1.1 A Clean Install of Windows 7 on Dell Systems

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1.1 A Clean Install of Windows 7 on Dell Systems

Obsolete wiki:

This wiki is updated to pdf format here Windows Reinstallation Guide and several other wikies are combined into this pdf. The links below are less up to date.

Note: This guide takes you through almost every screen of the install and is hence quite long, it is nowhere as daunting as it looks on first glance.

If you are considering upgrading some parts in your computer see here before beginning the installation.

Before reading this guide for completeness I will refer you to the Dell Factory Restore which will restore your computer to factory settings. This is generally the fastest method to restore your system to a working state. However in all cases, the systems that I have done a clean install on have vastly superior performance, than when they were restored to the factory install/factory settings.

If you are upgrading a Vista system to 7 (requires purchase of a product key), planning to install a new hard drive, plan on changing from 32 bit to 64 bit 7, experiencing problems installing Windows Service Packs and finally experiencing significantly reduced performance after installing Windows Service Packs or just generally prefer a cleaner install then carry out a clean install.

Note: If upgrading your operating system from XP or Vista and not to sure whether to go 32 or 64 bit. Run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. I recommend using the 64 bit version if the system is compatible. Refer to Step 5 to see if there are any available system drivers before committing to the install. You may use the retail .iso without a product key for 30 days to access the performance of Windows 7 before deciding to purchase it.

If you wish to upgrade to Windows 8 at present an upgrade license is quite cheap. Details about purchasing, downloading and installing Windows 8 can be found in my wiki Upgrading to  Windows 8 via A Clean Install.

Step 1. Back up your data. 

An external hard drive is a great device to back ones data up on. Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos in particular. A standard user should make regular back ups in case of hard drive failure.

If you decide to skip Step 1 then ensure that you don't carry out Step 7 or format/delete the partition in step 8. Carry out Step 15 to recover your data.

I recommend carrying out Step 1 in all cases and formatting the drive.

Step 2. Use Belarc Advisor

Belarc Advisor will obtain details about your system. It is free for home use and gives you a print out of your computers hardware and software. It also gives you your product keys. This is particularly useful for obtaining your Microsoft Office product keys. It is handy to keep a print out of this data. CutePDF Writer may be used to create a pdf print out of it. Save this in a folder in the external harddrive e.g. called Computer Software.

Note for systems with dell factory settings or systems installed with a Dell Reinstallation DVD the Windows 7 Product Key obtained by Belarc Advisor is a Dell SLP key, this is not the same as the product key printed on your COA. You need the key on the COA and not the Dell SLP key.

If on the other hand your system has a retail/upgrade versions of Windows 7 i.e. if Windows 7 was purchased separately from your Dell system such a store bought license or a Digital River download  Belarc Advisor should give you your Windows 7 product key.

You should take a note of the 25 character key on your COA. This sticker is usually found on the base of laptops, although some people have reported them to be present under the battery. On a desktop they are usually on the top or side.

If you purchased Windows 7 separately from your system e.g. from a store or online you should have the product key printed on a label inside the DVD case or emailed to you.

Note Windows Vista/Windows 7 COAS are prone to fading because of the papery texture the sticker is made from. If you cannot read the COA then you must use a Dell Reinstallation DVD (Step 3). If the COA is exposed on the outside, especially if it is on the base of laptops, it is advisable to cover it up with Scotch Magic Tape to prevent any fading. Dell are taking preventive measures to protect the COA on newer models.

The sticker for the Dell Service Tag should be located in a similar area. You should take note of it. You only need to know the Service Tag (7 digit code) and not the Express Service Code.

Step 3. Obtaining Windows 7 Reinstallation Media - Notes

You will be in one of three situations, quickly review the notes applicable for your Windows 7 license before deciding on what media to use:

  • If reinstalling Windows 7 on a system that came with Windows 7 preinstalled by Dell a Dell Reinstallation DVD should be used wherever possible (Step 3a).

This type of Windows 7 license is known as the Dell OEM version.

  • If Windows 7 was purchased as a full or upgrade license, you should use the retail DVD you purchased. The .iso from Digital River (step 3b) may also be used and is recommended only if the DVD doesn't have Service Pack 1.

This type of Windows 7 license is known as the retail version.

  • If exercising downgrade rights from Windows 8 professional to Windows 7 professional a Dell Reinstallation DVD must be used (see Step 3a).

This type of Windows 7 license is again the Dell OEM version.

Obtaining the Media

As of current the OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer media must be obtained from Dell (see Step 3a). It unfortunately can't be downloaded. The Dell (OEM) Reinstallation DVD or USB will automatically activate when installed through a Dell BIOS (as explained in this wiki). Thus no additional activation should be required (Step 11).

Retail Media can be downloaded from Digital River (Step 3b) and when used with a Retail or Upgrade Product Key can be activated via Internet (Step 11).

Can I use my Dell OEM Product Key (Step 2) with Retail Media (Step 3b)?

Yes but you will need to activate via automated phone activation (Step 11). You will need the 25 digit product key (Step 2), If its faded you will need the Dell Reinstallation DVD.

Use of the Digital River .iso and the Dell OEM Product key works in many cases by phoning Microsoft for product activation however is not officially supported by either Dell or Microsoft. 

Dell technical support will be unable to assist you with product activation should you run into issues and will simply suggest use of a Reinstallation DVD.

