Upgrading a HP Compaq nw8440 Mobile Workstation to Windows 7 64-bit

Overview

I recently had to reinstall Windows on a client’s machine as it had crawled to halt as operating systems tends to do as the sludge builds up. The machine was running XP Professional. The client’s opinions of Windows Vista were less that favourable given its reputation in the media and more importantly on the street. He suggested reinstalling XP, but I figured Windows 7 would be a good choice. So far I have had good success with Windows 7, even on older hardware. It’s what Vista should have been! Turns out the HP Compaq nw8440 Mobile Workstation he owned was quite the powerhouse . It’s no Core i3/5/7 but it did have a Core 2 Duo T7400 which still has some life in it. When he bought this machine he paid a significant amount of money so I figured it would be worth reviewing potential hardware upgrades if I was going to go through the steps of installing a new O/S.

Hardware upgrades

I chose to upgrade the existing 80GB hard drive to a new faster 320GB (Seagate Momentus 7200.4 320 GB 7200 rpm 16MB Buffer Serial ATA 2.5” Hard Drive) drive. Although he didn’t need all that space, I also bought a USB enclosure to drop his old drive into so there was no chance of him losing data. This is my preferred upgrade path for O/S reinstalls, this way I don’t have to make sure I’ve got everything before wiping the drive! I also upgraded the RAM from the existing 2GB to 4GB using a Kingston HyperX KHX5300S2LLK2/4G 4GB 2X2GB PC2-5300 DDR2-667 CL4-4-4-12 200PIN SODIMM Memory Kit.

I installed the RAM first (see Maintenance and Service guide in the manuals link in resources below) in order to make sure it was working properly. One stick is on the bottom of the laptop behind a door, the other stick is under the keyboard. Past experience has shown that, of all components, RAM can be the most finicky. First I booted Finnix and ran memtest86 to completion without error (this takes a couple hours). Next I booted the original XP installation which also worked fine. Good – the risky part was done! Next step was to install the hard drive which is on the bottom behind a door but refer to the service manual (I really love the level of detail the big players provide in their documentation for servicing machines). The drive was detected by the BIOS properly so now it was time to attempt the Windows 7 installation.

Windows 7 64-bit

I purchased Windows 7 Business 64-bit since I wanted my client to be able to access the full 4GB of new RAM I installed. The installation went without a hitch and Windows booted. Everything so far had gone too easily, I knew it was time for a snag and it turned out to be missing video drivers forcing a very low resolution on this high-end LCD screen!

ATI Mobility FireGL V5200

Turns out that my assumption that I would be able to download the latest Catalyst driver package from ATI/AMD was wrong. If you browse through AMD’s site for the drivers you get met by a brick wall explaining the ATI doesn’t support the cards and leaves it up to the manufacturer to supply the drivers. At this point I was getting concerned since we all know manufacturer’s track record in providing updated drivers for new operating systems on old products. I guess from their perspective it’s better to sell a new laptop, but then what’s the point in buying premium equipment if it’s not going to be supported for years to come? Visiting HP Compaq’s support page for the nw8440 turned up no Windows 7 drives. Vista is there, but I wasn’t able to install those after it being suggested by someone on the Internet. This brings us to the main reason for this blog post since it took me 2-3 hours to figure this one out. Here’s what I did to resolve it:

  1. Download DH Mobility Modder.NET and install it
  2. Download the latest desktop drivers from AMD. I selected Graphics Cards – Desktop, Radeon X1600 Series, and finally Windows Vista – 64-bit. This gave me the 10-2_legacy_vista32-64_dd_ccc.exe file. Run the self-extracting archive and record the location it’s decompressing to. Once the installation program opens close it (this will leave the extracted files ready for you to monkey with)
  3. Run DH Mobility Modder.NET and browse to the directory. Click Modify
  4. Install these new drivers!

The device manager didn’t show any other drivers missing with the exception of the SD card reader, I installed the Vista Business 64-bit driver from HP and it worked a treat.

Final Words

My client was very happy with the new upgrades, and in this case, since it was a premium laptop it was worth the upgrade. If this was a consumer laptop I probably wouldn’t have bothered spending the time to upgrade it and would have suggested a new laptop, or just reinstalled Windows XP. I hope this post helps someone to save the time that it took me to figure out the display driver hackery!

Comments welcome!

