1. How to: Clean install Windows 7 (64 bit) on Alienware Desktop

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1. How to: Clean install Windows 7 (64 bit) on Alienware Desktop

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This is how I rebuild the OS and system software on an AW desktop system.

This is not the same as re-imaging the system back to initial Dell factory software install (like with Alien ReSpawn or Dell DataSafe Local) with the Recovery Partition.
In fact, this procedure will permanetly delete and disable that functionality.

So, if you are a new user, and wish to do a Recovery instead (and/or wish to keep the Recovery functionality for use later), just watch this video and follow the steps on your system:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LNIPkqsQy8

For many users (with a working Recovery partition) this might be a better option. It will easily reset machine to it's original factory install software and OS config.

With that out of the way, let's get to THIS procedure ...

This procedure is derived from the Official Dell recommended procedure (like for Inspiron and XPS) , but specifically tailored toward Alienware Desktops by me.
It has been successfully used and verified many times by various users. I wrote this long before the Alienware Team started writing their versions.
Read through once completely before starting.

Backup all important data files to a separate USB HDD or flash drive and remove from system for safe-keeping.
Be sure you have all your legit software install CD/DVDs and keys/serial numbers.

Unplug everything except keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Connect all to the ports on the back of machine.
Connect to good UPS (Battery Backup) to deliver good clean un-interrupted power (and enough of it).

Turn off machine. Unplug the MIO-Board communication cable that is connected to the USB-1 header port on the motherboard. On the Aurora, it is along the bottom edge.
Note which wire colors are where so you can put is back on exactly right later.
Do not remove or install side cover with the power on. You can leave it off for now if you wish.

Install Dell-AW OEM Windows-7 (64 bit) with original (black) DVD-ROM first. Reboot as required until finished.
In you need a disc, call Dell by phone or order one from here:
https://www.dell.com/support/diagnostics/us/en/04/nondiagnostichome?c=us&l=en&s=bsd&DoNotRedirect=y&redirect=1

Install latest Dell drivers (from File Area at support.dell.com ... for your Service Tag)

NOTE 1: I also like this way http://ftp.dell.com

This order is important:

Intel Chipset Drivers (must be installed first)
Video Drivers
Audio Drivers (Realtek on-board or Other)
Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet (optional if using Microsoft bundled drivers instead)
SIL-Silicon Image (eSATA External HDD Driver)
JMicron Sata Controller (For optical drives - Area51 Only)

Ignore driver updates from Windows Update. Drivers should some from Dell.
- Or they can come OEM manufacturer (ie. Creative for X-Fi audio card).

Install any missing Microsoft .Net Frameworks versions 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 (just Frameworks ... NOT SDKs)
- This is so Command Center and any other .Net apps will install and work properly.
- Use Microsoft Update. If you need them, they will be offered. Also get the .Net Service Packs.
- Or, see http://www.asoft.be/prod_netver.html

At this point. the Device Manager should be free of errors (all devices should have proper drivers loaded).
Now would be a good time to backup the main drive (C: partition, etc.) with a good Image Backup (like Acronis) to a separate HDD.

Shut-down Windows (Turn off machine). Re-connect the MIO-Board cable to the USB-1 header port on the motherboard.
Re-install side cover. Turn on machine and boot back into Windows.
Windows will detect the MIO-Board, but it's not a conventional Plug-and-Pray device, so you won't get the usual "New Hardware Detected" prompt.
One way it appears is as "Gaming Desktop" in the Unspecified section of "Devices and Printers". Other parts are scattered throughout Device Manager.

Install latest AlienWare Command Center (v2.8.9.0). Don't install a version older than v2.6.17.0.

The Intel Storage (RST) software is optional in a single "spinning drive" environment.
If running a RAID HDD setup or SSD some say it's recommended. Install Intel RST 9.6.0.1014 (or latest newer version).
Once installed, it replaces the Microsoft HDD driver and CANNOT be un-installed or removed.
The Intel ICH-10r SATA hardware RAID solution works from the BIOS. The Intel RST software is just a way
to monitor and change RAID parameters from inside Windows (but not required for RAID operation).
If trying to use external eSata drives with port-multiplexing, (due to incompatibilities) you
should probably skip it. Other RAID controllers might also have a problem with it installed.
I'm running a Samsung 830 SSD these days. System works great with no Intel-RST (now or ever installed).

