Windows Vista Ultimate on the Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC

I’ve had my tablet for few years now and I just love it. I don’t know why these things haven’t taken off in the marketplace! They’re a bit more expensive than normal laptops, but it’s definitely worth the extra cost in my opinion. Mine is a Portege M200 from Toshiba (a “convertible” tablet). It came with the first release Windows XP Tablet PC edition. That worked okay, but SP2 definitely made it more usable. Technical specs include a 1.6 GHz Intel Centrino package (only 802.11b though), 512 MB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive.

As you can imagine, I filled that hard drive pretty quickly. And even though I had formatted and reinstalled Windows XP once already, it was pretty slow compared to the other computers I use on a regular basis. I started thinking about what I’d do with it. I really didn’t want to lose the tablet, but it was becoming less and less usable for me.

So I decided to upgrade it. I had purchased Windows Vista Ultimate back when it RTM’d, but I hadn’t installed it anywhere. I’ve literally had the DVD sitting on my desk for over a year, just waiting to be used. Why not on the tablet, I thought?

Windows Vista Ultimate on Toshiba Portege M200

As you can see, I got it working! Here’s how I did it:

The first step was to upgrade the hardware. The hard drive was old and small, and 512 MB of RAM was definitely not enough to run Vista. I also wanted to add a new wireless card that used 802.11g. I went to Memory Express and got the parts: 2 GB of Kingston PC2700 RAM, a new Seagate 160 GB hard drive, a D-Link AirPlus wireless card, and a Samsung external DVD-Writer. I also decided to get the extended warranty (which I don’t usually). Total cost: $450.

The reason I bought the external DVD drive was because the Portege M200 doesn’t have a built-in drive. So I plugged it in and started the Vista setup, only to find that it was really slow. I stuck the Windows XP disc in just to make sure, and yep, still really slow. I searched for something to fix the problem, but came up empty. The drive worked fine on my desktop, so it had to be the firmware on the tablet or something.

I looked for another solution, and eventually found this post by Ryan Adams. His solution is to use something called TFTP to install Windows Vista over a network connection. All you need is a computer with a working DVD drive that you can share, and a crossover cable. His instructions are excellent, so if you need to install Vista on a machine that doesn’t have a DVD drive, give it a shot. That’s how I got mine working.

The install was painless and pretty quick, and I breathed a sigh of relief when Vista booted up successfully. I was almost there! The next step was drivers. I found this page on the Mobile PC Wiki really useful. You can use some of the original M200 drivers. Additionally, you can install the M400 software updates that Toshiba has released for Windows Vista: one is the “Value Added Package for Windows Vista” and the other is the “Tablet PC Extension for Windows Vista”.

driverI didn’t mess around with the video too much at this point, and instead downloaded Windows Vista SP1 from MSDN and got that installed.

Since then, I have been messing around with the video drivers. I was determined to get Aero Glass working! I read Scott Hanselman’s post and was a little worried – I’m not sure he’s ever gotten it to work. Anyway, I eventually got the NVIDIA 97.59 driver installed and working properly!

It took me a while to figure out, but I can’t use transparency. If I turn on transparency and then open three or four windows, the Desktop Window Manager service crashes and everything reverts back to Vista Basic. If I turn off transparency however, Aero Glass works just fine. Here’s the non-transparent look:

not transparent

And here’s what it looks like with transparency enabled:

transparent

Having the transparency is nice, but it’s not a deal-breaker. And I’d much rather have Aero Glass than Vista Basic (which is ugly and pale blue by default).

Today, I finally ran the Windows Experience test:

vista rating

That’s pretty much the same as I’ve seen around the web for other Portege M200 owners who have upgraded to Vista. If Toshiba and NVIDIA released better drivers, I’m sure the rating would be much higher. Ah well, they want you to buy new machines I guess.

Based solely on my perception of how well the tablet performs, I’d say it’s much faster and more responsive with Vista then it ever was with XP. Surely the 2 GB of RAM and new hard drive help, though. The one negative is that the battery lasted far longer under XP. I’m talking like an hour and half longer!

That said, I am really glad I decided to upgrade my tablet to Vista. It kicks ass! I’ll save that for another post, but if you’re an M200 owner wondering whether or not to move to Vista, my advice would be to do so. The Tablet PC functionality in Vista easily outshines XP, you won’t regret the upgrade.

