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Asus Eee PC 900 Upgrade

Tom Alderweireldt November 30, 2009

Introduction

A mid 2008 Asus Eee PC 900 remains the one and only original mini notebook, but who never wished the tiny SSDs were just a little larger or faster? Many have undoubtedly tried out Nlite in XP or other tools like eeedora in Linux to save space on the tiny SSDs. In addition, with an old bios version such as 0806 from 07/07/2008 you needed a lot of luck to nd a larger memory bar that worked. Therefore I tried to summarize my very positive experience to give your Eee a second life. With many thanks to Asus for their newest 1006 bios version.

Flashing the bios

The rst requirement for a successful Eee PC-900 upgrade is to ash the bios to the most recent version 1006 of 3/3/2009, which can be found on the ASUSTek website (select Eee family, Eee PC and PC 900): http://support.asus.com/download/download.aspx?SLanguage=en-us. The original Eee PC-900 has a small fast 4 GB IDE SSD and a slow 16 GB IDE SSD, both of brand Phison. Speed comparison with the hdparm -t /dev/sda command in Linux shows a transfer rate of 38 MB/s for the small disk and 28 MB/s for the large disk. Quite remarkably, the new bios 1006 now allows the Eee PC to recognize SATA disks. After installation of a SATA-II SSD disk, the second IDE disk in the bios is gone (not installed), but an additional bios option Sata-Master shows up. A drawback is that an existing Win XP installation can no longer nd the NTloader on the small 4GB disk to boot. As workaround without reinstallation I found out that when using the Esc button during bootup, you can still select a boot device and when you pick the 4GB Phison, XP starts. (Maybe a hint for Asus to x in their next bios update?) Nevertheless, a decent SATA-II SSD disk now oers disk speeds over 100 MB/s, more than 4x faster than the old slow SSD, a world of dierence for this small PC. The bios le is not very large and should be renamed as 900.ROM in the C-disk root. When you boot wiht the ESC button, the Eee should automatically start the EZ ash bios ashing program. You can select a boot medium, but recognizing the the 900.ROM le didnt work in my case. Apparently you should use a FAT16 USB volume. Alternate solutions exist, such as AFUDOS (see also Asus website). Starting the bios ash procedure on my Eee in XP worked ne with AsusUpdate XP 071211.zip. After installation of this program and reboot, the bios ash procedure started normally. http://www.4shared.com/file/41831558/15efa67f/AsusUpdate_XP_071211.html As a second important advantage, the 1006 bios now allows more memory upgrades: with the old 0806 bios I could not replace the old 1GB RAM with a 2GB Corsair DDR2-667 bar, but with the new 1006 bios no problem at all to install the same Corsair 2GB memory bar. A third advantage of the bios upgrade to 1006 is the improved thermal control. In practice, the fan starts less frequently and much shorter when the PC warms up, whereas with the old bios, continuous fan noise was rather annoying. Most likely this also helps to reduce battery power conservation. At the end of the ash procedure the following screen is shown:

Figure 1: ashing the bios

Memory upgrade

The new bios allowed installation of a 2GB Corsair DDR2-667 (PC-5300) notebook memory bar without problems. Can be found a.o. Forcom Edegem under notebook memory (or your nearest PC component supplier): http://www.forcom.be/?product=301825

Figure 2: Corsair 2GB DDR-2 667 notebook memory

Overview of Eee Solid State replacement disks

The correct disk type is SSD Mini PCI-e. There are several possibilities. The small fast 4GB SSD is soldered to the motherboard and cannot be replaced easily. The large slow original Phison 16GB SSD is easy to replace. With the new bios, the Eee 900 now even accepts SATA disk interfaces i.o. IDE. I found 3 solutions worth considering: OCZ: part no. OCZSSDMPES-64G. Can be found in Belgium at MPL Edegem, but is very expensive (263 e) and not the fastest (110 MB/s read - 51 MB/s write speed): http://www.mpl.be/products.aspx?id=42&sid=247 Runcore: part no. RCP-I-S7064-C. Availability of this SSD only in the US or UK, and recently dropped in price to 199$ without shipment cost (+/- 133 e). This SSD is the least expensive 64GB I found, but the slowest with 90 MB/s read and 55 MB/s write speed, but no doubt still much faster than the original

Phison 16GB.

