- Introduction (UEFI) BIOS and SecureBoot
- Introduction SATA Operation
- Determine your BIOS Revision using System Information
- Downloading the Latest BIOS Update
- Installing the Latest BIOS Update
- Determining if your system has a UEFI BIOS and SecureBoot and Notes Regarding the Windows 10 Upgrade
- Upgrading to a Solid State Drive and Altering the SATA Operation in the (UEFI) BIOS Setup
This guide has a complementary tutorial video.
1. Introduction (UEFI) BIOS and SecureBoot
The object of this guide is to ensure you have the latest BIOS for your system and have optimised your BIOS settings and hardware for maximal performance and security with a Windows 10 TH2 installation. If you just want to follow instructions in updating your BIOS and Enable UEFI follow Steps 3.-6.
Looking around most guides on this subject use a series of acronyms assuming all readers know what they are and are poor when it comes to explain why to enable/disable some settings. So lets give a basic explanation of all these acronyms… settings and technologies.
What is Basic Input Output System (BIOS)?
Basic Input Output System (BIOS) is the very basic Operating System embedded into your systems i.e. firmware. The BIOS setup allows you to change some of your hardware settings and to boot from installation media with a proper Operating System e.g. Windows 10.
What is Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)?
Associated with BIOS is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) which is essentially a modern more advanced version of BIOS that has increased functionality and additional security. Because of the strong connection and familiarity of end users to the word BIOS this is usually denoted UEFI BIOS and not just simply called UEFI. For convenience many call a UEFI BIOS just BIOS and call an older BIOS a Legacy BIOS.
Definitions and nomenclature will differ slightly from guide to guide… For clarity these guides use the definitions UEFI BIOS and Legacy BIOS to distinguish a BIOS with and without UEFI technologies. BIOS is used earlier in this guide to denote either a UEFI BIOS or a Legacy BIOS (dependant on your system),
What is Master Boot Record (MBR)?
The Master Boot Record (MBR) is a small partition at the front of a Hard Drive (HDD)/Solid State Drive (SSD) that identifies where an Operating System (OS) is located so that it can boot the code of the OS into the computers Random Access Memory (RAM) to launch the OS when the computer is powered up.
When MBR is used the partition table has the limitation of a maximum of 4 partitions and can only accommodate a maximum drive capacity of 2 TB. Moreover because there is only a single Boot Record if data within this Master Boot Record become corrupt the OS itself will become corrupt and will need to be repaired from installation media (possibly resulting in data loss).
An example of a Windows 10 MBR install (Legacy BIOS), there is a Single System Reserved partition which contains the Master Boot Record. This is at the start of the drive. Next there is usually a single C: partition where the OS is installed (Windows). In many cases (not in this example) when Windows is installed by an Original Equipment Manufacturer there will also be an OEM Factory Recovery partition and OEM diagnostics partition taking up the maximum of 4 partitions for the MBR.
What is Globally Unique Identifier Partition Table (GPT)?
This is the revised partition table made to address the two main limitations of MBR and requires a UEFI BIOS. It allows up to 128 partitions and supports drives larger than 2 TB. Because this partition table can create a large number of partitions it does not restrict users like MBR and allows the Windows 10 OS to make both a primary and secondary Boot Record. If the primary Boot Record becomes corrupt it can automatically be fixed using the secondary boot record making it more robust.
An example of a Windows 10 GPT UEFI install, there is both a EFI System Partition which contains the Master Boot Record and an associated Recovery partition which contains a backup of the Boot Record. Again typically one C: partition where Windows is installed and in many cases (not in this example) an OEM Factory Recovery partition and OEM diagnostics partition.
An example of a Windows 8.1 OEM factory settings with a UEFI BIOS. The additional OEM Factory Recovery partition and OEM diagnostics partition are shown. Note in modern systems with a UEFI BIOS F12 preboot diagnostics functions fine without this 40 MB diagnostics partition.
What is SecureBoot and why Should I use it?
This is a firmware security technology and requires a UEFI BIOS. The advantages of SecureBoot are covered in this schematic. Essentially its a firmware protection feature when SecureBoot only Microsoft verified code is allowed to boot which means Windows 10 loads alongside its inbuilt security processes before any nasties get a chance to load. Conversely when SecureBoot is disabled the nasties may load before Windows disabling any inbuilt Windows 10 Security features from loading leaving your computer computer vulnerable to attack.