Can I use my Retail Full/Upgrade with OEM Media?

No. However Windows Anytime Upgrade can be used for the following cases:

Home Premium OEM → Retail Professional (Upgrade/Full)

Home Premium OEM → Retail Ultimate (Upgrade/Full)

Professional OEM → Retail Ultimate (Upgrade/Full)

This will give you a retail product key with an original install with OEM media. You do not need to reinstall anything when using Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade.

I have a 32 bit version of Windows 7 can I install the 64 bit version instead and vice versa?

Yes, the product keys for the 32 bit and 64 bit version of Windows 7 are the same. i.e. if product key xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx works with Windows 7 32 bit Home Premium it will also work with Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium.

You may use your OEM product key (Step 2) with the correct 64 bit retail .iso (Step 3b) and phone activation (Step 11).

For the Retail product keys again internet activation will work (Step 11).

You should however run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check if your system is 64 bit capable before running the 64 bit version of Windows 7. In addition check the Dell Drivers and Downloads Page (Step 5a), Dell FTP Website (Step 5b), Unofficial Driver Sets (Step 5c) and the Dell Community Forums for Drivers before proceeding with the install.

Should you wish to switch from the 64 bit version to the 32 bit version, note that you will not be able to use more than 4 GB of RAM. For this reason Dell tend to have only 64 bit drivers for their newer systems on the Dell Drivers and Downloads Page (Step 5a) but the 32 bit drivers often exist on the Dell ftp website (Step 5b).

You should only have 32 bit or 64 bit installed. Technically you should have 2 licenses if you have both the 32 and the 64 bit installed simultaneously.

My system came with Windows 8 can I install Windows 7 without purchasing a separate license?

Downgrade rights are applicable only if Windows 8 Professional was installed on your system. In the case of a system which came with Windows 8 Professional, the user may downgrade to Windows 7 Professional but must do so using a Dell Reinstallation DVD (step 3a). Retail media (Step 3b) cannot be used as the user won't have a Windows 8 Product Key to downgrade with.

Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT don't have any downgrade rights and the user must purchase a separate license in this case.


Can I Transfer My License?

The Retail Full product key can be transferred from one computer to another provided it is uninstalled, ideally completely formatted (Step 7a).

The Retail Upgrade Key can be transferred from one computer to another provided the new computer has a qualifying earlier version of Windows to Upgrade. Again it should be completely uninstalled, ideally completely formatted (Step 7a).

The OEM product key is tied to the original computer. It cannot be transferred.

Should I Use Retail or OEM Media for my Product Key?

If your computer came with Windows 7 preinstalled then ideally for activation purposes you should use the Dell Reinstallation DVD wherever possible. However for convenience you can use the Digital River retail media if you can't get your hands on a Dell Reinstallation DVD. You can also use the retail media if you decide to switch from the 32 to the 64 bit version of Windows 7 or vice versa.

Is there any significant difference features missing from OEM Media?

No they are identical. There is some Dell branding in the OEM media at the system properties (Step 12.)

Step 3a. Obtaining Windows 7 Reinstallation Media - Dell (OEM) Reinstallation DVD

If you have a Dell Windows 7 Reinstallation DVD provided with your system then proceed to step 4 (unless you are switching from 32 bit to 64 bit). The Reinstallation DVD should look like the following:

Dell unfortunately are currently shipping almost all of their systems without Reinstallation DVDs. For US customers there is an online request form for Reinstallation Media. For those customers not in the US you will need to contact Dell technical support and ask for one. The customer numbers are available here. This is the most recommended route.

To improve the experience for customers from the rest of the world. Please vote on my idea Request a Reinstallation DVD form [Rest of the World]. Also see my poll here.

Note: For netbooks or systems without an optical drive or a damaged optical drive you will have to convert the Reinstallation DVD into a Reinstallation USB as instructed here. You should then use the Reinstallation USB for Reinstalling Windows 7.

If upgrading from Windows Vista or Windows 7 you must purchase an Upgrade License. Once you have the Upgrade product key use the Media in Step 3b. If you are a student be sure to look for a heavily discounted Student license of both Windows 7 Upgrade and Office 2010 Professional plus. 

Step 3b. Obtaining Windows 7 Reinstallation Media - Digital River (Retail) Media

Download the correct .iso file from Windows 7 Official Downloads [Digital River]. To create media you will need either a blank DVD or a bootable USB stick which requires a USB stick of 4 GB or greater (For USB flash drive recommendations see here). USB flash drives are recommended as many users run into installation issues with home burnt DVDs.

Use the Microsoft .iso to USB/DVD tool to create a bootable DVD or USB flash drive


Step 4. Obtaining Service Packs/The Latest Build of Internet Explorer

I recommend installing Microsoft Security Essentials with the latest definition immediately after the Service Packs and Internet Explorer 9 to ensure your system is protected upon first connection to the internet. I have found significant performance boosts by installing the Service Packs before any additional drivers.

If using a Dell Reinstallation DVD (Step 3a) or a purchased Windows 7 Upgrade/Retail DVD it will tell you on the label if Service Pack 1 is included.

If using the Digital River .isos (Step 3b) then these already have Service Pack 1.

If Service Pack 1 is not included the user will need to download Service Pack 1, Internet Explorer 9* and Microsoft Security Essentials*

If Service Pack 1 is included the user will need to download Internet Explorer 9* and Microsoft Security Essentials*

Ensure that only 32 bit files are used for 32 bit installation media and 64 bit files for 64 bit installation media.

