of a Window.  Choose "Size."  Drag the window and its edges around.  Even if it's exactly where you want it, move it somewhere else and then back, all in one motion.  Then click on the top right X to close the window.  If that technique hadn't worked, I would have gone on to try ShellFolderFix.
It appears that I should have begun with a tour of Control Panel (Small Icons view), since some of the adjustments that I would have made during this tour were necessary for other steps (above).  Regardless, I took that tour now, making a number of changes:
  • Action Center:  I had already set my Windows Update settings.
  • Administrative Tools:  drive letters already changed (above).
  • AutoPlay:  turned off for all devices.  Defaults set to "Take no action" for all items except audio and video CDs and DVDs.
  • Backup and Restore:  not used.
  • Device Manager:  check any items showing exclamation marks in yellow triangles.  I had one next to Teredo Tunneling Pseudo-Interface.  Right-click > Update Driver Software did nothing.  A search led to the suggestion to right-click > Uninstall > reboot.  It did not come back.  I did not seem to need it.
  • Display:  experiment with small and medium text size.
  • Folder Options:  settings already described in "Adjust Windows Explorer" item (above).
  • Indexing Options:  do not index anything.
  • Internet Options:  best done by starting Internet Explorer.  There, open all desired home webpages in separate tabs, signing into each as needed.  Then, in Tools > Internet options > General tab > Home Page > Use current.  Also in General tab:  Browsing history > Settings > Move folder > drive X (BACKROOM).  Also in General tab:  Search > Settings > adjust as desired.  Also in General tab:  Tabs > Settings > adjust as desired.  Next, Security tab > Custom Level > Scripting section (near the bottom) > Allow programmatic clipboard access > Enable.  Then I navigated to and played a video, so as to trigger the process of installing Adobe Flash Player if needed.
  • Notification Area Icons:  Check "Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar."
  • Personalization:  Windows Classic theme.  The Home version of Win7 did not seem to allow the further options of Windows 7 Ultimate to go into Window Color > Adjust at least Active Title Bar, Inactive Title Bar, Menu, and Desktop.
  • Power Options:  already changed (above).
  • Programs and Features:  Turn Windows features on or off.  Features to turn off:  Games, Indexing Service, Tablet PC Components, Windows Gadget Platform.
  • System:  Windows Activation > Activate.  System Protection > Hardware tab > Device Installation Settings > Yes, do this automatically.  Advanced tab > Performance > Settings > Advanced > Change > Uncheck automatically manage paging file size for all drivers and set No Paging File for all drives, with one exception:  set a paging file of 2000 MB (minimum) to 4000 MB (or more) (maximum) on drive X (BACKROOM), where it will not be added to any backups.  (It is necessary to click the Set button after each change.  After exiting this part, go back in to see if amounts recommended or allocated have changed.)  System Protection tab > Configure > adjust Disk Space Usage as needed.
  • Taskbar and Start Menu:  Start Menu tab > Customize.  Adjust various items to taste.  Turn on Run command.  Save and close.
  • User Accounts:  see above.
  • Windows Defender:  turn on.
  • Windows Firewall:  verify that it's on.
  • Windows Update:  after installing desired updates, highlight all unwanted updates (e.g., foreign language packs, right-click, and select "Hide updates." 
I then began to install programs, working down through the list of executables that I had saved in the Installed Programs folder (above).  I almost always installed to the default location.  Doing so meant that the shortcut to this program, contained in the customized Start Menu, would come alive (i.e., would detect the existence of its corresponding executable.  In other words, the icon associated with that shortcut would take on color and shape when it became operational.  So then it would be easier to prune the Start Menu to remove nonworking or unneeded shortcuts, or to detect a reminder that I had not yet installed some program.  The programs I installed were as follows:
  • Google Chrome.  Fast alternative browser.  Also installed recommended extensions by going into Chrome's Tools > Options > Personal Stuff > Sync.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (already installed along with other downloads, above).
  • Router and printer software (when such hardware was available to connect to the Eee).
  • Classic Shell.  Provided a Windows XP style Start Menu appearance.  After installing this, I right-clicked on the Start button > Settings to configure this appearance.