Unfortunately SecureBoot was released alongside the launch of Windows 8 and as we all know Windows 8 wasn’t very popular due to the flawed user interface of the Metro Applications ruining the Windows experience finally fixed in Windows 10. Microsoft made a mistake of forcing Windows 8 and the second mistake of never releasing Windows 7 Service Pack 2 with up to date Windows 7 Service Pack 2 installation media. Windows 7 SP2 installation media should have been more up to date, incorporated USB 3.0 functionality natively and Supported SecureBoot which would have made the Windows Userbase more secure. This never happened and the most up to date official Windows 7 installation media was Windows 7 SP1 with a minor media Refresh from way back in 2011.
The failure to support Windows 7 as a consequence led to many Windows XP/7 IT professionals who hated Windows 8 alongside Linux professionals who speculated SecureBoot was an evil Microsoft totalitarian plan to lock out End User Freedom similar to that imposed by Apple on their hardware led them to revolt on SecureBoot. Many of their guides are hence SecureBoot unfriendly and they often recommend disabling this important defence barrier.
Note although this guide is focusing on Windows 10, Microsoft have worked with the Linux community; Linux Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Linux Fedora installation media have all been updated to pass SecureBoot. Likewise useful preboot utilities such as Acronis have been updated to pass SecureBoot.
Optical Drives are rejected by SecureBoot and DVDs should no longer be used for OS installation. Windows 10 TH2 installation media and Linux OS installation media can be readily downloaded in .iso and converted into a FAT32 Bootable USB using Rufus. Installation media has to be setup correctly in this way in order to pass SecureBoot.
If your Computer came with Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Preinstalled
All Windows 8 and later computers have a UEFI BIOS and both UEFI and SecureBoot should be enabled from the factory. You can confirm this by looking at your system information if your BIOS Mode is UEFI and your SecureBoot State is On you likely have Windows 8 64 Bit or later preinstalled and hence already have the optimal settings for proceeding with a Clean Install of Windows 10 64 Bit TH2. For such configurations you do not need to check your UEFI BIOS setup.
When an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) such as Dell builds a system with a UEFI BIOS and preinstalls Windows 8 or later they embed a System Locked Preinstallation (SLP) product key within the UEFI BIOS. The OEM SLP keys are in what is called Microsoft Digital Marker (MSDM) table. The Global Unique Identifier (GUID) of the UEFI BIOS and OEM SLP key must be used together so the license is forever tied to the original motherboard. If the correct Edition of Windows 10 TH2 installation media is used during installation the OEM SLP product key will be automatically input from the UEFI BIOS during installation taking the end user straight to the license agreement screen.
If your Computer was Downgraded to Windows 7 or is a Late Windows 7 System
If you had Windows 7 preinstalled instead of Windows 8 or later or manually Downgraded to Windows 7 yourself SecureBoot will have been Disabled as Windows 7 installation media was never updated past 2011 and hence not verified by Microsoft to pass SecureBoot. Windows 7 is likely installed using the MBR partition scheme with the Legacy BIOS setting applied.
If you have a UEFI BIOS with UEFI and SecureBoot enable both technologies and install Windows 10 using the GPT partitions scheme.
Note there are a handful of early UEFI systems that have a UEFI BIOS but don’t have SecureBoot for these systems install Windows 10 using the GPT partition scheme. These systems without SecureBoot will be less Secure than those with but will still run Windows 10 fine.
If your Computer is an Early Windows 7 System
It should be noted that systems have came preinstalled with Windows 7 as early as 2009. As a rule of thumb systems with a BIOS revision <2011 won’t have a UEFI BIOS and Windows 10 will have to be installed using the MBR partition scheme. These systems without SecureBoot will be less Secure than those with but will still run Windows 10 fine.
2. Introduction – Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) Operation
Computers have two different types of memory Random Access Memory (RAM) and Storage Memory for instance on a Hard Drive (HDD). RAM is thinking memory that is fast, the more RAM the more processes a processor can readily access. Think of the processor as thinking speed, RAM as how much the computer can think at once and storage memory as how much that the computer can remember. Storage memory especially a HDD is significantly slower than RAM.
- RAM > Solid State Drive >> Hard Drive
Lets briefly mention the different SATA operations and why they are used.
Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI)
- >256 GB Solid State Drive (recommended) or Hard Drive Boot Drive
This is the main SATA operation I recommend for Windows 10 installation when a Single Solid State or Hard Drive is used as a boot drive. If you don’t have a Solid State Drive its highly recommended to swap out your mechanical drive and upgrade to one (discussed later).