* Optional but recommended.

Currently the latest Service Pack for Windows 7 is Service Pack 1.

64 bit English 32 bit English Multi-Language
Service Pack 1                 Service Pack 1 Service Pack 1               
Internet Explorer 9 Internet Explorer 9
Microsoft Security Essentials        Microsoft Security Essentials        Microsoft Security Essentials       
Latest Definition (MSE) Latest Definition (MSE) Latest Definition (MSE)


Step 5a. Obtaining the Dell System Drivers (Dell Drivers and Downloads Page)

Go to the Dell Support page and select Drivers and Downloads. Select your model and Operating system.

Avoid inputting the Service Tag as its not working correctly for many systems and omitts critical drivers.


Once the model is selected you need to select the correct OS:

Once you have selected Windows 7 64 bit or Windows 7 32 bit look at the categories

Click the category to expand it e.g. we will take the video one

Click download file, this will take you to this page

Do not select Download Manager it is generally problematic.

Instead select single-file download and press next. If you get the following error message:


Press back on the browser.

In the address bar check the URL. For example:


Change the last false to true.


Then press [Enter]. The page will refresh and look identical to before

This time select Single-File download and it should now work. Once done press back several times to return here:

Ensure it looks the same as before (number of categories and number of drivers under each category), if not change the OS to BIOS and back to Windows 7 64 bit. I find in several cases drivers disappear.


I recommend saving each driver in an appropriately labelled folder and adding a numeric prefix to the folder (See Step 5c for more details about the recommended driver install order). This will ensure that you install the drivers in the recommended order. e.g. here are the drivers I downloaded for a Latitude E6520:

Dell Drivers and Downloads Page is currently under maintenance so post here if you experience some issues downloading the drivers.

Step 5b. Obtaining the Dell System Drivers (Dell FTP Website)

If you have obtained all the drivers from Step 5a then proceed to Step 5c. The Drivers may also be found on the Dell ftp website. The Dell FTP website has direct links and tends to be less buggy than the drivers and downloads page but the downside is that it isn't updated as frequently. Look here if you are having issues with the Drivers and Downloads page also note that sometimes the Dell FTP website has drivers for additional operating Systems (e.g. the 32 bit of Windows 7 when only the 64 bit version of WIndows 7 is supported).

The Dell FTP Website has all versions of each driver released by Dell for a particular model. Select your type and then model number. We will take the Inspiron 560 desktop and install Windows 7 64 bit for example.

On the Dell ftp website the user should generally ignore Legacy Drivers but its sometimes worth checking especially if the user is looking to install an unsupported Operating System.

The user should download only the latest drivers for their system which correspond to their Operating System.

i.e. when a driver is listed with version A0X, ..., A01 and A00 you should only use the A0X version where X is the highest number.

However ensure that the OS you wish to install is under the supported OS in this case we would want revision A00 for Windows 7 64 bit and not revision A04 for Windows Vista 64 bit.

Finally one thing to note is that certain categories, in particular Network (Wireless Card) and Video (Graphics Card) were customisable and have several variants, you must select the correct ones for your system.

Downloading from the ftp website is faster but designed for advanced users. However due to the sorry state of the drivers and downloads page I recommend all users to use the ftp website. Pay attention to driver install order (Step 5c).

All the drivers should be downloaded and saved to a USB stick. The way this guide is intended Steps 1-6 are preparation for installing Windows so the user has everything they need when installing Windows. This is why Step 5 (downloading drivers) and Step 10 (installing drivers) are independent.

If however the user has already attempted to install Windows likely they won't be able to access the internet to get the drivers and will need to use a working system to download them.

Step 5c. Driver Install Order and Notes 

If you are planning to install Windows 7 and see that there are no listed Windows 7 drivers available for your system. Note that:

  •  32 bit Vista drivers may be used in conjunction with Windows 7 32 bit.
  •  64 bit Vista drivers may likewise be used in conjunction with Windows 7 64 bit.

i.e. you may use the Windows Vista drivers with Windows 7. There are few exceptions to this rulein particular bluetooth which integrates with Windows Explorer.

If you only have XP drivers listed then ask on the forums for assistance; however if Vista or 7 drivers are unavailable for your system it is likely you will get a low Windows Experience Index running these operating systems on your hardware, so I would not recommend switching in this case.

There are a couple of unofficial driver sets listed for selected laptops and desktops provided by me. These are likely to work but theres no guarantee.

When downloading drivers for a clean install I recommend using the same folder structure as me to prevent confusion and to ensure that you install all the drivers in the correct order. Although this guide is based on installing/reinstalling Windows 7 on laptops, installation on Dell desktops will be very similar. Naturally some of these drivers/applications such as Dell Quickset for power/mobility are designed for Laptops only and are thus not needed for Desktops.

• 1. Dell System (Notebook/Desktop) Software - Under System Utilities.

Not present for some of the newer systems, if its not there don't worry, it is not needed/included . See here for more information about Dell Desktop Software.

• 2. Chipset Drivers (Intel then Ricoh/Realtek/Any other ones) - Under Chipset.