Install Microsoft Security Essentials (or your favorite Anti-Virus/ Anti-Spyware)
Windows Firewall is handling the software firewall duties
- If not already done, put machine behind a good (ie SPI) hardware router/firewall ASAP.

My machine originally came from Dell with McAfee, CyberLink PowerDVD Player, and Nero. My preference for these kinds of apps would be MS-SE, VLC Player, and ImgBurn (all free, BTW). I installed them instead.

Go ahead and install all the missing Important and Recommended Windows Updates (but remember, no drivers).
Use Acronis again (or similar) to make a complete Image Backup of your main drive or partition.

Now, it should be safe to visit websites other than dell.com and microsoft.com .
- To prevent problems stick to legitimate websites.

Notes about Partitions:

My Aurora (R1 - X58) came with the following partitions:

Dell Diagnostics (hidden) - 40mb
Dell Recovery (hidden)
OS (main C: drive where Windows runs from)

First ... There is apparently no way to manually or clean install Windows and keep the functionality of the Dell Recovery procedure.
In my opinion, this is not important because of several reasons:
1. Dell DataSafeLocal has proven to be unreliable in day-to-day operation.
2. It has the potential to become corrupt (partial HDD failure, etc.). Even Dell's tech. support has acknowledged this.
3. It becomes outdated quickly (driver versions, missing Windows patches, etc.)
4. Again, even if you leave Recovery Partition in place and get Windows 7 running (with clean install), there is no established way to use it again.
5. I find Acronis (and it's ability to do "bare metal" partition backups and restores) better suited to my needs.

In the rare cases when you need to run the Linux based Dell Diagnostics, you might as well run the latest version ... that you downloaded and burnt to a bootable CD-R. And yes you should run it ... it's the best way to check all your hardware (including the MIO-Board) from outside Windows.

When you go to fresh or clean install Windows 7, (using Pro or Ultimate) if the drive is completely blank (no existing normal, hidden, or OEM partitions), it will install it's own hidden "System Reserved" partition (as the first partition ... it must be first). This uses WinRE for BitLocker and other emergencies. The System Reserved partition is not required for proper operation (notice you don't get it from the factory, and Windows works fine).

I guess the bottom line is that you can only have one or the other in that first hidden partition. Since lower Home versions don't use Windows "System Reserved" partition ... to make everything the same, Dell decided to put Dell Diags there. Plus, a lot of people lose their CDs, so it's handy to have Diags load from BIOS boot menu. So, which-ever one you put there, it will be OTHER one that you need the bootable CD/DVD for.

MIO-Board Notes:

I have installed and re-installed Windows on my Aurora many times and never had a problem. However, some users have had problems with their MIO-Boards (they get locked up) after clean installing Windows (they weren't using this guide, and might have done other things incorrectly, but still ... it warrants caution I suppose). Therefore, I have added the additional steps to dis-connect the MIO-Board from the motherboard while Windows is installed and setup for the first time. While this step is likely un-neccessary, it's one way to side-step any potential issues. (Added 3-2-2012)

General Notes:

When you boot the Windows 7 (64bit) DVD to start re-installation (press F12 if you need to) ...
1. Select the Full install option (not upgrade or repair)
2. Use the Advanced option on the drive selection menu to delete all existing partitions (on your install drive only) first.

Due to availability of hardware drivers (and custom AW apps), Alienware machines are only 100% compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 7. If you choose to install a different version of Windows-7 (other than the version that came with the machine) it must be 64bit. The best way to get from Home Premium to Pro or Ultimate is to use the built-in Microsoft Windows AnytimeUpgrade procedure.

This basic procedure should work on any AW desktop. However, if newer desktops have UEFI , additional drivers might need to be loaded from USB flash drive before the Windows Install can detect all required hardware and actually get started (especially if using RAID Mode). I don't have an Aurora R4, but according to user forum feedback, setting the BIOS boot options like this should allow a Win7 DVD or USB to boot: SATA Mode = AHCI Mode , Boot Mode = UEFI .

The Dell-Alienware Team finally published their own instructions in 5-2012.
They are here: http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kcs/document?c=us&cs=19&docid=549172&doclang=en&l=en&s=dhs 
 
And here: http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/kcs/document?c=us&cs=19&docid=536193

If I missed anything, let me know and I will add it. Last Update: 3-26-2014.


Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

All my Dell Machines and Specs

Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

Posting Tips:
- Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
- Click the button if we answered your question.

Registered Microsoft Partner
& Apple Developer:

Gaming when I'm not programming.