  • Ultimate Windows Tweaker.  In this utility, I selected Additional Tweaks > Show "Open Command Window Here."  I also selected the Show "Take Ownership" option for drives and used it to re-run the ownership step described above, so that ownership would extend to new folders on those drives.  I also set a number of other items while I was there, making sure to click Apply and then Restart Later before changing to the next tab; and then I actually did restart the system after finishing with those tweaks.
  • LockHunter.  This very useful bit of freeware would unlock files and drives that did not seem to be in use, but that Windows would nonetheless refuse to move or delete.
  • QuickTime, needed by some other programs.
  • Shellstyle.dll.  I had acquired this file, with instructions to myself to put it into C:\Windows\System32.  My previous notes did not explain its purpose.  But I complied with my self-command.  Despite taking ownership of the System32 folder, I still had to take ownership of the Shellstyle.dll file within it, in order to replace it with this other Shellstyle.dll file.
  • Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional.  There were many apparently good freeware or cheapware PDF editing alternatives, but I already had this one.
  • Beyond Compare.  At this point, there were apparently good freeware file comparison tools, but perhaps not many as good.  Anyway, here too, I had already purchased a license and had gotten familiar with how BC worked, so I just went with that.  The purpose of this program was to see how data on the hard drive might differ from data on a backup drive or other source, rather than just assuming that the backup software or copying procedures were doing the job right.
  • Bullzip PDF Printer.  Actually my default PDF printer, despite having Acrobat.  Simple, fast, reliable.
  • WinHlp32.exe.  Enabled old Windows XP (and earlier) program help files to run in Win7.
  • Cool Edit 2000.  For audio editing.  Not available anymore:  bought up by Adobe.  Audacity was a good freeware alternative.
  • Copernic Desktop Search.  For my purposes, this was the best program for searching file contents.  Configured to store cache on drive X (BACKROOM).  Complemented by Everything (below) for fast filename searches.  A potentially burdensome program, but essential for my purposes.
  • Firefox and recommended extensions and preferred themes (Modern Modoki, Office Black, and Past Modern for me, though these were not all available in Firefox 4).  One adjustment:  I didn't use Tabgroups Manager on the Eee because it took up too much space.
  • Microsoft Office 2003.  The Eee came with Office Starter 2010 preinstalled, and with ads to purchase the full version, so I felt confident that it could handle the copy I already had.  The option to check for updates after installation no longer worked, but Windows Update through Control Panel did, though it took several rounds of checking for updates to get them all.  I ran the Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard to restore previously saved settings.  These, like the settings for some Firefox add-ons (above), were saved in a Saved Settings folder on the INSTALL drive (X).  I also ran the Auto-Correct macro to restore Autocorrect entries.
  • Freeware PDF Unlocker.  Primarily because some PDF authors put security on their PDFs that prevented me from adding a note indicating where I got the document, and other information needed for academic citations.  Also Systools PDF Unlocker, for the same reason, though what I got was a demo version; I hadn't used it and wasn't sure how effective it would be.
  • Glary Registry Repair.  I put a link to this in my Start Menu > Programs > Startup folder so that it would start automatically whenever I started the computer.  In perhaps a year's use, it had seemed to be a highly rated, non-destructive registry cleaner.
  • Google Earth.  I expected it to be handy out on the road, but was worried that it would impose a serious load on this little computer.  In a test run, though, it did surprisingly well.
  • ImgBurn.  Reliable CD/DVD burning program.
  • iRotate.  To allow easy access (in system tray) to screen rotation, for reading etc.
  • Oxelon Media Converter and Plugins.  Context-menu conversion of many audio and video formats.
  • Recuva.  Undeleter.
  • Skype.  For free or inexpensive telephone service.
  • TClockEx.  To provide customized date and time readout in the system tray.  My preferred format:  ddd, MM d, yyyy - h:mm:ss tt
  • TweakNow PowerPack 2010.  I had previously used it for tweaks that now seemed to be done in other ways.  I decided to keep it as a backup cleaner and general-purpose utility.  I enabled the Virtual Desktop option for purposes of experimentation on the Eee.