30 thoughts on “Windows Vista Ultimate on the Toshiba Portege M200 Tablet PC

  1. I’m sat typing this on my Fujitsu T4010 with XP SP2 wondering if it’s worth it. It only has 512MB, a 40GB drive, but the graphics card is not (apparently) Aero compatible.

    Vista has tablet functionality on all the main skus now, but the notebook manufacturers really haven’t taken advantage of this.

    I’m thinking of a desktop upgrade (though it seems hard to find something with readyboost) and a new notebook but something with a bigger screen and more power so I can run VS well.

  2. The only reason Aero works on mine is that NVIDIA’s drivers “trick” Vista into thinking that part of the system RAM is actually video RAM.

    You’re right – it’s a shame that more notebooks don’t take advantage of the tablet functionality.

  3. That’s pretty slick. I’ve been debating a tablet but after using my friend’s I don’t think they’re responsive enough for me. Perhaps I’m just jaded.

  4. I too love my M200. Even though it is old, it is one of the best tablets around. Sounds like you got a great deal too!

    I’m also glad to see you found my guide useful. TFTP booting is about the only (cheap) way to install Vista on the M200.

  5. I’m writing this comments using Fujitsu Lifebook T4010 running Windows Vista Business SP1. Everything Works perfect except Aero and autorotation screen (just use the tablet button to rotate the screen as all the tablet buttons work great). My specs is only 512 MB RAM and 40GB HD. In fact, it is now a lot more faster, better performance, and longer battery life than windows XP. It runs Photoshop CS3 quite good.I tried to run IE, MS Words, and Nitro PDF simultaneously – and it handled well. I installed the drivers from Fujitsu T4215 for all the unknown devices (checked and installed via Device Manager). For those that have T4010 or T4020, you better try to install vista – you’ll not be disappointed. The tablet features of vista are far more better than those on XP

  6. Glad to see you buddies keep on invest on M200, yes I love mine though as said, its old, it works perfect with XP recent released SP3.

    I used to put Vista into it, though it works and experiences good, but the only thing was short delay do appear during operation, wonder if its the harddisk problem, also, I can only got 1.0 in the graphic card score !!

    Yes I had upgraded it with 2GB ram, 7200rpm HDD, but the problem remains occurrs.

    Recently I am trying to get a SSD replacement for it, not easy as most of available SSD are in SATA and the price unacceptable high !! also tried to speed it up with CF to ATA adapter with a 300X CF, though this way works in my Samsung Q1, it cannot boot up in M200, M200 can recognize that card as a hard drive, can install the Vista while boot from DVD, but after installation the card cannot boot up by itself.

    Replacing the snail HDD with CF repalcement in Q1 makes it fly, these small investment is really worth.

    Now my M200 is back to XP SP3 and I sure it will with me for other couple of years.

  7. I have an m200 portege myself. I have been considering upgrading it myself because, like mentioned above, it’s a little outdated. The only thing is, I am afraid something could get messed up if I do it myself. I am not a newcomer to computers, been dealing with them since I was in elementary school, however, I am not used to the hardware of laptops yet. I know I want to expand the ram to about 2gb and the hard drive to at least 100gb, and possibly a new graphics card, but what else could i get to make vista run smooth? I love my tablet pc and don’t want to get rid of it and don’t want to get rid of it so i figured this is the best way to go. (Also, I have sp3 on xp and it is slow)

  8. I’m running Vista on my M200 as well. The tablet extension improvements Vista has over XP make it worth it (for me anyway).

    If you have an external optical drive you can hold down th [F2] key when initially booting and get the option to boot off of the external drive. If you already have an external drive that approach is a little more straight forward than TFTP.

  9. I also recently tried putting Windows 7 Beta on it. The beta did not like the M200 hardware at all and I had to back it out.

    Peformance was a little better than Vista, but every time I’d open a window I’d get a “Failure to Assert” message. It would still work, but the constant popups were pretty annoying.

    I’ll give it another shot with the next release.

  10. I have successfully installed and have had no serious problems with Windows 7 on my m200, and I only have 1 gig of memory as well as a slow 4800rpm drive that i had to replace my stock with (it died a while back).

