Liam buys a new laptop (Part 3) – First impressions

Operating system installation

The first thing with any new PC is to configure the hard disc partitions, update the device drivers and get on with installing the rest of your software.

The HP backup and recovery wizard happily burnt my recovery DVDs which were tested on the upgraded 320Gb hard drive.  The recovery process created a recovery partition, an o/s tools partition (quickly deleted) and installed Vista Business (32-bit) complete with all the HP drivers on a single huge 300Gb C: partition. A quick installation of Paragon Hard Disk Manager 8.5 Special Edition that came free with PC Pro magazine and I had resized the C: drive to 100Gb, and created two new 95Gb partitions for D: and E: drives.

The next step was to download all the 64-bit Vista drivers from the HP website, around five pages of downloads, around 70 file downloads.  Good news, all the built in hardware is supported, so on went an MSDN licence of Vista Ultimate 64-bit.  It all went very well even down to the SD card reader (normally a nightmare 64-bit driver area) and logging in with the finger print reader.

Other software

The great resource I had for the installation is the audit of software installations from my other PCs. I have a single Excel spreadsheet for every PC. This lists every item of software installed on each PC, including a download location (if free) and licence codes where relevant. A ‘shared’ spreadsheet keeps track of the multiple licence usage of software from my Microsoft Action Pack and Kaspersky Internet Security bundles.

It was easy to take the spreadsheet of installations from my 32 bit Vista development desktop, weed out the ‘old’ software I don’t use any more. Old software includes items such as Visual Studio 2005 now that 2008 is out and can compile to the .NET 2.0 framework.

The joy of virtualisation

The first software I installed (after drivers and Kaspersky) was Virtual PC 2007 and a 16Gb VHD disk image for my Windows XP/SQL Server 2000/Visual Studio 2003 development environment I use for my main client (don’t start me on spending most of my time in VS2003).  That meant I had a working development environment for my main client up and running within 15 minutes.  This is definitely the quickest that a new laptop I have owned has been ready for real development.

64-bit goodness and badness

I was ready for various software not to work under 64-bit Vista, but the only two real casualties are Firefox (shame on you guys, no 64-bit version of Firefox 3, and no plans for Firefox 4 either) and open source PDF Creator, the PDF printer driver I normally use to create PDF files.  Fortunately IE7 has nearly caught up with Firefox, with tabbed browsing and opening multiple tabs from a favourite folder.  I would rather have had Firefox, but let's hope they catch up soon.

The real surprise was explorer shell extensions like 7-Zip and TortoiseSVN come in 64-bit versions.  Given the machine main purpose is for software development, the lack of TortoiseSVN would have been a showstopper.  I’m just not a command line programmer, too lazy, so relying solely on SVN.EXE wouldn’t have been an option.

Of course the real advantage of Vista 64-bit is that I can finally have a 4Gb machine where I get to use all of the installed memory.  My Vista 32-bit desktop only recognises 2Gb of the 4Gb of installed memory which is a crying shame when I want to use a virtual machine.  With 4Gb available, I can now run my VS2003 virtual machine with 1.5Gb of dedicated RAM and still leave 2.5Gb for the host operating system.  Hopefully the 4Gb should give me plenty of room to run Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008, IIS apps, and still have one or two virtual machines running Windows Server 2008.


For just under £800 I think I’ve got a bargain power user laptop. The screen isn’t the biggest, but it’s a laptop I can carry in a standard briefcase or carry on flight bag, and the travel battery gives me around 5 hours heavy use and nearer 10 on standard office tasks. It’s got a very good keyboard, a 3G card ready for activation and a built in SD reader that can handle SDHC cards so I can use the 8Gb microSD from my phone without a dongle.

Liam buys a new laptop; 

Print | posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 10:48 PM

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