The Solid State may be 2.5″, mSATA or m.2 depending on the age and configuration of your system. With regards to system performance a Solid State Drive is significantly faster than a Hard Drive and Hence Highly Recommended.
The Drive bay may be 2.5″ (9.5 mm height), 2.5 ” (7 mm height) or 3.5″ format and since most SSDs and new HDDs are sold only in 7 mm format adapters like the following may be required depending on your system configuration.
Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE)
This is the old SATA operation and if you cannot switch from IDE to AHCI it means you have an ancient model and to be frank its time to get some new hardware. If on a budget get a robust second hand ex-business OptiPlex 780 Desktop with a Windows 7 OEM license or a second hand Latitude E5510 Laptop with a Windows 7 OEM license.
Intel Rapid Response Technology (IRRT)
- 32-64 GB Solid State Drive Cache Drive (mSATA)
- 500-1000 GB Hard Drive Boot Drive (SATA)
This is a SATA operation setup for the launch of Solid State Drives. During the initial release of Solid State Drives SSDs were of low storage capacity and/or very expensive per GB. As the Solid State Drive was significantly faster than the Hard Drive but not large enough to support a Windows installation on a proper productivity system such as a Laptop or Desktop the combination of drives were used together. In this configuration the HDD is the main Windows Boot Drive but boot processes and background processes are caches onto the SSD in order to quickly transfer processes to RAM when powering up. In short the SSD acts an intermediate buffer between the slow HDD and fast RAM. This configuration significantly boosted the overall system performance especially the boot time due to the increase speed of the cache SSD. From experience on the Dell Forums this configuration however did seem to have more problems with boot issues than conventional configurations.
Realistically as >250 GB Solid State Drives are now affordable this configuration is obsolete. If one has a >250 GB SSD Boot Drive and remain using the cached configuration they will likely simultaneously reduce both the system performance and stability. New SSD drives are faster and the old SSD used as a cache may actually run slower decreasing the system performance slightly.
Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID)
Most end users won’t utilise RAID however for completeness I will mention that there are two types of RAID configuration mirrored and striped. These are more popular in Desktop models which have multiple Drive bays.
In a mirrored configuration as the name indicates the two Drives are of identical size and the data in each drive is identical making the drives mirror images of one another. Windows only sees what logical drive as the data is mirrored the storage capacity doesn’t change when compared to a single drive. Thus Data Drive A = Data Drive B and Windows sees these two Drives as the single Logical Drive 1. Any changes to the data on Drive A is mirrored on the Drive B. This means if Drive A fails then all the data is still present on Drive B and vice versa. This configuration significantly reduces the chance of data loss via Hardware Failure as both drives need to fail for data to be lost.
In a striped configuration two Drives are combined to form a single logical drive and as the name suggests data is striped across each drive. In the schematics the Windows 10 logo is used to illustrate the data. In other words Drive A + Drive B = Logical Drive 1. This configuration was more popular when the performance limitation of a system was due to the Hard Drive speed. Essentially because the data was being read from more than 1 Drive/SATA port simultaneously this gives the system performance a boost equivalent to the the number of drives and SATA ports used. Likewise the storage capacity of the Striped RAID drive is the sum of the two individual RAID drives. The drawback is that the chances of hardware failure likewise scale with the number of drives used. i.e. for two drives the chances of a single drive failing is twice as likely. Usually if a single drive fails then a stripped configuration is brought down. The data remaining on the functional drive will not make sense as only half the stripes are present. The illustration using the stripes of the Windows logo is a good example; the logo makes no sense unless Stripe Data from both Drive A and Drive B is present. As mentioned for most modern hardware the speed of a SSD is much more then the HDD and usually the limitations lie with the rest of the system.
When more than 2 hard drive bays are available for example in servers there is a greater number of configurations available based on the above two principles.
3. Determine your BIOS Revision
Press [Windows] and [ r ] to bring up the run command:
In the run box type in
Then press ok.
Take a note of the:
- System Manufacturer
- System Model
- BIOS version and date
If its available (Windows 8 and later) also take a note of the:
- OS Name
- OS Version
- BIOS Mode
- SecureBoot State
For example my Inspiron 7347 systems information:
Take a note of the:
- System Manufacturer – Dell Inc.