  • WinRAR.  I had 7zip as a portable, but was beginning to like this more than that.  Its warnings said it was only good for 40 days, and I hadn't yet been using it that long, so I wasn't sure what would happen at that point.  But it sure did have a lot of people downloading it.
  • SetFileDate.  Handy self-explanatory utility.
  • Easeus Todo Backup.  There wasn't much space to work with, but I thought at least I could schedule a daily incremental backup of changed files from drive D (DATA) to a specified folder on drive X (BACKROOM).
  • BinManager
  • CesarFTP.  Highly regarded FTP server.  Just in case I needed it.
  • I started to install software for my digital camera and other hardware from which I might want to download files on the road.  Then I realized that I might be able to see and download their contents in Windows Explorer, without installing their sometimes bloated, sometimes frustrating user software.  I decided to proceed with these as needed.  I set up a "Programs to Install Maybe" folder and put this stuff there.  Likewise the Microsoft Visual Basic 5 Runtime:  I wasn't sure any of my installed software would require it.
  • Revo Uninstaller.  I installed this hesitantly.  I had almost never used it.  Then, recently, I had used it to uninstall a program.  It uninstalled more than that program.  Too aggressive.  It seemed wiser, most times, to use the Win7 build-in uninstaller (in Control Panel > Programs and Features, followed by a reboot and a scan with Glary Regisry Repair (above).  But I decided to install Revo anyway, just in case.
  • Shortcuts to copy into C:\Windows.  As noted in a comment following a previous post, I had discovered that putting shortcuts to programs would make them available for easy reference in batch files.
I also had to uninstall a few programs in Control Panel > Programs and Features.  These included:
  • Adobe Reader, which must have been pre-installed by ASUS.  I didn't need it, with Acrobat installed.  The attempt to uninstall gave me "Error 2203 Database."  I tried again, and this time it worked.
  • AsusScreensaver.  This was one of a number of things that ASUS installed.  It really wasn't hurting me; I just wanted fewer items in Programs and Features, plus whatever extra disk space and fewer things that could possibly go wrong.  Ditto ScreenSaverPatch, ASUS VibeGame Park Console, Chicken Invaders 2, OOBeRegBackup, Skype Toolbars, Windows Live Essentials, and Windows Live Sync.
  • Live Essentials did not want to uninstall.  Likewise for Bing Bar.  When I tried to uninstall it, I got "Error.  We can't remove the Bing Bar right now.  Try to uninstall later."  I got that again later.  I rebooted and tried again.  That didn't work either.  I rebooted into Safe Mode to try to delete these troublesome items there.  But I couldn't get into Safe Mode:  I got a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), with a message about eubkmon.sys.  Oops.  It seemed I had uninstalled something that I shouldn't have uninstalled.  I've described that repair process in another post.  The essence of it was that I fixed that problem by uninstalling Easeus Todo Backup and renaming a related .sys file.  Unfortunately, even when I was finally able to get into Safe Mode, I couldn't uninstall Bing Bar; I got the same message as before.  I tried Live Essentials, leaving Messenger and Mail and just uninstalling the other parts.  That didn't work either.  Following a thread that contained several suggestions, I rebooted into Normal Mode and went into both Firefox > Tools > Add-ons and Internet Explorer (IE) > Tools > Manage Add-ons > Search Providers and removed Bing if I found it in either such location.  That, sadly, was not the answer; I still couldn't uninstall it.  Another suggestion in that thread was to make sure I had another search provider installed in IE, but in this case Google was the only search provider I had installed.  Another post offered a registry hack that I could just run on faith.  I did.  It didn't help.  For the time being, I was stuck with Live Essentials and Bing Bar.
  • Boingo Wi-Fi.  There seemed to be a lot of complaints about Boingo.  The idea seemed to be that they would try to sign me up for their wi-fi even in free locations, and that it would be hard to discontinue their service if I wished.  When I tried to uninstall it, I got "The feature you are trying to use is on a network resource that is unavailable" and "The installation source for this product is not available."  Taking a chance, I just deleted C:\Program Files\Boingo and ran Glary Registry Repair.
These changes put me in good shape for most of the things I needed or wanted to do on the Eee.



    This post is updated by a more recent one.


    A later post has information about my eventual decision to sell the Eee.