Hardware upgrades (and some software headaches) with my new notebook

Adding memory and swapping for an SSD was easy. Getting Windows 8.1 Update on the SSD a lot less easy.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

I have written about this Acer Aspire V5-131 three times already: first, setting up Windows 8 and upgrading to Windows 8.1 (Update); then installing openSuSE, Fedora and Linux Mint; and finally, adding Ubuntu, Debian and LMDE to it. The conclusion of all that was that I really like it a lot, and it works really well with all of those different operating systems.

The next thing I started thinking about was some simple hardware upgrades. I was a bit concerned about this, because I had previously upgraded an Acer Aspire One 522, and getting it open to access the memory and disk drive turned out to be quite a pain. 

When I searched for information on opening the Aspire V5, what I found at first sounded a lot like opening the 522, or even worse. But as I have also mentioned in the previous posts about this system, there have been a lot of Aspire V5 models over the past few years, so the one I have is just the most recent in a pretty long line and it looks like Acer has learned a few things and made some improvements. Once I found an article describing the correct model (V5-131), opening it up sounded quite easy.

I extracted a 4GB ram module and an SSD drive from the HP Pavilion dm1, which is on its way out the door (I'm sick of fighting with the HP UEFI firmware), and set about putting them into the Acer. 

The first step — opening the case — was, in fact, dead easy. Remove one screw from the middle of the bottom panel, and slide the panel forward. That's it — the memory slots (two), disk drive and a rather interesting-looking PCI-e slot are right there. 

Installing the memory card was a no-brainer. Removing the disk drive and replacing it with the SSD was just about as easy; the only trick was a couple of screws holding down a frame which secures the connector to the drive, and also acts as a convenient handle to lift the drive out. Move the frame to the SSD, plug it together and screw it back down, and that's all done too.

openSuSE 13.1 KDE

At this point I just wanted to see if everything was working properly, so I booted the openSuSE 13.1 Live USB stick, and verified that the additional memory and new disk drive were detected: no worries. 

Then I decided to start from scratch and see how everything worked, so running gparted from the Live session I deleted all of the partitions on the SSD, and then started the openSuSE Installer. 

Twenty minutes later I had openSuSE 13.1 installed and running. Then another 30 minutes or so to get all of the updates, and in less than an hour I had a fully installed and patched up-to-date Linux system.

Then I lost my mind and decided that I might as well get Windows 8 running on it. I don't want to spend a lot of time on the gory details, so I will just say that there were two major problems. First, the SSD was smaller than the original disk drive, and Clonezilla doesn't like that a bit. Second, there is some information that is significant to the UEFI boot process and specific to the disk drive which is included in the UEFI boot partition.

So even after I managed to get gparted to copy the Windows partitions to the SSD, when I tried to boot all I got was a screen saying that something was wrong with my Windows boot configuration.

The "help" in the Windows error message was pretty useless, and I thought that perhaps the partition copying done by gparted wasn't sufficient, so I went back and fought with clonezillaa bit more. I finally got that to work, but when I tried again to boot the SSD, I got the same Windows error screen. Grrr.

Windows 8
Windows 8.1 (Update)

Finally I decided to reinstall Windows 8 from scratch, using the Recovery USB stick that I had created when I first got the system. That worked, although it took way longer than installing Linux from scratch, and of course once it was done with the factory restore I had to go through the whole rest of the setup, configuration and update of Windows 8.

It was exactly the same (awful) process as when the laptop was new, so anyone who really wants to hear about that should refer to my first post about this laptop. The bottom line is that after spending an hour loading, updating and configuring Linux, I have spent the rest of the day doing the same with Windows 8, and I'm still not done. 

Some very long time later... the Windows 8 patches, Windows 8.1 (Update) upgrade, and Windows 8.1 patches are all done. The Acer now boots and runs Windows 8.1 (Update) from the SSD, and it sees the additional memory, so all is well. Finally.

Fedora 20 Gnome 3

Since completing that ordeal, I have once again installed the usual selection of UEFI-compatible Linux distributions — openSuSE 13.1, Fedora 20, Linux Mint 17, Ubuntu 14.04 and LMDE (Mint Debian) 201402. All of these installed without any problem, which was no surprise because I had installed them all previously on the old disk. Each of them took less than an hour, including configuring and updates after initial installation completed.

Summary: changing/upgrading the hardware was really easy. Getting the operating systems installed on the new SSD was more trouble than I expected, but after a day or so of effort, I now have everything running, and I like this Acer Aspire V5-131 even more than before. This one is definitely a keeper, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone else who is looking for a good, light, versatile sub-notebook.

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