    The only issues i DO seem to have at this point
    1) the “pen buttons” on the side of the screen, i cannot get to work.
    2) i seem to have the same? hibernation or sleep issue that i read people have with vista installs. I got around it by just not putting my computer to hibernate / sleep.
    3) i dont know if its the drivers or what, but full screen video (have only tested with streaming flash movies on the net) is SLOW. no problems watching it non-full screen, but the playback becomes very noticably jerky when in full screen mode.
    4) I am also getting a 1 on my gaming graphics subscore. I “overclocked” the go5200 a little bit to 242/512 but doesnt seem to make a difference (no overheating issues tho).
    5) windows7 doesnt seem to like the “toshiba secure digital host controller” driver…

    anyone else install win7 on the m200? info would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Thanks so much for posting this! I just grabbed a used M200 tablet off eBay and am planning an upgrade very similar to yours. Glad to know my plan will work. 🙂 Is the 802.11g card worth the hassle? Did you put in a 5400 or 7200 rpm drive?

  12. I have been running my M200 on Vista (Ultimate,for what it’s worth) for the past two years and agree that the tablet experience and performance are significantly improved over XP. I have had no problems with sleep / hibernation functionality, and have been able to run full Aero glass without problems.

    I decided this week to try the Windows 7 Beta (the M200 is no longer my main work laptop) with mixed results. The upgrade from Vista was slow but otherwise smooth. Performance is good and stability is fine if you stick to the default graphics driver, which, unfortunately, is not Aero-capable. I have tried tweaking the Nvidia 7.15.10.9752 driver and this gives full Aero, but is a little unstable and causes the screen to blank temporarily during some transitions.

    The tablet features of Win 7 seem to be another step up from Vista and XP, so it’s worth trying, although possibly with RC1 rather than the Beta.

  13. I installed Windows 7 (clean install)on my M200 that I just got from ebay. I would love it(but you should never love anything that can’t love you back) so, I thoroughly enjoy it. Nearly everthing works.
    Pen buttons and SD card DO NOT work (for me). (also, i’m not sure if this is 7 or my hardware, but the 2nd fan doesn’t ever turn on or even show up in speedfan (yes, i tested the fan). This makes the tablet get pretty warm in tablet mode, (it doesn’t overheat or crash). The CPU Fan works fine and is very silent).
    I’m Using the Nvidia drivers from laptopvideo2go.com (98.16). The only thing I (desperately) wanted from Aero was the thumbnail preview of open windows, which works well unless there are alot open (then cuts in and out on mouse hover). Just DISABLE the “Transparent glass” and other menu effects under “performance options” or you will be frustrated. Overclocking the go5200 does NOT work (coolbits and Rivatuner). Rivatuner allows you to set it higher, but the computer will never run the GPU faster than default(pull up hardware monitoring to verify).
    All other drivers I got from the european Toshiba website. It hibernates well, but sometimes no video coming out of sleep (mostly if the lid switch is involved), but I simply type in my windows password, then press the Fn+F7(brightness) combo twice and it wakes the screen up.
    Voice commands work great, Handwriting Recognition is very good(And I write very poorly. I often can’t read my own writing).
    The intel 2100 (B) worked fine with streaming video but required patience for large file transfers on my home network so I bought an intel 2200 (G)on ebay for $12, (easy install but must remove bottom cover completely) which helped greatly. (if you do that, make sure you don’t buy pci_E.)
    1.5GB Ram is ESSENTIAL. It came with 512, I thought 1gb would be plenty but it was accessing the hard drive non-stop, and slowing things down. With 1.5, I can have a few things open and the HDD light only flashes once every 20seconds.
    That’s everything I know. Windows 7 is great. Tablet PC’s are the best. I wouldn’t wait. Just make sure you have a free day.