I answer questions here, but
I'm not a Dell employee.

All Replies
  • Great post. =D It's nice of you to take the time and post good instructions to perform a clean install on AW systems. How come I didn't come across this post before?

    This should definitely be sticked; there are lots of folks asking for help re-installing Windows.

    Alienware Aurora : Intel® Core™ i7 930 (OC 3.91 GHz); Alienware™ Approved Intel® X58 Board; 9 GB Kingston® (HyperX™) RAM; 1 TB Western Digital® Caviar Black™ x 2; OCZ® Agility 2 - 180GB x 2 (Raid 0); ; Creative® Soundblaster™ X-Fi Titanium; ATI® Radeon™ HD 5970 2 GB Graphics; Windows 7 (64-bit).

  • Glad you found it helpful.

    It's sort of like building a house. If the foundation isn't right, it doesn't matter how nice the house is built ... you will eventually have problems. Most people correctly think of computer hardware in this way ... but OS and driver software is just as important. It's not really something you just want to fumble through Smile

     


    Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
    256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
    Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

    All my Dell Machines and Specs

    Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

    Posting Tips:
    - Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
    - Click the button if we answered your question.

    Registered Microsoft Partner
    & Apple Developer:

    Gaming when I'm not programming.

    I answer questions here, but
    I'm not a Dell employee.

  • I've installed Windows many times on different machines; never really bothered about a specific order when it comes to installing drivers and other firmware. I didn't think it would make a difference. Usually, I install the sound drivers first so I can listen to music while I install the others. =P

    Alienware Aurora : Intel® Core™ i7 930 (OC 3.91 GHz); Alienware™ Approved Intel® X58 Board; 9 GB Kingston® (HyperX™) RAM; 1 TB Western Digital® Caviar Black™ x 2; OCZ® Agility 2 - 180GB x 2 (Raid 0); ; Creative® Soundblaster™ X-Fi Titanium; ATI® Radeon™ HD 5970 2 GB Graphics; Windows 7 (64-bit).

  • I think one of the most important steps is getting the ChipSet drivers on there first. Sometimes you luck out and they are bundled with Windows, but sometimes not ... it really depends on the hardware and the version of Windows you are installing.

    It helps to have a definitive way to do it (especially for people that don't know where to start). I guess that's why Dell wrote up their generic re-install docs in the first place.

    The rest of this doc is about Dell Recovery, partitioning and other decisions a user needs to make around the time of re-installation.


    Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
    256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
    Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

    All my Dell Machines and Specs

    Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

    Posting Tips:
    - Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
    - Click the button if we answered your question.

    Registered Microsoft Partner
    & Apple Developer:

    Gaming when I'm not programming.

    I answer questions here, but
    I'm not a Dell employee.

  • Yep, you're right. Chipset drivers are vital.

    Alienware Aurora : Intel® Core™ i7 930 (OC 3.91 GHz); Alienware™ Approved Intel® X58 Board; 9 GB Kingston® (HyperX™) RAM; 1 TB Western Digital® Caviar Black™ x 2; OCZ® Agility 2 - 180GB x 2 (Raid 0); ; Creative® Soundblaster™ X-Fi Titanium; ATI® Radeon™ HD 5970 2 GB Graphics; Windows 7 (64-bit).

  • Totally agre.

    Great Job Tesla.

    Not sure why Dell would not have such instruction on their general Web-site geared for each of theire systems.

     

  • Thanks for the help Tesla.

    I plugged my original OS 500GB HDD in slot #2.  Is there any way to use the programs, for example photoshop, from the old HDD while the SSD is the OS?  I know they would be faster on the SSD but I'd prefer to leave some programs on the original HDD and just click on a desktop icon to open them.

  • You are welcome.

    I think you meant to reply in your original thread. I will answer over there ...


    Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
    256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
    Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

    All my Dell Machines and Specs

    Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

    Posting Tips:
    - Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
    - Click the button if we answered your question.

    Registered Microsoft Partner
    & Apple Developer:

    Gaming when I'm not programming.

    I answer questions here, but
    I'm not a Dell employee.

  • Johnson D

    Thanks for the help Tesla.

    I plugged my original OS 500GB HDD in slot #2.  Is there any way to use the programs, for example photoshop, from the old HDD while the SSD is the OS?  I know they would be faster on the SSD but I'd prefer to leave some programs on the original HDD and just click on a desktop icon to open them.

    Sure.

