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If you have not backed up your data and do not have the installers for any software of system drivers i.e. are not ready for clean installation take your time and see the steps to prepare in A Clean Install of Windows 7.
A complimentary Tutorial Video is available demonstrating installation using the GPT partition scheme for a Dell UEFI BIOS with Dell Windows 7 64 Bit SP2 Professional using Dell OEM System Locked Preinstallation.
Part 1: Determining whether your System Supports UEFI and SecureBoot
The UEFI BIOS and GPT partition scheme should be used where possible with Windows 7 64 Bit. You may or may not have these technologies depending on the age of your system. For more details see Unified Extensive Firmware Interface which instructs you in determining you have a UEFI BIOS and applying the correct UEFI BIOS settings for Windows Installation.
Part 2: Preparing Up to Date Installation Media
Using updated installation media will reduce the hassles of Windows 7 Installation Failure due to lack of native driver support for systems with a UEFI BIOS and greatly reduce the installation time due to the inefficiencies of Windows Update. It is recommended to prepare a Bootable USB opposed to using any Installation DVD s you have to hand which are likely 5 years SP1 or 7 years SP0 out of date respectively. It will also prevent the use of “Upgrade” only Media.
- The Dell Windows 7 SP2 Professional Skylake Reinstallation Media Refresh 2016 .isos are for Dell Windows 7 Pro OEM Licenses.
- Alternatively Generic Microsoft Windows 7 Installation Media Media Refresh .isos that have been updated see Slipsteam of the Convenience Rollup (Pseudo Service Pack 2), Internet Explorer 11, NVM express and USB 3.0 support for Windows 7 Retail Licenses of any Edition or Windows 7 OEM Licenses of any Edition or OEM.
Part 3: Booting from a Bootable USB/DVD
Power down your computer. Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOS screen).
Variant A: UEFI BOOT
If your system is newer than 2012 its recommended to use a UEFI Boot and a GPT partition scheme; this is faster and more reliable. Windows 7 does not support SecureBoot however and this should be disabled. The boot manager should mention a UEFI Boot similar to below.
Note UEFI may not work with a DVD and you should Install from a USB.
Press the ↓ arrow and select your Windows 7 Bootable USB Flash Drive and press [Enter]
Variant B: Legacy Boot
For systems older than 2012 you will have to just use the legacy boot with the MBR partition scheme which will be listed by default. There will be no mention of Legacy or UEFI Boot but the boot option will be legacy.
If you wish to install Windows 7 32 Bit (unrecommended) on a 2012 or later system you will need to disable SecureBoot and enable legacy boot options.
Press the ↓ arrow and select your Windows 7 Bootable USB Flash Drive or DVD and press [Enter]
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.
Part 4: Early Installation
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. If you use an English .iso it’ll be set by default to US English:
Mine are all set to the united Kingdom (proper English) as shown below, amend for your own preferences.
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.
Part 5: Loading SATA Drivers and Deleting Partitions
For newer systems you will likely need to load SATA drivers. Windows 8.1 should have the inbuilt SATA drivers for old installation media. You’ll need to then decide how you’re going to partition the drive. I recommend clean installation but you may preserve your files with a Windows.old folder.
Loading SATA Drivers
If no drives are listed on the “Where do you want to install Windows?” screen then you must select Load Driver and select the SATA drivers from a USB stick. The SATA drivers essentially allow Windows to recognise the hard drive controller on the motherboard and thus allow Windows to view the drive letting you proceed with the install.
See Downloading, Preparing an Loading SATA Drivers if you haven’t prepared the SATA USB stick in advance. Windows 7 Service Pack 1 with Media Refresh has many SATA drivers inbuilt particularly for older systems and hence many systems don’t need SATA drivers loaded during installation.
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 the “Where do you want to install Windows Screen?” this time showing the hard drive.
You can then select “Drive Options” which will allow you to delete or format partitions if any are present aswell as create new ones if there is unallocated space on the hard disc.
Variant A: Clean Installation Recommended
If performing a clean install on a drive that had Windows XP/Vista/7 or 8.1 factory installed you will encounter several factory installed partitions.
I recommend selecting and deleting all these partitions as they are a waste of hard drive space and non-functional after manual Windows installation. This will also need to be done if you wish to install Dell Backup and Recovery at the end of your clean install as it may not work if you leave old partitions behind.
Note 1: There may also be a small diagnostics partition on older systems for the F12 preboot diagnostics which can be deleted. These diagnostics can be launched from a bootable USB/CD. If you ever need to launch these diagnostics you can follow my instructions in F12 preboot diagnostics
Note 2: After all of these are deleted you can select new to create a new partition on the hard drive and select next for installing Windows. When you install Windows 7 it will make a small system reserved partition of 100 MB, don’t worry about this as it is normal operation.
Note 3: If you have securely wiped your systems HDD with DBAN or replaced the hard drive/solid state drive (recommended) you can directly select new to create a new partition on the hard drive and select next for installing Windows.
Variant B: Preserving Files in a Windows.old Folder
Note if you have not backed up your files (unrecommended) and want to later restore them don’t opt to delete or format the drive, just select the largest partition and select next.
All the folders/files from the former Windows installation will be relocated to a Windows.old folder. The desired files can be copied from Windows.old to their desired location after Windows installation.
Variant C: Dell Systems with Media Direct
If you are installing on a Media Direct system select the largest partition and select next, do not delete partitions as the Media Direct disc has set them up.
Part 6: Middle of Installation
You will then a screen telling you the progress of the install.
If after the start you get an error message saying “Partition Table not Found” this is because your boot sequence is incorrect.
