PSA: Acer Aspire D150 Netbook Still a Viable Notebook

While my Macbook Pro was getting the battery replaced recently, I used my Acer Aspire One D150 netbook daily.

The Acer Aspire is an Intel N270 Atom-based 800×600 notebook running Windows XP, so I wasn’t expecting much overall, but it worked fine.

I originally bought it as a portable terminal for use in the data center, since it is compact and has a 9-pin serial port.

Here’s some notes on Acer Aspire One upgrades and software compatibility in late 2017:

  • The built-in 1 GB RAM is adequate for browsing, but you can buy an upgrade on ebay or Amazon to 2 GB RAM for about $10. (Note there is only 1 RAM slot, so the upgrade needs to be a single 2 GB DIMM.) I upgraded but didn’t see a difference in performance when browsing using Firefox. Note: Do a full Windows shutdown (not suspend or hibernate) before ugrading RAM or the restore partition will be corrupted and an error will be displayed.
  • I have the original large-capacity battery. It still holds a charge of 2 hours or more.
  • It comes with Microsoft Windows XP, which includes IE 8 and cannot be updated using any current installers from Microsoft. The only supported and current modern browser is Firefox ESR Windows 32-bit, which is now at version 52.3.0. Note that it takes about one second to switch tabs under Firefox, but otherwise is performant if you use a web filter, disable web fonts, and use a Logitech M325 USB mouse and disable video autoplay. Firefox ESR will be supported until at least June 2018. Thanks, Mozilla! 🙂 After that, just install Ubuntu linux from a USB stick.
  • Skype is still supported by Microsoft as a Windows native app (with video) or as a web app (no video) under Firefox.
  • Amazon Prime Video works fine using the Silverlight plugin. The player works amazingly well and shows HD video, but doesn’t display extra annotations like cast members.
  • Putty/pscp works fine as an ssh client
  • there are perl and python language installers that still work on Windows XP
  • parts are $10 to $20 each on ebay, with whole systems being $50 or less. If you can get a complete system with 2 GB RAM, a working battery, charger and a case, that might be a good deal for some purposes, like a backup or travel computer. It also makes an ideal data center computer, as it doesn’t take much space, is rugged and has a 9-pin serial port. 🙂
  • if you have sound problems, ensure the audio mixer app has the volume and balance levels set correctly.
  • the Windows 98 svchost.exe services leak memory and consume CPU, so you will have to reboot daily. You can use the Task Manager applet to find out what is consuming CPU and memory, and you can download the tasklist.exe program to show what’s running inside a svchost.exe process, but that doesn’t help fix it.

Conclusions

  1. the Acer Aspire One is slow and no longer receives Windows security updates or IE updates, but is a viable Windows computer in a pinch with Firefox ESR. Or you can install linux.
  2. It can also be used to QA software for Windows XP, IE 8 or 800×600 resolution.
  3. Upgrading to linux either now or later will keep this machine viable until the hard drive or SSD fails.
  4. An interesting idea is to use one as a disposable travel computer, and reinstall linux before each trip for privacy reasons. The build quality of the D150 is quite rugged too, with solid hinges and a nice full-travel keyboard.

W: Acer Aspire One
tomshardware.com: Speed difference Atom N270 vs N280/Other questions?
[1] 2.0GB (2048MB) PC5300 DDR2 667MHz SO-DIMM 200 Pin Memory Module

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