Resources

22 thoughts on “Upgrading a HP Compaq nw8440 Mobile Workstation to Windows 7 64-bit

  1. i’ve done something similar, but haven’t figured out how to get the fingerprint reader to work. i believe the fingerprint reader requires the hp protectools software to be installed, but that shows as incompatible with windows 7 when you try and install it (the vista 64-bit version of it). any clues on how to get around that?

  2. Thanks for the comments guys. I just saw them because they were burried in spam posts! Just installed a CAPTCHA so hopefully that will sort it out.

    @bozo I didn’t bother with the 3D DriveGaurd since drives are so reliable these days. They often have their own internal velocity sensors on them that lock the heads. I wouldn’t worry about it and feel this feature is a bit of an HP gimmick.

    @dave It was awhile ago now but I don’t think I got the fingerprint reader to work. It wasn’t a show stopper for the customer though so I didn’t spend much time on it.

  3. @Dave,

    Just upgraded my nw8440 to Windows 7 x64
    Windows update will install the AutenTec driver

    For the fingerprint reader to work download and install SP44868 from the HP website. It will give you the possibility to logon again with the fingerprint reader.

  4. Hi Friends,
    I am having the same system and its support only 32 bit Operating system.
    anyone how can i make it 64 bit support.

    Thanks

  5. Hi, i got the same laptop only with win 7 32bit.
    i did exactley what u described in regard to the graphics card (after directing the modder to the ATI directory i downloaded the Vista Business 32-bit graphic card driver from HP). the installation finished OK, but afterward, the PC wasent able to open catalyst control center and the default resulotion of win 7 remaind the low. i also downloaded the video card driver from HP and it couldnt finish the installation because it said somthing regarding a wrong platform.
    what did i do wrong?
    HEEEELLLP!!!
    THX!

  6. @eitamar

    Hi there. I think where you went wrong is your downloaded the wrong driver. I downloaded the latest generic Windows Vista 64-bit nVidia Cataylst driver from the “AMD Graphics Drivers & Software” link at the bottom of the post and ran the Modder against that, not the one from HP. Hope that helps you.

  7. Thanks for this post. I had an old unused nw8440 with 2 GB ram and a T7600 processor that was purchased with XP (x86), had gotten the free Vista upgrade ( but for multiple reasons I never did the OS upgrade), and only ended up using this computer for a few months as I needed a convertible/tablet to use with an EMR.

    About a year ago I ran the Win 7 upgrade advisor, and in conjunction with a complete lack of support from HP for using this notebook with Win 7, I figured it wasn’t worth pursuing. So it went back under my desk and sat unused.

    Then I came across your post and I figured what the heck. I did a 2 GB ram upgrade to 4 GB. Replaced the original Seagate 80 GB HD with an unused/extra OCZ 120 GB vertex solid state drive, and went ahead with the Win upgrade.

    I really hate having to contact Microsoft for anything so I also ended up changing the SLIC table to 2.1 so the OS saw it as an OEM installation and it was automatically activated. I converted the video driver as you did and is this has worked as you described.

    The end result is that this is an amazing machine. My current work computer is a top of the line Fujitsu convertible with an I7 processor using a SSD for storage. The nw8440 has an equivalent real world performance to the Fujitsu. The nw8440 boots up in 14 seconds, I can dictate with Nuance Naturallyspeaking 11.5 into Word 2007 equally as fast as the Fujitsu, and I have fallen back in love with the nw8440. I’m sure that there may be a measurable advantage to the Fujitsu with accurate professional performance testing software but for everyday use for non EMR work the nw8440 can’t be beat. I hadn’t initially bothered to run the Windows Experience Index as this is a poor indicator due to the limitations of the value generated by the graphics system. The Fujitsu scores great in everything except graphics and this yields a base score of 4.4. I ran the WEI on the nw8440 and got a 4.3 (also because of graphics). The only major subscore difference between the two machines was the processor (6.9 for the I7 vs 5.3 for the T7600). Otherwise everything was virtually identical.

    However, back to the real world performance, this notebook from 2006 works as well as a 2011 I7 top of the line convertible. I don’t use any gaming or video intensive software and my usual applications such as NaturallySpeaking and Word perform equally as fast on both machines. The nw8440 is much more ruggedly built and there aren’t words to express how I enjoy this renewed laptop.

    So thank you. If not for your original post on your upgrade for a customer, my nw8440 would still be sitting under my desk. My out of pocket expense was $44.00 for 4 GB of memory and $190 for Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit OEM version (thankfully I had an unused SSD).