 • 3. Intel Matrix Storage Manager/Intel Rapid Storage Technology  - Under SATA Drives and/or CPU

Not all systems will have this. Note there are the drivers and the applications. The applications should increase system performance. If a full installer isn't present then it is likely the preinstallation drivers (see Step 6).

• 4. Video Driver - Under Video

Generally there are several variants for Video Driver e.g. Intel/ATI(AMD)/nVidea and different variants of ATI(AMD) and nVidea. Ignore any for TV tuners at this moment.

Some of the newer laptops have switchable graphics and require the Intel driver to be installed first then the corresponding nVidea/ATI video driver for full performance. There may be a few variants of graphics cards for a laptop and you must select the correct ones.

In desktops if there is no dedicated graphics card in the card slot, then they have the onboard (generally Intel driver).

In desktop if there is a dedicated graphics card in the card slot then generally it is the ATI(AMD) or nVidea driver). Generally there are several variants of graphics card per desktop model and you need to pick the correct one.The latest driver from the ATI/nVidea websites generally offers more functionality.

• 5. Conexant Drivers - Under Communications

Drivers for Modems are often natively included in Windows 7 if its not there don't worry. Modems are becoming obsolete also. For newer systems if modem drivers exist, they may fail to install as a modem is not present. As modems are becoming obsolete the modem is not always installed as default for a Windows 7 laptop.

• 6. Network Ethernet Driver - Under Network

This usually mentions Ethernet/LAN/Broadcom/Realtek in the description. Sometimes Intel, Atheros but the later two can be the wireless card.

• 7. Wireless Card -  Under Network

Not present for all Desktops but most that come with Windows Vista or later will have a wireless card included. There are generally several variants of Wireless Cards and you will need to pick the correct one. For some newer systems the wireless and bluetooth card are one and the same.

• 8. Touchpad (usually mentions Synaptics or Alps) - Input

Generally for laptops only. There may be additional drivers if you purchased a non-standard keyboard for a desktop e.g. a wireless or bluetooth keyboard.

• 9. Audio - Under Audio

Ensure you install any drivers before Audio Applications. Generally the drivers have the name SigmaTel/IDT/Realtek. Again pick the correct one for your system, there is generally not that many variants in the Audio. This is for the standard onboard Audio which 90 % of the systems use. For the other 10 % usually the higher end systems a Creative Soundblaster may be installed. This is a dedicated soundcard. There will be a driver available but you may be able to get a later driver from the Creative Website. There is sometimes also Creative Applications available for the onboard Audio.

• 10. TV Tuners/Other Video (If applicable) - Under Video

Many systems don't have these and are only added via customisation.

• 11. Bluetooth (If applicable) - Under Network.

For systems with only Windows Vista Drivers available: Latitude systems use R231570 and for Inspiron systems use R226750.


For some newer systems the wireless and bluetooth card are one and the same and the driver will be installed alongside the wireless driver.

• 12. Dell Quickset or Dell ControlPoint  - Under Applications

This is for the power settings and Fn keys. Usually this is for laptops only. These include the onscreen volume/brighness meters.

• 13. Webcam Driver found - Under Input

For many laptop systems the Webcam Driver is included in Windows 7.

Most desktops won't have a webcam driver or will use a dedicated Logitech or Creative webcam which can be downloaded from the perspective vendors. Note for desktop systems with a webcam integrated into the monitor, the webcam driver may be found bundled with the monitor driver. Installation of the monitor driver will install the webcam.

• 14. Mobile Broadband Drivers - under Communications

Most users don't have these but the drivers are there for users that do.

These are the main drivers and I have tried to give a basic guide to cover all systems. There will of course be some other variants from model to model and customisations within the same model such as mobile broadband cards, TV tuners and other drivers depending on your systems configuration. There may also be security drivers for Latitude and Optiplex series. The check for any missing drivers is via the Device Manager (Step 12) and you should post on the Microsoft OS forum if you run into problems there. 

There are a number of other drivers such as the CD/DVD firmware. These can be updated if you wish but I would recommend leaving these well alone. Sometimes if these updates go wrong, things seriously break. If you have no problems with any of these devices then leave them be. You may look through Applications to see if you find anything else useful.

The BIOs can also be updated (see Step 17 for more information about this).

Step 6. Preparing SATA Drivers 

In the case where newer hard drives are fitted several errors may occur during Widnows 7 Reinstallation:

  • Errors which state there is no hard drive.
  • Windows Setup could not configure Windows on this computer’s hardware.
  • A CD/DVD device is missing.*

* 9 out of 10 times this is due to bad media in particular if the Digital River .isos are used e.g. a badly burnt DVD or USB a corrupt download of the .iso. Downloading the .iso again and making a bootable USB usually resolves the matter.

To prevent these errors it is necessary to download SATA drivers such as the Intel Rapid Storage Technolog" F6flpy Drivers* and load them during the Windows setup.

* These may be obtained on the Drivers and Downloads page but it is generally better to get the latest versions from intel directly see here.

* Note most Dell systems are Intel but a few will be AMD systems and the Intel Drivers won't be any use to you. To verify if your system is Intel or AMD run and install the Intel Processor Identification Utility. If no CPU is identified your CPU is likely AMD.**

** For such systems look on the drivers and downloads page, if you can't find anything ignore this step and continue with the install.

Once you have downloaded the SATA drivers from Dell or Intel. You will need to extract the file with 7zip as shown. First download and install 7zip from here, selecting the 32 bit .msi or 64 bit .msi depending on your OS.

