No, it’s not a P-Series, which Sony makes a point of calling a Lifestyle PC, not a Netbook anyway. But I do have a nimble, fast Sony Netbook: a PCG FXA49.
It’s my old, reliable notebook purchased about 7 years ago. It suffered from Windows Disease, the most commonly known symptom of which is the inevitable slowdown: as your computer ages, data gets fragmented, applications you install and uninstall leave garbage behind (files and directories, invalid Registry entries ..etc), so eventually your formerly fast computer can barely crawl.
If you’re in such situation, you need a radical solution, a tabula rasa. That includes backing all your data up, reinstalling windows – a clean install, including reformatting the hard drive, and when it’s all done, radically re-evaluating just which applications you will reinstall (hint: very-very few).
But first things first: reinstalling Windows XP. This is a major ordeal, thanks to the ridiculous OEM practice of not providing clean XP CD’s rather “restore disks” that populate your computer with junk. Why would you start with a pre- SP1 copy of WinXP and reinstall a bunch of years-old obsolete crap-ware when the objective was to cleanup your system in the first place? The solution: create a slipstreamed bootable disk that includes Windows XP SP3 with all necessary patches and nothing else.
What you will need:
- A Win XP install CD (any version) – in some cases this may be extractable from the Recovery partition on your hard disk
- A valid Windows product key (typically on a sticker at the bottom of your laptop, if not on a system CD)
- Win XP SP3, downloaded from Microsoft
- The wonderful nLite utility (download, requires .NET 2.0)
- A few hours – better yet, half a day
The process involves extracting your XP install files into a directory (e.g. C:\XP) on your hard disk, merging the SP3 update as well as possible patches after SP3, then optionally tweaking your Windows setup to cut out some fat, creating an image of your new setup, finally copying it to a bootable CD. You are more or less guided through the steps by nLite program itself, and they also have an excellent guide here. You will likely make mistakes (like I did), and they are costly – timewise. But a few hours later you’ll have a bootable, clean, up-to-date install disk, which – depending on the nLite options you picked – can even perform unattended Windows XP installation.
Next comes some Windows customization (oh, where was that setup about single-click on icons..etc.) and installing your favorite programs – right? WRONG!
You do have a choice of keeping a lean Net-PC or end up being where you started, with a bloated, slow machine that takes 3-4 minutes to boot, and sometimes can keep itself busy for hours just updating …etc .
My choice was obvious: decided to keep all this stuff off my re-born baby, since I was using it only as a Netbook anyway. Now that the browser is the computer, the only additional programs I installed were Firefox with a few add-ons, and Skype. Now this old faithful Sony is the fastest computer in the house. Well.. not really, for heavy work like video editing I still use my Vista Beast, but in terms of startup time and overall responsiveness it beats the much stronger hardware. Because it is clean.
Of course I can’t shed any of the physical weight – so yes, the old Sony is bulky, in fact I have not even replaced the dead battery for a while – it stays plugged in as a desktop terminal. So perhaps it’s not really a NetBook after all – just a NetBrick. A fast one.