You don't have to run Chrome OS on a speedy solid-state or mechanical hard drive to enjoy swift system startups on a netbook. Using a third-party build of the public pre-release Chrome OS source code (a.k.a. Chromium OS), the folks at Engadget were able to get more than acceptable boot times with the operating system housed on a lowly USB thumb drive.
Looking at Engadget's video, we clocked the entire boot process—from power button to login screen—at 22 seconds. Taking the POST and BIOS startup out of the equation, we're down to just over 10 seconds. Impressive, to say the least, especially since USB drives aren't generally known for their speed. Engadget used a Dell Vostro A90 netbook, a business-oriented version of the now-defunct Inspiron Mini 9, as well as a plain-looking 4GB Samsung USB drive.
You can try the same feat on your netbook by grabbing the bootable "Hexxeh" builds of Chromium OS, which are offered with setup instructions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The drive image is a 307MB BitTorrent download. We've not tried it ourselves, though, so exercise caution.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can also go poking around the Chromium OS code and perhaps even build the operating system yourself. All necessary resources are on the Chromium OS project page. Also, as we noted last week, a third-party VMware image of the operating system is available on BitTorrent sites.