For the Dell SATA Driver once 7zip is installed, right click the Dell driver and select extract all.

This leads you to a folder with the same name Rxxxxxx as the driver.

Look in this folder for a F6flpy-x86 (32 bit) or F6flyp-x64 folder (64 bit) and copy this to a USB stick. Select the correct one to match the version of Windows you are installing. Note if there are additional folders and a setup.exe in the folder then the F6flpy drivers should be loaded before WIndows and the Application (Setup.exe) installed alongside the drivers. 

Repeat for the extracted contents of all the SATA drivers on this USB/DVD. Note some of the items under "SATA Drivers" are applications these should be installed alongside the system drivers. See the downloads page below for example.

The 2 Applications should be installed at the end of the installation while the two drivers should be loaded onto the USB stick. The 2 Firmware may be installed at the end of the installation if desired. 

For the Intel Drivers the F6flpy-x86 and F6flpy-x64 should be offered as seperate .zip downloads. Download the correct one and extract it with 7zip then copy the extracted folder to your USB stick.

If you get one of the error messages above start a new post in the Disk Drives forum stating your model number, your type of hard drive (if you know, for example if you purchased one) and what Operating System you have tried to install. In addition it may be worth mentioning what SATA drivers you have attempted to use.

Step 7a. Preparing the Drive For Installing Windows (DBAN)

Step 7a is for advanced users, most regular users should skip it. However for users that are planning on selling/giving away their system or reinstalling due to a viral/malware infection this step is highly recommended as it permanently erases data and is more through than the standards Windows format.

Download DBAN and burn it to a blank CD/DVD using ImgBurn (on XP/Vista) no additional Software needed for Windows 7 or alternatively make a bootable USB using Universal USB Installer

Before using DBAN any card readers need to be disabled in the BIOs setup. For instructions on how to do this see Card Reader BIOS settings A or Card Reader BIOS Settings B depending on your BIOS. Not all systems have card readers.

For systems purchased late 2012 or newer Secure Boot may need to be disabled in the BIOS setup and UEFI may need to be changed to legacy mode see Disable Secure Boot and Disable Secure Boot and UEFI.

Insert the DBAN CD/DVD or USB and power down your system. Press F12 at the Dell BIOs screen and select boot from CD/DVD or from USB respectively.

DBAN will then load

The easiest way to use DBAN is by typing autonuke and then pressing enter.

You should get these two screens

DBAN will then begin to securely format your hard drive. Note DBAN can take a very long time to securely format a large capacity hard drive.

When completed you should get a screen like this. Hopefully it will say DBAN succeeded although sometimes it mentions an error. Most of the times that it has mentioned an error to me it has actually fully  formatted the drive and ran for the same length of time as it should (i.e. the same time for a system of the same model where no error cropped up).

Once the DBAN format is done, re-enable any card reader within the BIOs setup. You may also re-enable the UEFI and secure boot.

Note using DBAN may sometimes cause some issues with product activation if using upgrade product keys as the original version of Windows is not there.

Some people have reported that a double install of Windows 7 will work in this case (see here). Others reinstall the old operating system, activate it and then proceed with a clean install Windows 7.

Step 7b. Preparing the Drive For Installing Windows (Media Direct)

This step is only for systems shipped with Media Direct. These systems will have a MediaDirect button in close proximty to the power button as shown below. If your system doesn't have this button skip this step.


Media Direct is for selected systems such as the Inspiron 6000, 6400, 9300, 9400, E1505, E1705, XPS Gen 2, XPS M170, M1270, M1710, M2010.

The partitions for Media Direct must be set up before the installation of Microsoft Windows otherwise pressing the Media Direct Button while the system is powered down can corrupt your Operating System.

Insert the Media Direct DVD supplied with your system.  It should look like the following:

Power down your computer. Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOs screen).

Select boot from CD/DVD. Select option 1 (recommended) or option 2. (if you want 2 partitions).

Note: The application must be installed after the system drivers while on the Windows Desktop (Step 14).

Step 8. Installing Windows

Ensure everything (documents and the downloads listed above) is copied over onto the external hard drive.

Insert the DVD you have created or Dell reinstallation DVD or the bootable USB flash stick. Also insert the SATA Drivers USB stick if applicable.

Note: It is recommended to unplug any unecessary peripherals (You need keyboard and mouse).

Note: Where possible use USB 2.0 ports when booting from USB; users have reported that when using USB 3.0 ports the USB stick doesn't boot.

Note: Ensure that the keyboard and mouse are plugged in USB 2.0 ports as use of USB 3.0 ports can cause the installer to freeze at the language select screen.

Note: For systems with only USB 3.0 ports follow the instructions Disable USB 3.0 functionality to install Windows 7 from a USB Flash Drive.

For systems purchased late 2012 or newer Secure Boot may need to be disabled in the BIOS setup see Disable Secure Boot. I would advise sticking to UEFI if using the 64 bit version of Windows however you will need to load the latest SATA drivers. If you still can't boot from the Windows 7 Reinstalaltion media you can try to disable UEFI see Disable Secure Boot and UEFI. UEFI is only supported on the 64 bit version of Windows Vista, 7 and 8.

Power down your computer. Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOs screen).

Select boot from CD/DVD or from USB respectively.

Press any key when prompted such as "h" when it says Press any Key to boot from CD/DVD.