The computer has used the Legacy boot which can only recognise the MBR partition scheme instead of the UEFI boot which can recognise the GPT partition scheme.
You need to amend the settings in the BIOS setup so the system boots to UEFI only.
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). Personally for convenience I tend to leave the password blank and add one after the installation of Windows 7, drivers and updates as you will be prompted to restart your computer several times.
Part 7: The Product Key
There are some complications with the “Upgrade Only” license and complications when trying to install an OEM license with Retail Media often done due to the OEM Media Reduction policies Microsoft enforced and no Digital Deployment for the OEM license.
For this reason I list 6 Different Installations Scenarios A-F.
Variant A: Major OEM License with Major OEM Reinstallation Media
If using a Dell Windows 7 Reinstallation DVD or a Dell Reinstallation DVD converted into a Bootable USB or a Dell Windows 7 Professional Skylake .iso converted into a Reinstallation USB on a valid Dell system shipped with Windows 7 OEM or Windows 8.1 Pro (Downgrade Rights) or Windows 10 Pro OEM (Downgrade Rights) then Dell OEM System Locked Preinstallation will automatically be applied – that is offline BIOS based Product Activation equivalent to the activation mechanism used for a Factory Installation.
With Major OEM Installation Media you will not be asked for any Product Key during Installation proceed to Step 8.
Note if you have deleted the EI.cfg fileto unlock different Editions on your Installation USB then OEM SLP activation won’t automatically be applied. In this case see Variant D.
Variant B: Retail “Full” License with Retail Full Installation Media
If using Retail media you’ll be prompted to input your Retail “Upgrade” Product Key and it’ll automatically activate when you are online. Proceed to Step 8.
Variant C: Retail “Upgrade” License with Retail Full Installation Media (Unofficial)
If using Retail media you’ll be prompted to input your Retail “Upgrade” product key and in this screen the Product Key may not be accepted.
Retail Upgrade keys were poorly designed; Microsoft only allowed them to be used to initiate an Upgrade Install from an older version of Windows e.g. Windows Vista or Windows XP or from a lesser Edition of Windows 7 e.g. Windows 7 Starter.
- This was problematic for those that have an underlying Windows License e.g. a Windows Vista Business COA affixed to their system but lacked installation media. As Windows XP and Windows Vista are not downloadable officially they were left by Microsoft up the creek without a paddle.
- Moreover a Upgrade (Double) Install always performs substantially worse than a Clean Install Install.
This Upgrade Only phenomenon was problematic if someone wanted to Clean Install or Replace a HDD/SSD.
To circumvent this issue instead of inputting a key Uncheck Automatically activate Windows when I’m online and select skip to initiate a 30 day trial.
Complete the installation (Step 8) then return here for activation instructions.
After the installation is complete Step 8 you’ll need to activate Windows. If you try using the normal route you may get the following error message:
This can be circumvented by activating using the command prompt.
Press the Start Button and in the search box type in CMD.
Right click CMD.exe and select run as an administrator. This will open up the elevated command prompt accept any user account control prompt.
To input your product key type:
slmgr /ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
Where xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx is your product key and then press Enter.
Select ok and then to activate type
This will activate your product.
Variant D: Major OEM License with Retail Full Installation Media or Commercial OEM Installation Media (Unofficial)
If you are using Retail Full Installation Media or a Commercial OEM Installation Media with a system with a Windows 7 OEM, Windows 8.1 Pro OEM (Downgrade Rights) or Windows 10 Pro OEM (Downgrade Rights) from a Major OEM such as Dell, HP, Lenovo etc. you will be prompted to input your Product Key During Installation.
Instead of inputting a key Uncheck Automatically activate Windows when I’m online and select skip to initiate a 30 day trial. Complete the installation (Step 8) then return here for activation instructions.
After the installation is complete Step 8 you’ll need to activate Windows. The Activation Backup and Recovery program can be used with your OEM’s Cert files to apply OEM System Locked Preinstallation – that is offline BIOS based Product Activation equivalent to the activation mechanism used for a Factory Installation. See the Activation Backup and Recovery Program.
Variant E: Commercial OEM with Commercial OEM Installation Media
If using Commercial OEM media you’ll be prompted to input your Commercial OEM product key and it’ll automatically activate when you are online.
Note: The Commercial OEM is for Minor system builders such as Local Computer Shops or manufacturers who make low volume specialised instruments such as Medical Devices or Scientific Instruments and sell on a Device with Windows preinstalled to their End customer. The OEM license is a middleman license where the OEM gets the license for cheaper and sells it to and supports the End User.
Variant F: Trial
Uncheck Automatically activate Windows when I’m online and select skip this will initiate a 30 day trial.
Part 8: End of Installation
You will then be asked about Windows Update settings its generally best to go with recommended.
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. Therefore I selected Home network. 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.
The setup will Finalise and restart taking you to the Windows Desktop.
Part 9: Install the Latest Security Rollup
Microsoft have been releasing Monthly Quality Rollups for Windows 7. The Latest one at this time of writing will give you all the Security Updates until the 23rd of November 2016 and can be obtained from the Microsoft Update Catalog:
Simply download the .msu file and install it then restart your computer when prompted.
The one for “Windows 7” is for Windows 7 32 Bit only and the one for “Windows 7 for x64” is for Windows 7 64 Bit only:
You should now look at installing your system drivers starting with the Chipset drivers. After the system drivers are installed, Dell Backup and Recovery may be installed to make a new Recovery Partition from the Clean Installation. See the full A Clean Install of Windows 7 for more details if you need additional guidance for these steps.