    IMPORTANT: Save yourself 12hrs frustration, TFTP does NOT work running in windows vista. Run it from an XP machine and you’ll be fine.
    OR… you can buy a used TARGUS DVD Rom slim USB drive on ebay for $20, that the M200 will boot off of (need to try the option a couple of times before it works as this gives the drive a chance to spin up). It still boots from it VERY slow, don’t know why. (My other USB DVD did NOT work).
    DON’T BOTHER… booting from SD card is NOT an option for vista or 7. It only lets you boot a 1.5mb floppy image from the SD card, no matter how big your card is, and you CAN’T run an XP recovery floppy image from the SD and then run the win7 files from a HDD partition because Vista and 7 will only run in a WinPE environment and that is much larger than 1.5mb so after you spend 3 hrs going to everystore you can think of and FINALLY find the one that still has 512mb SD cards (because it will only boot off 512 or smaller and no one carries cards that small anymore) you will be right back were you started.
    If you are thinking of buying a M200, consider this. I bought my wife a HP TC4200 for $290 (Ebay Canada has them cheaper than US, even with shipping) and my M200 for $260. Both needed a new battery ($50), her’s needed a stylus ($40). RAM for the M200: $35 for 1gb. For the TC4200: $10 for 1gb. The TC4200 will boot off ANYTHING (usb hdd, usb dvd, usb flash drive, SD card (not the stupid M200 way) or network. The M200; well you read the post. Ours both run at 1.8ghz, but with the faster RAM, I actually notice a small difference, hers is faster. Hers lasts 40min longer on battery (about). Hers feels solid as a rock (with larger touchpad and touchstick), there is noticeable flex to the M200. Drivers for vista (which work in 7) have to be hunted down for the M200, they are readily available for hers. The HP does NOT run Aero.
    Bottom line, Unless Thumbnail Previews of Open windows are THE main thing you want from a cheap tablet pc, (you won’t play your old games on your tablet as much as you hoped and the Acceleromter on the M200 is useless) I highly recommend the HP TC4200 over the M200. But once you have either you will absolutely love it and it will be an absolute steal, especially compared to what others are paying for their new laptops. And either will provide plenty of processing power for a mobile PC.
    (And DON’T buy the IBM X41. They take a proprietary HDD that costs a couple hundred for a 60gb max drive).

    Sorry for the length of the post.

  14. hello folks,

    thanks for the posts, quite intereseting tho. i installed vista on my m200 with only 512mb ram and the default HDD, still i wonder how good vista manages to deal with those low hardware. a bit tweaking in services and win itself it runs quite smooth. ram upgrade is incoming, so will see how it runs then

  15. Hi all,

    Does anyone know if it’s possible to replace the HDD with a SATA SSD? Is there some sort of laptop Sata host adaptor or non-sata ssd available?

    Cheers.

  16. Since there is little room for adapter cards I don’t think it will be possible to mount a SATA SDD in the PATA slot…

  17. In theory…
    Compact Flash using the ATA connection interface, a simple adapter (from ebay) replaces a standard HDD. So far the M200 refuses to respond with this setup. Without anything connected to the IDE, the system boots the recovery media but can’t see a HDD to write to (duh!) With the CF system in place, the machine stops responding before it’s possible to raise the toshiba boot menu – no idea why this is. The BIOS can be entered, but changing settings such as EIDE –> standard IDE hasn’t helped.

    Darcher, why not mount a PATA SSD. Theirs no performance gain PATA Vs. SATA as the system can’t handle it.

  18. installed Windows 7 RTM on my Toshiba M200. It runs fine but does not support the sound card or the 802.11 B WiFi. I got a PCMCIA WiFi card and went through the install but still no WiFi support. Any ideas?

  19. hi,

    so for easy install:
    1 take the disk out of the tablet and connect it via usb/ide adater to a windows pc
    2 make a 2,4 GB partition as fat32 make sure it is set as active)and copy win 7 install files on it
    3 boot
    4 install win 7
    5 ..ignore the loss of 2,3 gigs… but you economise much time and money

  20. I took an old Toshiba Tablet M200. I picked up an 80Gig HD for nothing. I installed 2GB of RAM and installed Win7 from work (Microsoft). It runs pretty well but I can’t get Aero and I can’t run it through a projector or other monitor. Any thoughts on how to get a better Video driver, which would support external monitor and Aero? Also, I still have a 1.0 performance rating.

  21. You did good experiment and invest your $450 for R&D on your Toshiba portage M200 tablet PC. I think you still need to use XP on your system with some OS changes to run the OS fast. May be Linux OS will work fine on this.

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