Aspire R11 R3-131T and the 32GB Limit

Mark Berry September 9, 2015

Aspire R11 1Recently I purchased an Acer Aspire R3-131T-C28S from Walmart. I wanted to see how far I could get with a $199 computer. The answer? Pretty far, but not far enough.

Specs:  2GB memory, 11.6” HD touchscreen (1366×768), 32GB “internal storage,” Intel Celeron N3050 dual-core processor, Windows 8.1 Standard, 3.1 pounds.

I really like the size of this machine. It’s small and light enough to transport easily, yet the keyboard has a nice feel and is well laid out.

The screen isn’t great—viewing angles are limited—but it responds well to touch.

One bonus is that the machine includes a TPM chip. The machine doesn’t support Connected Standby, so you can’t do “device encryption” under Windows 8.1 Standard (as explained here). However after upgrading to Windows 8.1 Pro, I was able to set up normal BitLocker with no problem.

The 2GB of memory is enough for running a couple apps. It can actually be upgraded to 8GB—see this video.

The problem comes with the 32GB of “internal storage.” I expected that to be a small SSD that I could upgrade, but it turns out that it is an eMMC chip soldered onto the motherboard somewhere. As the pictures in this post show, there is room for a standard SATA drive, but the connector is simply missing from the motherboard. So you’re stuck with the 32GB.

That might sound okay, but it turns out that 9GB of the drive is dedicated to a recovery partition. The 20GB C: drive had about 8GB free at first (if I recall correctly), but after the Win 8.1 Pro upgrade and installing Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus and a few smaller programs, I’m down to 3GB free:

Aspire R11 2

Given how much space gets eaten every time Windows updates are applied, 3GB does not seem like enough to keep this machine going for long.

Okay, I thought, I’ll make a recovery media stick (requires a 16GB USB drive), then delete the recovery partition. Then I’d have about 12GB free.

Not so fast. That recovery partition is a WIMBoot partition and is required to boot the machine (forum post, WIMBoot description). It’s a clever idea:  use compressed files from the recovery partition when booting the machine. But it means that the recovery partition has to stay there unless you wipe the entire drive and start from scratch with a traditional installation. However, a traditional installation would take more room than the WIMBoot partition uses.

The machine has a “Windows 10 Now” sticker on it, so upgrading is supported. Per Acer, this requires storing your old Windows installation on a USB or SD card. It seems like upgrading to Windows 10 would make the Windows 8.1 WIMBoot useless, but I didn’t try it to find out.

So the only option to expand space is to add an SD card or USB storage. That would be fine for storing lots of media or documents, but it becomes a hassle, with questionable performance, to try to install programs on a secondary drive.

Bottom line, this is a neat little machine with almost enough juice to be useful. A 64GB eMMC, or at least a working SATA connector, would have put it over the line. There are versions of the R11 with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB drive, and a Pentium N3700 quad-core processor (example), but I’m not convinced they are worth twice as much.



11 Comments

  1. Grunge   |  April 13, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Same here, i have the N3700 CPU, but only 32GB eMMC Storage.
    Don’t know how i can wipe the Storage and perform a fresh installation from a USB Stick (Up to date Windows, no Bloatware) with the WIM / Dism Thing.
    Any Idea?
    Thanks

  2. Mark Berry   |  April 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Sorry Grunge, don’t know. Might be best to go back to factory image, uninstall as much as you want, then do normal updates.

  3. William Hudson   |  June 09, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I bought one refurbed and it too had the 32gb emmc, but the ram is upgradeable I opened it up and just ordered 4gb ram stick, I use a 64gb SD card for files and its working fine, have 9gb open on 32gb SSD with office and a few other programs installed

  4. Wiley   |  July 07, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Could it be possible to add the SATA connector and then put an ssd in?

  5. Mark Berry   |  July 08, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Wiley, in the thread that I referenced, Panther063 answered that question like this: “It’s not impossible, but would need specialized equipment to solder the required socket on to the Motherboard to allow the connecting cable for the SSD.” That’s more than I would want to try!

    http://www.techsupportforum.com/forums/f108/aspire-r11-r3-131t-locating-the-ssd-and-other-general-upgrading-questions-1024258.html#post6507042

  6. William Hudson   |  July 08, 2016 at 8:29 am

    I agree its too hard for this, there is an acer model similar with hd that could be upgraded since it has an SATA but it costs more.
    All these models with 32gb ssd

  7. SDELNICK   |  August 22, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Well I went ahead and soldered the missing connector. Yes I did it. (Do not attempt if you do not have specialized equipment) Added a HDD cable and connected the HDD. And…

    I hear the HDD spin up on the startup, but it’s not shown in the BIOS therefore does not appear in windows. The HDD even goes in power save mode when window goes to sleep (I can hear it) :(
    Apparently something else is missing or need to come of like a jumper (zero Ohm resistor)
    So even with connector it’s not possible.
    It looks like both systems with eMMC and HDD uses the same BIOS if you go search for it on Acer website.

  8. franklyn berry   |  August 27, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I was able to lose Windows 10 entirely and boot the machine using a USB stick installed version
    of Ubuntu 16.04. Runs like a scalded dog, and recovered the “recovery” space as well.
    touch screen works, and with a little shell programming using thinkpad yoga scripts I am able
    to flip the screen on a function key. Next up: integrating the flip with the sensor and an 8gB memory chip from Newegg.

    Very Happy. Completely obsoleted my Macbook Air {also ubuntu} with almost twice the battery life!

  9. Terry   |  October 03, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Hi I just bought a laptop exactly like the one describe at Walmart, I am trying to install age of Empires but it says that there is only 439 MB available and the game requires 4662 MB. As I said the computer is brand new I have not many files or programs stored. Idk why I can’t download a simple game. I was thinking about deleting some unnecessary apps and programs that came with it originally but I am afraid I would delete something I am not supposed to, I am not really into technology so I have no idea what to do. Could you give me some advice please?

  10. Mark Berry   |  October 03, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Terry, I no longer have this machine but from reading my post, it should start with about 8GB free which would be 8000MB. You could uninstall Microsoft Office if that is installed. That said, any program that requires 4662MB (4.6GB) is not simple, it’s large and complex. I’m not a gamer but I’d be surprised if the performance of this machine was good enough to play such a game satisfactorily. If you really want to try, you could see if Acer support could help you figure out the space issue..

  11. Marie Pierce   |  October 19, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    This was a really good article. It was exactly what I needed to know. Very well tested and documented.

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