You will get a black screen that says "Windows is Starting Files" then one that says "Windows is Loading Files." These should disappear pretty quickly. Next one that says Starting Windows

You will then be prompted for your language, time and currency format and keyboard settings. Mine are all set to U.K. as shown below, amend for your preference.

Select Install Now. 

Read the license, check to select and then select Next.

Next select Custom (Advanced).

Note select Custom (advanced) even/especially if you are "upgrading" from Vista to 7. There are always some bugs when selecting "Upgrade" on this screen and this seriously hinders your systems performance.

When you get to this screen select Load Driver and select your SATA drivers USB stick.

Ensure that "Hide drivers that are not compatible with hardware on this computer is ticked" (it should be set like this by default). Select all the drivers listed and then click next. It will take you back to this screen. Select "Drive Options".

This will reveal the drive options. The tools are rather self-explanatory. For a new hard drive you will need to select New to make a new partition (case below).

You should get a message saying some space must be "System Reserved" and a System Reserved Partition is made, don't worry about it, it is very small.

When you have an existing Windows partition you have a few options:

  1. To delete it and then must create a new partition or partitions if you want multiple partitions e.g. for dual boot or for other reasons; this will remove all data and factory partition. Once you have created your partitions; select the partition you wish to install Windows on and select Next. You might as well delete the Dell factory partition if going down this route as it will no longer work and hence serve no service.
  2. To format it, leave the partition intact but remove all data and factory partition. You might as well delete the Dell factory partition if going down this route as it will no longer work and hence serve no service and instead Extend the main partition.
  3. To install Windows on the partition but not format it (in this case all old files will be found in the Windows.old folder). Again you might as well delete the Dell factory partition if going down this route as it will no longer work and hence serve no service and instead Extend the main partition.

The Dell Factory setting won't work in either case. I recommend deleting or formatting but you must take the 3rd option if you have not carried out Step 1 and wish to keep your data.  

Note: if you have not backed up all your data onto an external hard drive. Do not select any of the drive options particularly format or delete. In this scenario all your files will be saved in a folder called windows.old.

You will then a screen telling you the progress of the install.

Note some parts may be very fast and some steps may be very slow.

However it should not take any more than a few hours; if it is stuck on the same % for a few hours on one part then it has likely froze and you must start again (this rarely happens) by holding down the power button until the machine powers off and then reattempting the install.

Type in your "username", by default the PC name will be "username-PC" but you can change this as desired.

Next type in your password, retype it and leave yourself a hint. Alternatively just select next (to have no password - not recommended but optional).

If using retail media you will be prompted for a product key. Use your product key found on the COA sticker found at the base of your system or your purchased upgrade key/retail key/OEM key.

A Dell OEM disc should not require you to input this key and this screen should not display. 

Once you have input your key select Next. The following screen will display if you have input the wrong key.

Alternatively you may skip this step and get a 30 day trial of Windows 7 which is recommended for testing Windows 7 on your machine.

Once you have input the correct key, this should lead you to here, generally select Use recommended settings should be selected.

Then select your time and date settings.

The next screen(s) should be about connecting to the internet and/or connecting to a wireless network. In this case the system is a home desktop connected to a router via an Ethernet cable.

Thus Home network is selected.

You may alternatively be asked about connecting to a wireless network.

Note the above screen should show only if your system can connect to the internet. Often the network drivers are needed to be installed before connecting to a network so this step may not show or if it does skip it if you cannot connect.

Finally the setup will Finalise.

Step 9. Install the Service Packs/Internet Explorer 9

Now that you have Windows 7 installed. Ensure that you have the latest Service Pack installed. It often works out better installing the latest Service Pack and Internet Explorer before installing the system drivers. Doing so in this order prevents a great deal of problems with Windows Update and conflicts with system drivers.

You should have downloaded these onto a USB stick at Step 4 if your installation media didn't include them and have them readily accessible on a USB stick or External Harddrive.

Insert the USB stick and run the .exe installers.

Step 10. Install the System Drivers

Ensure you keep to the order listed above for best results. You should again have downloaded these at Step 4 and have them readily accessible on a USB stick or External Harddrive.

Running the .exe file Rxxxxxx should extract the driver to C:\Dell\Drivers\Rxxxxxx and then run the installer automatically.

Newer systems no location adopt the R# notation but should still extract to C:\Dell\Drivers\"Subfolder" where "Subfolder" is variable.

Unfortunately often no installer runs and the file just extracts. To actually install the driver you will need to navigate to the folder where the driver extracted to and run any setup.exe files. Many users think they have installed the driver when they haven't.

We will take for example R284334 the chipset driver for my XPS 8300 and look at it in detail:

Double clicking the file, you should get a run prompt select yes.

Select Continue

Select Ok

Select Ok. At this stage the setup should start and you should start the installation. If it does not the driver is not installed. In my XPS 8300 (and I suspect many other systems) the installers do not automatically run. Therefore in this case I have to go to C:\Dell\Drivers\R284334 (you will have to go to the number of your driver) and click setup.

Accept the UAC prompt and install via the setup program.

Usually a series of clicking next, next, finish and then rebooting. I usually tell it not to reboot until I install all the drivers it is faster this way and always worked for me however it is probably best to reboot when prompted.

Step 11. Activation

Press the [Windows] and [Pause|Break] or go to start, right click computer and click properties.