    Un-install it from the SSD and re-install to the spinning drive. If Photoshop has a "scratch or work folder" I think you can re-direct that separately.


    Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
    256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
    Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

    All my Dell Machines and Specs

    Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

    Posting Tips:
    - Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
    - Click the button if we answered your question.

    Registered Microsoft Partner
    & Apple Developer:

    Gaming when I'm not programming.

    I answer questions here, but
    I'm not a Dell employee.

  • Anyone completed this on a Aurora - R4 using UEFI?  I can not install the Windows disk provided with the machine unless I use the 'legacy' boot loader. After the installation reboots to the disk the system displays 'starting services' than a error dialog of "Windows could not finish configuring the system. To attempt to resume configuration, restart the computer.".  I have tried 'rebooting' multiple times but alway returns to the same dialog...

  • Well I have found a way to get around my issue. I had to extract the Chip Drivers, and the Raid Drivers, from the Resource Disk and place them on a USB device (run _R319344.exe,  _R319345.exe found in ‘ZipFiles’ on the Resource DVD).  Then boot the Windows installation disk and eventually you will get a dialog box about missing drivers.  I had assumed the Raid Driver was the only driver needed to complete the installation however I found that I had to install all of the chip drivers ‘first’ following up with the raid driver. After doing this the system installed and booted the hard drive installation setup without a problem.. Almost forgot -- plug your USB into the back of the machine -- the device was not recognized when i plugged it into the USB's on the front of the machine.  Shame the Alienware Window disk does include the necessary drivers in the first place..

  • Go to the Dell download section for the Aurora R4 and grab the Dell-Driver from the Serial ATA section. Expand the files and put them on a USB stick. When installing Windows 7 from the Dell supplied media I had to browse to this driver and select it, once this was done the installer could see my drives and the Windows 7 install then proceeded normally.

  • Refering to Tesla1856's initial post, how does one transfer the Dell Diagnostics (hidden) parition to the new drive ? Dell Diagnostics from Utility Disks don't work since Alienware systems these days are expected to run diagnostics from BIOS boot menu (ePSA) which I assume uses the Dell Diagnostics partition.

    So how does one run Dell Diagnostics from new HD without the Dell Diagnostics parition given that the Diagnostics don't work from Utility Disks either??  

  • Incompressible

    So how does one run Dell Diagnostics from new HD without the Dell Diagnostics parition given that the Diagnostics don't work from Utility Disks either??  

     
    It doesn't really matter where you run it FROM, as long as you can run it.
     
    What exact machine do you have?
     
    If you are saying that you...
    1. Create bootable Dell Diags disc by burning to CD-R/DVD-R
    2. Boot directly from this burnt disc
     
    ... and Dell Diags on the disc doesn't run? If that is the case, Dell will have to release a new version. The version I referred to above works on Area-51, Aurora R1, R-2, and R-3 ... all machines with no uEFI. If your machine uses a uEFI BIOS system, that might be the problem ... preventing the old version from working. Or, you need to temporarily change a setting in uEFI for it to work (then change it back when finished).

    Alienware Aurora ~ Intel i7-930 ~ 12gb ram ~ AMD HD-5870
    256gb Samsung 830 SSD / 1tb HDD ~ LG Blu-Ray ~ USB 3.0 PCIe
    Dell 24" UltraSharp u2410 LCD ~ Dell 22" LCD

    All my Dell Machines and Specs

    Wiki-like Threads I've written and other Favorites

    Posting Tips:
    - Always provide machine make, model, specs and software versions.
    - Click the button if we answered your question.

    Registered Microsoft Partner
    & Apple Developer:

    Gaming when I'm not programming.

    I answer questions here, but
    I'm not a Dell employee.

  • I have an Alienware X51 and the Dell Diagnostics does not run out of the Utility DVD - apparently it is not installed in the Utility DVD and there are a few threads regarding this problem that have been posted. Also, currently the Dell Diagnostic is not available as a download either.

    However, I did some poking around and the system has a diagnostic called ePSA built into the BIOS - so that should theoretically negate the requirement for running the standard Dell Diagnostics (either from the partition that will not exist in the new HD, or from the Utility DVD which does not have it either).

    Yes, I have uEFI BIOS and there is a corresponding hidden EFI partition in the existing HD.  Doubt I would be able to copy over that partition over to the new HD, so would probably have to set the BIOS priority to legacy mode (opposed to EFI mode). My assumption here is that to run in EFI mode the EFI partition has to exist - what do you think ??

    Thanks