http://www.mydigitaldiscount.com/SPD/runcore-64gb-pro-sata-70mm-mini-pci-e-pcie-ssd-for-asus-eeeSuper Talent: SuperTalent has several large capacity SSDs, IDE as well as SATA. I selected the most recent SATA Mini2 FPM64GLSE, which I believe to be one of the fastest currently available in 64GB size with 150 MB/s read and 100 MB/s write speed. It also exists in 128GB size, but this costs as much as an entire Eee 900. I found my FPM64GLSE for 150eat PCHut in the Netherlands, but unfortunately the price has just been raised to 171ein spite of favorable US$ exchange rate. http://www.pchut.nl/productenv.php?id=145659

Figure 3: SuperTalent Sata Mini2 PCIe 64GB SSD The SuperTalent website oers a nice overview of all available SSD models PDF format, with a lot of additional information on speeds and technology used. http://www.supertalent.com/products/ssd_category_detail.php?type=Netbook

Replacing the hardware in the Eee PC 900

Important when opening up PCs and replacing components: always touch the PC mass and components before replacing, to avoid static electricity damage. The backside cover of the Eee PC can be opened by removing 2 screws. The right one is hidden under a Eee sticker. At the bottom the memory slot can be seen. If you push the two rounded clamps to the outside, the memory bar turns upward and can be removed easily. At the top you can see the 16 GB SSD disk, 70mm long, with the connector on the left side. When you remove both screws on the right side of the disk (with a magnetic head screwdriver to avoid dropping the screws inside the PC), the SSD rotates upwards and can also be replaced easily:

Figure 4: Eee PC 900 with opened back cover

Overclocking the Eee PC 900

Windows XP The default Eee 900 processor clock speed is 900 MHz. On battery power it drops to 630 MHz. With (http://www.cpp.in/dev/eeectl/) you can modify several PC settings manually. Starting eeectl in XP installs an extra icon on the menu bar (lower right), showing the current processor temperature. Right mouse click on that icon gives you a menu where you can modify the clock speed manually (stock (630 MHz), medium or full (900 MHz)). The menu also allows to set fan speed and display backlight intensity:

Figure 5: eeectl 0.2.4 screenshot The program setfsb is also interesting: http://www13.plala.or.jp/setfsb/ As the name implies, setfsb allows to modify the Front Side Bus speed of the PC and really overclock your Eee faster than factory default. Overclocking is not recommended on battery power with the original 4400 MAh battery, because it draws more power and my battery didnt like that. I now have a larger

7350 MAh battery. The clock settings of the PC are controlled through the clock generator chip on the motherboard (the PLL-chip). Warning: writing wrong data to the PLL chip can permanently damage your PC motherboard! Make sure you rst select the correct PLL chip for Eee (see screenshot - ICS9LPRS906CGLF) and then click Get FSB:

Figure 6: setfsb 2 1 69 menu with Eee PLL selection Default FSB speed is 400 MHz, PCI-express interface 100 MHz. When increasing both by about 5%, the Eee remains stable (950 MHz), but above 1000 MHz it becomes unstable. With CPU-Z you can look at the result:

Figure 7: Eee running at 950 MHz - CPU-Z screenshot Unfortunately these settings are one time ( not written permanently in the PLL) and you have to reset them after every reboot. Possibly (commercial) setfsb versions exists allowing to save the settings permanently. Make sure you watch processor temperature while overclocking to avoid processor damage. A useful utility is HWMonitorPro 1.08. Linux The eee-control program also exists for Linux. You can compile the source yourself, but Eee-control also exists as rpm package in Fedora 11. This package didnt work right away. It requires manual activation 5

of the daemon - to be studied.

Conclusion

After bios upgrade and most of all with the much faster speed of the new Super Talent SSD, one sees how extremely the Eee was limited by slow disk speed performance. Using the top command in Linux to watch CPU consumption of the processes, shows higher usage of the CPU. This also conrms that even an older Celeron M353 processor had to wait for slow disk response. Even with this processor and the SuperTalent SSD, the Eee performance now feels like a normal PC. Much appreciated! With this level of Eee performance, no more need for stripped down Nlited XP or Linux eeedora versions. After upgrade, my Eee could run the complete Fedora 11 installation and boots up in less than 1 minute. With the old 16GB disk, the Eee needed more than 12 hours for a Fedora 11 update, with the new 64GB SuperTalent F11 installs in about 1 hour. Need I say more? During this testcase I left the Windows XP on the 4GB xed SSD and in dual boot installed Fedora 11 on the new SuperTalent, but with hindsight, since it is so much faster, it would have been better to reinstall both OSes to the new fastest disk and leave the old xed 4GB SSD just as additional data volume. Maybe Ill reconsider that later when installing Windows 7 on the old Eee. Have fun with your Eee upgrades!

Email: tom.alderweireldt@telenet.be