If it says (at the bottom) Windows is activated then you are fine. This will happen automatically if you use the Dell disk.

If it says activate Windows Now, click the link to activate. If you used the .isos I referred to you may (probably) will get a screen like this:

Enter the Windows 7 product key on your COA or Retail/Upgrade product key.

Use the automated phone activation. It is a quick automated called, follow the onscreen instructions.

You should now have Windows is now activated in the screen below.

For more details on activation see here.

Step 12. Ensure there are no Errors in Device Manager and run the Windows Experience Index Rating

On this screen next select Device manager.

Hopefully it should look something like mine.

If you have an error, yellow ? or ! then you probably haven't installed a system driver correctly. You should quickly check that you haven't missed installation of a driver and check to see that something hasn't installed correctly. If you still can't find out what it is. Right click the device with the error and select properties:

Go to details and select Hardware ids.

You should make a new post on the Microsoft OS Forum starting your model of Dell, the hardware ids and whether you have installed Windows 7 32 bit or 64 bit.

Ask on the forums for details if you get stuck at this stage.

Next after the drivers are installed you should rate your system. Click the link "system rating is not available".

Note at this stage I would re-rate the system even a number is displayed there. Although people may not care so much for the system rating it is best to perform. Several unrated systems will revert to the Windows 7 Basic Theme even if they are capable of the Aero Interface and will not allow the user to change to the Windows 7 Theme until the system is rated.

Select rate this computer and leave it be for 5 minutes to rate it.

You should get the rating now. Here are the scores on my Desktop for example:

Note if you are using retail media and want the Dell logos and information in the above screens, you may download and follow the instructions for Dell White and Black logo or Dell Blue and White Logo. The 3 screens above have the White and Black, no logo and the Blue and White logo respectively.

Step 13a. Install a Security Program and your Applications (Security)

For Security I recommend use of Microsoft Security Essentials (I have mentioned installing this at step 4 of the wiki) and Malwarebytes' Antimalware.

However this is an area where almost everyone has a different opinion/their own favourites. So I am not going to argue or force my opinion here. Just ensure that you install a security suite that you trust. If you have any queries with regards to security software then I recommend you to post a new topic in the Virus & Spyware Discussion Forum.

Step 13b. Install Microsoft Office

The full version of  Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office 2010 may be found in my Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office Downloads wiki. Links to Microsoft Office 2013 consumer preview which users may try for free for a limited period of time may be found in the same wiki.

These installers require a product key. Use your product key obtained by Belarc advisor (Step 1.) and/or found with the Microsoft Product Identification card on your system with the correct installer. For more details about the Microsoft Product Identification Card see here.

If your system just came with Office 2010 Starter, you cannot download it from a official source however Office 2010 Starter is becoming redundant and not worth installing. Instead you should use Microsoft Office Web Apps which has tight integration with SkyDrive and the same functionality or slightly more than Office 2010 Starter.

Microsoft Mathematics may also be installed, this is essentially a free graphics calculator for Microsoft Windows.

Useful third party additions for the full versions of Microsoft Office are Mendeley Desktop Reference Manager and Mathtype both have free and paid versions. The free versions should suffice most users.

Step 13c. Install SkyDrive for Windows

I highly recommend SkyDrive for Windows. This gives users a 7 GB free webdrive which can be accessed via the SkyDrive folder on your computer and within any web brower. Paid plans can give you 100 GB storage.

SkyDrive for Windows is the easiest way to access your SkyDrive from your PC. When you install SkyDrive, a SkyDrive folder is created on your PC. Everything that you put in this folder is automatically kept in sync between your computers (PC or Mac) and SkyDrive.com, so you can get to your latest files from virtually anywhere.

Users may also install SkyDrive for Windows and additional programs in the Windows Live Essentials Suite.

Step 14a. Reinstalling Dell Preinstalled Applications (Media Direct)

Skip Step 14a if your system doesn't have Media Direct. For the systems with Dell Media Direct, once on the windows desktop, insert the media direct disc It should autorun, install the application, if it doesn't you should navigate to the WindowsMD3 folder and click setup.exe. Use the updater within Media Direct to get it to the latest version.

Step 14b. Reinstalling Dell Preinstalled Applications (Webcam Central)

For some unknown reason Dell does not provide Dell Webcam Software under the drivers and downloads page for most systems. Here is the download link Dell Webcam Software R230103. You may wish to download the latest version of Skype before installing the webcam driver. Note for newer systems Dell Webcam Central may be supplied in My Dell Downloads (Step 14e).

Step 14c. Reinstalling Dell Preinstalled Applications (Dell Support Centre)

Dell Support Centre may be downloaded and installed from here. It only works on home systems and does not work on Precision, Latitude or Optiplex systems.

Step 14d. Reinstalling Dell Preinstalled Applications (Dell Dock)

Dell Dock is also not provided on the drivers and downloads page. Here is the download link Dell Dock.

You may not need or want Dell Dock if you have Dell Stage (this is for newer systems) and can be found in My Dell Downloads (Step 14e).

Step 14e. Reinstalling Dell Preinstalled Applications (My Dell Downloads)

See my wiki Instructions on using My Dell Downloads. Here the user should find the preinstalled Dell Stage, Roxio Creator Starter, McAfee. What other software you have available here will depend on your specific system. Save any downloaded items to an external hard drive for backup purposes as there is a download quota.

