Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dell Vostro 1520 – driver updates

Windows Experience Index before updating the drivers.


Personal note, I usually keep all drivers in D:\_Drivers, in folders per component containing the driver archive (including the version in the name of the file or in a separate readme) and a link to the provider’s website - it makes it easier to check later for driver updates.

To Dell’s credit the system came with quite recent drivers, most users don’t need to do this, unless of course you are the type that likes to experiment with newer drivers.

  • Intel Driver Update Utility (auto-detection)

This is a really good resource, at least for your Intel components, no need to go and pick them (requires an ActiveX install, use the Internet Explorer 32bit):

  • Intel Chipset Identification

Although I ran the utility as administrator, as the popup says, it didn’t allow me to run it. I’ve used CPU-Z which reports GM45/GM47 chipset.


A useful link from where to get the graphics, chipset and storage drivers is:

  • Graphics driver

Dell’s support site has a slightly older Intel graphics driver (04/11/2009, than the one on the Intel site ( – going for the Intel one.

  • Wireless driver (Intel Wi-Fi 5300)

System driver :, Dell’s website : 13.0, A01, Intel’s website : – going for Intel’s driver.

  • Intel Chipset Driver (Mobile Intel® 4 Series Express Chipset Family)

  • Intel Matrix Storage

The system came with the latest AHCI enabled drivers, but it didn’t include the Intel Matrix Storage Console, so I just installed the Intel package from:

* * *

A very good idea is to start from website, where it can detect the tag of your system and will provide you with a page where you can select the operating system and get the appropriate drivers for your system.

The you can find drivers or firmware updates for your HDD (mine already had the latest firmware available, as it can be seen in Intel Matrix Storage Console), audio drivers (also latest version, usually it’s quite hard to find these off the web, providers usually rely on OEM channels) or the more important BIOS updates (do not apply these unless in the release notes you see a fix for problem that you’ve been experiencing as well – updating BIOS incorrectly could brick your system and you will have to send it back for repairs).

Already having recent drivers, I didn’t expect a huge leap forward in performance, there’s very small differences, probably not worth the effort if you’re already happy with the overall performance.


To keep the performance at top levels you should regularly clean your system (using Windows CleanUp tool or 3rd party tools like CCleaner) and defrag your hard drive (Windows Defrag or 3rd party tools like PerfectDisk).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shrinking the system partition in Windows 7

Most new computers are coming with one large partition where the OS and applications are installed. Personally I like to have a separate partition for OS and one or more for other things, like say one keeping your personal files and other ones for backups etc. The advantage is that if you want to reinstall the OS, once that’s done you can simply change the location of your documents to where you put them on one of the other partitions – this used to be much easier in XP, where you could’ve just right-clicked My Documents on your desktop and change the location to say D:\My Documents. It seems in Windows 7 you have to go and do that for all your folders in your profile folder on your desktop, or you could move them in bulk and I believe Vista/Windows 7 will update the paths in the registry as well.

Back to shrinking the one big partition, I didn’t know until I searched just now the Internet that Vista and Windows 7 have a partition shrink option in Computer Management > Disk Management. One limitation is that files like swap, hibernation or even system restore files can be in the way, preventing you from shrinking a partition down to the size you want. One solution is to disable / turn them off, reboot and defrag the drive before attempting the shrink operation. Windows Defrag does not compact the free space, but there are other tools out there that can do that – one of my favourites is Raxco PerfectDisk, they have a trial version you could try on.

Here’s a good tutorial on shrink feature and solutions:


As you can see from the screenshot above, it only allows me to shrink the partition with a mere 1.2 GB – see the black blocks in the middle of the partition and also the files at the end of the partition in PerfectDisk.

image Disabling the page file from My Computer (right-click) > Properties > Advanced System Properties > Performance (Settings) > Advanced (tab) > Change. Select No paging file and click Set, then OK.

image Hibernation has to be disabled from an elevated command line window (administrator) using powercfg –h off command.


System restore can be turned off from My Computer (right click) > Properties > System Protection (tab) > select each drive and use the Configure button to turn off system protection.


One reboot later, run PerfectDisk again and you can see the black blocks are gone. Now defrag the partition with the option to consolidate free space, that’ll push the files at the start of the partition.


Once that’s done, notice that although the files are all now at the start of the partition, there could still be some system files (notice the grey boxes in the middle of the white space) left. You need to use the System Files defrag (toolbar button) – that will require a reboot, as the offline defrag needs to be done as part of the Windows system boot tasks.


