Ten ways to upgrade your netbook

Due to their diversity, netbooks don't share common upgrade paths as typical desktop PCs do

Extreme Upgrades

Some of the crazier upgrades you can perform on netbooks, including the Dell Mini 9, are detailed enough to warrant their own multipage articles. While we can't list every step along the way, we can at least show you the possibilities that await should you choose to pick up a soldering iron and venture into the world of electronic mischief.

Add a Touchscreen

First up is the process of replacing your netbook's ordinary screen with a touchscreen. Prior to the invention of handy, all-in-one, no-soldering-required kits, this process used to require extreme care, patience, and the cash to repurchase a machine should your connections not be as precise as they needed to be. Thankfully, online you can now find a variety of kits for a wide range of netbooks that give you the parts--and, more important, the step-by-step walkthroughs--for this complicated procedure. While it still isn't an upgrade for novices, adding a touchscreen to a netbook has come a long way from the solder-filled days of yore.

Add a GPS Receiver

Inserting a brand-new GPS receiver into a Mini 9 sounds like an easy task, given the size of the device in question. Since it's no larger than a tiny flash drive, you would think that sticking this device into a netbook and finding a place to connect it would be as simple as plugging in a USB thumb drive. And you'd be right--but only about the first half of that process. The Dell Mini 9 certainly has plenty of room inside for an integrated GPS receiver, but unlike an average motherboard, the Mini 9's doesn't have any open USB connectors to simplify the powering of the receiver. Super Moderator Acabtp of the MyDellMini forum ran wires all around his Dell Mini 9 in search of power for the device, eventually finding success in connecting the GPS unit to the unused mini-PCI Express connector of the Mini 9's WWAN port. This is a tricky upgrade that requires some additional hardware hacking in order for you to turn the device on and off at a whim, but it's a small price to pay to have a hybrid netbook/GPS device.

Add a Drive-Activity Light

Everyone loves hacks that add a little more aesthetics to an otherwise drab machine. In the case of the Dell Mini 9, the netbook lacks a hard-drive-activity light on its front to let you know when your magnetic (or solid-state) drive is in use. Super Moderator UnaClocker of the MyDellMini forum went through the painstaking process of detailing exactly how to add an activity light to a Dell Mini 9 that has been upgraded previously with a RunCore solid-state drive. The procedure requires you to identify the exact pin on the SSD's controller that's responsible for the activity reading, solder a wire to the resistor, and then solder the other end of the wire to a resistor that's attached to an LED. You then have to find a way to install the LED into the Dell--UnaClocker put it in the battery-notification area--in order to achieve the blinking effect.

More Resources

Looking for communities to guide you in your netbook hacking? Jump-start your journey through the many netbook modifications available to you by making use of the knowledge that other netbook owners discuss on a daily basis. Here's a listing of the top places to find netbook-hacking information for some of the most popular brands on the market.

Acer Acer Aspire One User Forum

Asus EeeUser Forum

Dell MyDellMini

HP HP Mini Guide Forums

MSI MSI Wind Forums

Samsung SammyNetbook

OSX Compatibility Chart Boing Boing Gadgets

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