  8. Awesome! Glad it was helpful for you.

    After the upgrade I was equally impressed with the laptop’s performance. I’ll have to check with my client to see if he’s still using it, but I assume he is! I will have to take a look at the SLIC table stuff you mention, sounds interesting. I agree the WEI is a waste of time, and is really geared towards the gamers to compete with each other, means nothing for business real-world performance. Surprised that it was equal between the i7 and T7600, but it’s a statistic and it’s all how you approach it!

    I recently upgraded my brother’s MacbookPro4,1 to a same OCZ Vertex 2 and it was equally screaming! Your post will hopefully give me the push to write a post about it. Thanks for your reply as well, it’s helpful to see that people are still getting some value out of this post!

  9. Don’t forget that the WEI is not an average score of all of the tests but based on the lowest score generated by the tested subsystems. The i-7 processor was 6.9 and the 7600 processor was 5.3. Essentially the WEI is a way of highlighting the “weakest link” of your system. You would think that Microsoft WEI would have the option of toggling the results of all of the subsystems and average them out. It is easily enough done manually since you only need to add 5 numbers and divide the result by 5.

    Memory may/will lower the average since, “If your computer has a 64-bit central processing unit (CPU) and 4 gigabytes (GB) or less random access memory (RAM), then the Memory (RAM) subscore for your computer will have a maximum of 5.9. The highest WEI index is 7.9.

    I think that the real purpose of the WEI is that Microsoft had the delusion that software manufactures could/would include a WEI value as part of minimum requirements of their Win 7 compatible software.

    However I am just a physician and not a computer professional so this is all out of my territory. In these economic times I think everyone needs to consider frugality and this was a super cheap upgrade. In respect to laptops/electronics consumers tend to forget that disposal of these devices have a very high environmental impact. Anything that avoids an early end of life will delay that impact.

    I have just started novel writing (both fiction and some consumer level medical advice), I wanted a laptop that I would use exclusively for this specific purpose, and I almost bought a new notebook as a result. Although the original cost was around $3000 dollars back in 2006 I consider the real cost to be my upgrade expenses since I have avoided purchasing a brand new laptop. The nw8440 was sitting unused and in virtually new condition with almost zero physical wear and tear.

    Anyway, I still can’t thank you enough for your original post. It’s really amazing how the internet has facilitated the spread of information and one can never estimate the impact of what they post (translate this to write about your brothers upgrade. True, switching out a new hard drive is a heck of a lot simpler than this type of upgrade but it may motivate owners of a really good 2008 computer to get a few more years of use and it’s a way of honoring Steve Jobs’ legacy). Good Luck.

    .

  10. Hi, i have a problem. I cannot find any bluetooth or fingerprint driver for my nw8440… i’m using win7 -32 bit version. Can someone leave some link’s for those ? Thx :)

  11. @XXeLysiA

    Follow the “HP Compaq nw8440 Drivers and software” link in my Resources section and choose “Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise (32-bit)” and you should find it. Vista and Windows 7 are very similar when it comes to drivers and the Vista ones usually work without an issue. And if you get bored hassle HP to support their products properly!

  12. @XXeLysiA

    That’s unfortunate. There’s are also “Microsoft Windows Vista Business (32-bit)” drivers I would give a shot although I doubt they are any different from Vista Enterprise.

    I don’t have any more suggestions, sorry. Workarounds I suggest are to purchase an external USB bluetooth dongle that supports Windows 7 32-bit and forget about using the fingerprint reader…

  13. Hi , i managed to install all the drivers on nw8440 for win7 ultimate (32) ( video card ,bluetooth and fingerprint). But i have a problem… i installed CounterStrike on the device, and the problem is that the screen is not properly displayed …. if someone knows something , please reply .

  14. There’s still a problem with the video driver. You can’t change resolution lower than your native reolution.
    Wat means that if you go below 1600×1200 you get image with black borders, it just doesn’t scale….
    Everyone with this model and W7 has this problem

  15. I’ve got an nw8440 I’m trying to breathe new life back into. Its got a T2500 processor so its only 32-bit but still runs decently with Windows 7 Pro 32-bit. I haven’t had any problems with the video driver like others have reported but I am having problem with the quick launch buttons. Normally I wouldn’t bother since its being such a pain but in my case the wireless radio is powered off and I can’t seem to turn it on without the quick launch button. Any idea on how to turn the wireless radio on without the quick launch button?

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