If you find that the pesky metadata won’t move (apparently the preferred position seems to be somewhere in the middle of the partition), one solution is to try to shrink the partition as much as possible, do the offline defrag process to move the metadata in the middle, consolidate the free space and repeat if necessary until it allows you to shrink down to the size you want (in my case 96 GB for the system partition). Once the system partition is shrunk, you can create other partitions in the newly create free space.

imageThe whole process can be a pain in the neck, obviously the easier solution is to use a proper partitioning tool that is certified with Windows 7 - otherwise Windows might not like it and you will need to repair Windows (as it happened in the past when using GParted).

Ah well, a couple of hours down the drain I managed to shrink the system partition and created a new one and still have a running system, I can only wish you the same. Makes you wonder if it wasn’t worth the 5 euro for get the custom partitioning when ordering the system on Dell’s website or getting some proper partitioning tools...

Once done with the system partition you should enable back the swap file, hibernation (powercfg –h on) and system restore.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My new Dell Vostro 1520 laptop

I did mention a few times before that I’m looking for a laptop and I just got it delivered this morning. Some may say why would you need a laptop, you already have an ASUS R2H UMPC and a P4 Shuttle desktop, isn’t that hypocritical, you’re putting videos of the planet getting ruined and all and you’re just wasting more resources! And you might be right, I might be a bit hypocritical, just as much as everyone else… did I mention I don’t have a car? :-) In my defence, all revenue coming from this blog (how much that is, 30$ since opening, I know it’s not much) will be going to a charity for developing countries, so keep clicking those ads if you can… anyways, enough about me…

Recently I got my work laptop replaced with a Dell Latitude D630, 14”, 1440x900 screen, 4 GB RAM and 7200 rpm HHD, and it does hit the right marks (standard size keyboard, USB ports at the back, good screen resolution) - it’s just that I got fed up taking that home and not being able to change everything as I need so I decided to get my own. With some help from my friend Paul in IT I got a Dell Vostro 1520 offer - although I knew it has a few shortcomings (I won’t go into much detail on that now, I’ll give it a few days to see how I feel about them), it did come with a what I’d say a convenient price tag of 720 Euro incl. VAT.

    Dell Vostro 1520 (N0115266)
    • Intel® 45 Express chipset;
    • Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4 GHz, 1066 Mhz, 3 MB cache);
    • 15.4” Widescreen WXGA+ CCLF, anti-glare (1440x900);
    • 4 GB RAM, 800 MHz DDR2 Dual Channel;
    • Intel Integrated GMA 4500MHD;
    • Intel Wi-Fi 5300 (802.11 a/g/n) half mini card;
    • 320 GB Seagate ST9320423ASG 7200 rpm, NCQ enabled;
    • 8x DVD+/-RW TTSTcorp TS-L633C drive;
    • 6-cell 48W Li-Ion;
    • 65W AC adapter;
    • Windows 7 Professional 64 bit.

    Some PC Wizard 2010 benchmark results right out of the box (might change some drivers and settings later):

    I will come back later on with some personal remarks and most importantly what I couldn’t find on the web before I bought it, a close shot of the keyboard (cause I do have some things I don’t quite like about…). Hope it helps other people decide as well, there are a few quite extensive reviews, but not on the same specs.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    HOME – a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Home in figures

    • 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of the planet’s resources
      GEO4, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) 2007
    • The world spends twelve times more on weapons than on aid to developing countries
      SIPRI Yearbook, 2008 (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)
      OECD, 2008 (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)
    • 5,000 people die every day because of polluted drinking water. 1 billion humans have no access to safe drinking water
      UNDP, 2006 (United Nations Development Programme)
    • 1 billion people are going hungry
      FAO, 2008 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
    • Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or biofuels
      Worldwatch Institute, 2007
      FAO, 2008
    • 40% of the arable land is degraded
      UNEP (United Nations Environment programme), ISRIC World Soil Information
    • Every year, 13 milion hectares of forest disappear
      FAO, 2005
    • 1 mammal in 4, 1 bird in 8, 1 amphibian in 3 are threatned with extinction.
      Species are dying out 1,000 times faster than the natural rate
      IUCN, 2008 (International Union fo Conservation of Nature)
      XVI International Botanical Congress, Saint-Louis, USA, 1999
    • 75% of fisheries products are exhausted, depleted or in danger of doing so
      Source UN
    • The average temperature of the last 15 years has been the highest since records began
      NASA Giss data
    • The ice cap has lost 40% of its thickness in 40 years
      NSIDC, The National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2004
    • There could be 200 million climate refugees by 2050
      The Stern Review: the Economics of Climate Change
      Part II, Chapter 3, page 77