With the goal of this post being education and not boasting, I wanted to inform others how to install a larger capacity SSD on a Dell Mini 9 SSD. As I am pretty much a newbie to Ubuntu and Linux, having only installed 10.04 as a dual-boot option using a USB drive on an old XP Pentium 4 eMachines box, I thought I’d share my experience in case it helps others. Oh…and I hate command line.
My Dell Mini 9 came with Ubuntu 8.04, a 4 GB SSD, and 1 GB RAM. It now has a 32 GB SSD. I had already installed a higher 2 GB RAM chip last year, and Ubuntu was having issues as the 4 GB hard drive was maxed out. Since I didn’t have any data to move to the new hard drive, a clean install was in order.
Step 1. Create Ubunto 11.10 .iso on a USB stick. Easy…I just followed directions as posted here (I think…I looked at so many sites I’m having trouble remembering which one I used to actually create the .iso…I used a new 8 GB stick but I think that was way overkill (I think 23 MB is all you need), but that’s what I had laying around.
Step 2. Replace the SSD. I bought one off Amazon.com, a AMP 32GB SaberTooth AA 50mm PATA Mini PCIe SSD Drive for Mini 9 for $79.99 with free shipping. This was fairly easy…though the motherboard screws holding the SSD in place were phillips head (not flat head like the screwdriver inside the box). Although I don’t own a phillips head screwdriver that small, I managed to get one out, and had to drill the other one out (carefully with a 1/16″ drill bit). But one screw holding it in place is enough. There are several videos widely available if you just Google “Replace Dell Mini 9 SSD”
Step 3. Insert the USB drive, hit 0 (zero) on bootup when you see the Dell Logo, and scroll down to the USB bootup option and hit Enter. If you don’t do this you will get a “NTLDR is missing” error message upon booting up.
Step 4. Create partitions. I followed the directions from here , and created a 20 GB / (root) ext4, a 5 GB /home (also ext4), and a 4 GB swap (swap)…double the RAM I have.
Step 5. Get the wireless working with the right driver. I just continued through the install, and everything worked swimmingly except for the wireless card. I tried the two suggestions here, and while they didn’t seem to work immediately after rebooting, it did come up and works great now. My Dell has a BCD4312 series Broadcom wireless card.
Note: Also make sure to install the restricted drivers as the site mentions from my Step 4 above.
Total investment – $80 and about one hour. So now we have a kitchen laptop again that is functional for just about everything (email and web), and is light enough to carry around the house or travel with us. It won’t run Boxee for Netflix (I had to try!), but as it buffers and skips during shorter video clips (e.g. sports highlights or CNN news footage), I doubt I’d use it for that anyway.
If you have old PCs that have funked out and have windows installed, I’d highly recommend giving Ubuntu a shot, either as a dual-boot or clean install…you’ll be amazed when you bring it back to life. Our “guest” computer is also running Ubuntu (10.04), and is perfect for those looking to simply browse and do email. It’s using the wireless USB stick from an old Tivo (Dlink DWL-122)…brilliant.