Install Windows 7 on a Netbook -- Without a DVD Drive

Last Updated May 20, 2009 3:08 PM EDT

If you're loving the Windows 7 Release Candidate as much as I am, you're probably wishing for a way to take it for a test drive on your netbook. After all, rumor has it 7 runs like a gazelle even on those underpowered portables.

Just one problem: The Windows 7 ISO file you downloaded is meant to be burned to -- and installed from -- a DVD. And netbooks, they're a bit challenged in the optical drive department. Does that mean you have to buy an external DVD drive just to install 7? Nope: There's an easier, and cheaper, solution.


All you need is an external hard drive. (You do have one, right? They're indispensable for backups, transporting large files, extra storage, etc.) With a few tweaks you can make the drive bootable, then install Windows 7 from it.

Some doofus over at PC World wrote up the step-by-step instructions, so I'm not going to repeat them here. I will say that the process worked like a charm on my Acer Aspire One, where Windows 7 is now running alongside XP and Presto Linux (which suddenly seems less appealing).

I do recommend you create a separate partition for Windows 7 before installing it, just so you can make sure it runs properly on your netbook. If you decide to stick with it, you can always make it the primary partition and scrub the old one.

Also, I can't say Windows 7 boots or runs noticeably faster than XP on the Aspire, but it sure does look purty. If you've had the chance to kick 7's tires on a netbook, let us know how it went!
  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

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