Step 15. Copy old files from Windows.old

If you have everything on the external hard drive then ignore this step. If not go to computer, then to C then to C:\Windows.old look through the users folder, move all the items (you want to keep) from "documents" to "documents", "desktop" to "desktop", "music" to "music", "pictures" to "pictures", "downloads" to "downloads". Look about in this folder for anything else

Windows.old has old windows files you won't need, old program files you can no longer use and it is very large. Delete it when you have moved whatever you need as it is a very large folder and unnecessary once you have your new windows installed. Note there is more information and an automated tool here.

I recommend using unlocker to delete the Windows.old file as you will get several error messages using the standard windows delete, the folders name is too long, its too big for the recycle bin and you don't have permission. Be careful when using this utility as you can cause damage to the windows installation if you delete the wrong file. You may get unlocker from here

Ensure that you select the advanced install when installing unlocker as it is bundled with potentially unwanted programs e.g. toolbars and Quickstores, ensure that you select advanced install and don't install any additional components.

Step 16. Visit Windows Update

Go to start > Windows Update

This will open up Windows Update

Click on the optional updates and place a tick for each optional date you want.

Select ok. You can now review the important updates also.

These will be installed by default on your system. Should you decided not to install an important update (which is generally not recommended), uncheck the box for the update then right click then select Hide Update.

The update I decided to disable in this example is the browser choice update which is an unnecessary and annoying update in my opinion.

Select okay when done. Note the 116 important updates is now 115 as 1 update was disabled. There will be no prompt to install that annoying update again.

Click install updates. The updates should download and install (this may take a while) you may be prompted to restart your computer a few times.

You should check Windows Update again after logging on until it tells you Windows is up to date.

Step 17. Notes on Updating the BIOs 

Dell recommend updating the BIOs to the latest version as there are often enhancements/fixes in the updates.

Know the risks however caution should be taken when updating the BIOs as a failed BIOs = a dead system. Therefore many users opt to stay clear of BIOs updates completely. I personally tend to update the BIOs if available after a clean install.

When you power up your Dell system, you will get the Dell BIOs screen:

On this screen is the model number and the BIOs revision. The BIOs revision typically this of either 2 formats:

• Axx, i.e. A01, A02, ..., A12 etc.

• x.x.xx, i.e. 1.0.0, 1.0.3, 1.1.2, 1.1.4, 1.1.10, 1.1.11 etc.

The higher the number the later the revision.

To reduce the probably of fatal BIOs updates save the BIOS update file to the desktop and close down all programs.

Remove any USB device from your computer except for keyboard and mouse and also remove any CD/DVDs and media cards. Restart computer.

Then double click the file and run it as an administrator. Don't touch the computer until the BIOs update is complete. It should automatically log you off, update the BIOs and restart the computer.

Don't power down the computer during the BIOs update as this will ensure your system is rendered completely useless. Ensure both the battery is at full charge and the AC adaptor is plugged in when updating the BIOs on a laptop.

Step 18. MultiMonitor Software 

Skip this step unless you are using 2 or monitors. For those that are using 2 monitors I recommend downloading and installing Actual Windows Manager or Actual Multiple Monitors. This will give you a taskbar on each monitor completing your Windows experience.

Note you get a 30 day free trial of each product; for the Actual Multiple Monitors after 30 days this will revert to the free version (its worth having around)

The professional version is of course better and I recommend using it or Actual Windows Manager. See here for a comparison between the professional and free version. I wrote a small wiki on their software here (it needs updated however).

Step 19. Install other Software

For more software recommendations look to the bottom of my Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office Downloads wiki.

I advise you to pay attention when installing any third party software (non-Dell/non-Microsoft). When you have the option always select advanced setup. Software is often bundled with toolbars, search provider defaults, browsers and/or other programs. The larger software vendors e.g. Ask, Google, Bing (Microsoft) pay for bundling their toolbars within the installer. Thus the cost of the software can be made lower or distributed for free in some cases. The advanced setup allows users to disable installation of these toolbars and other programs which they don't want.

>70 % of Internet Explorer crashes are due to these toolbars. For Internet Explorer 9 see:

How to Manage Add-ons
How to Change your Default Search Provider

Other browsers which you may also install for free are:

Google Chrome with Adblock
Firefox with Adblock Plus

Note some things work better in Internet Explorer than in the other browsers e.g. SkyDrive and Microsoft Office Web Apps likewise YouTube (especially with the adblock), Google Docs and Google services will work better in Google Chrome. Firefox has a variety of third party extensions. You can of course use all three and switch between them for individual tasks.

Step 20. Use Your computer 

That's everything done, you should have a fully functional system with peak performance.☺ 

Any ideas/suggestions for improvements are always welcome. Please leave these in the comments below.

If you are experiencing any further problems, post on the correct forum (ensure that you provide basic information such as what Operating System you are trying to install or have installed e.g. Windows 7 64 bit and the model of the Dell e.g. Dell XPS 8300).

Feedback for these wikies and your overall forum experience is welcome in the Has the Forum Helped You? thread.


Dr Philip Yip
Tech Enthusiast and Author of the Unofficial Dell Windows Reinstallation Guide

Windows FAQs and OEM Downloads

#IDoNotWorkFor Dell
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Last update:
‎08-01-2011 01:06 PM
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