- System Model – Inspiron 7347
- BIOS version and date – A04
Also take a note of the:
- OS Name Windows 10 Home
- OS Version 10586
- BIOS Mode UEFI
- SecureBoot State On
4. Downloading the BIOS update:
I do not recommend downloading the BIOS update from Dell Drivers and Downloads because sometimes BIOS updates require older BIOS as a prerequisite. e.g. the attempted update from A03 to A12 may state that A06 should be installed before A12. Dell Drivers and Downloads only lists the latest revision whereas the Dell FTP website lists all the revisions for the model.
Example 1: Inspiron 13 7347
Select your system type in this case a Laptop:
Select the product family in this case Inspiron:
Scroll until you find your product number:
Hint if you cannot find your model, press [Ctrl] and [ f ] to open up search then search for the model number. In this case a search for 7347 would find the model.
Scroll down until you get to BIOS:
Compare the BIOS revision with that you checked in earlier in the systems information. If your BIOS revision is equal to that listed by Dell you don’t need to update your BIOS. If Dell list a newer revision you do:
5. Installing the Latest BIOS Update
The BIOS update is a firmware update. This type of update updates the firmware for your system BIOS. You launch the BIOS update within Windows but the computer restarts and updates the BIOS within BIOS. Therefore once a BIOS update is applied it remains applied even if Windows is reinstalled. This is different to drivers which are loaded within Windows and lost if the system is formatted.
As the BIOS update has the potential to change the functionality of your hardware, additional security measures are put into place to make sure that you actually want to run the BIOS update. Note An incorrect BIOS update has the potential to kill your computer entirely.
If the BIOS Update listed by Dell is newer than the BIOS Revision listed in your System Information you should update it. Select to Download the latest BIOS Update:
Let the Security Scan run and then open the folder:
You should see the BIOS update:
I recommend cutting it over to the Windows Desktop:
Ensure all programs are closed so there is no chance of something from interfering with the BIOS Update. Right click the BIOS Update and select Run as Administrator:
Accept the User Account Control:
The BIOS update will extract and launch if supported.
Some BIOS updates may inform you that they require perquisite BIOS updates here. If they do cancel the update and download the older version the updater asked for and update to it first.
For best results try to update the BIOS in the least number of steps. In another model the BIOS revision A13 may require A05 but not need A06-A12,
In this example the BIOS update is accepted and no prerequisite is required. For some updates you be prompted to select ok to begin updating. This update initialises and proceeds without the additional prompt:
DO NOT DISTURB THE COMPUTER DURING THIS TIME and certainly do not cut power. If you do then likely you will kill the computer entirely.
Your computer will restart:
The BIOS Update will proceed in BIOS:
After the BIOS update is complete you will see the BIOS splash screen:
Then you will be prompted to log into Windows again:
Once the computer loads into Windows some of the BIOS updates will re-launch automatically but then will tell you that you have the latest version already so just click cancel. You may then delete the BIOS update from the Desktop:
Again press [Windows] and [ r ] and type in
then press [Enter]
You will get the System Information as before. This time you should see that the BIOS Update is applied:
The computer will then restart and restart the BIOS update.
6. Determining if your system has a UEFI BIOS and SecureBoot and Notes Regarding the Windows 10 Upgrade
For optimal performance Windows 10 TH2 should be clean installed using a UEFI BIOS with SecureBoot enabled if your computer has these technologies. When installing in UEFI the Bootable USB should be formatted as GPT partition scheme for the UEFI BIOS using Rufus.
The (UEFI) BIOS Setup
To enter the BIOS setup Power Down your computer. Wait 10 seconds and power it up. Press F2 at the Dell BIOS Screen. Other OEMs may have a different key sequence.
Example 1 of an Inspiron 13 7347 UEFI BIOS (Windows 8.1 OEM System). The Boot list mentions SecureBoot and UEFI. Both are enabled.
- SecureBoot is Enabled (which means UEFI is enabled)
- UEFI is Enabled
- The Bootable USB should be formatted as GPT partition scheme for the UEFI BIOS. The system can take advantage of the GPT scheme and preboot security.
Example 2 of a Latitude E5510 UEFI BIOS (Late Windows 7 System). The Boot list mentions UEFI but not SecureBoot. UEFI is supported but secureboot isn’t.
- There is no option for SecureBoot.
- UEFI is enabled.
- The Bootable USB should be formatted as GPT partition scheme for the UEFI BIOS. The system can take advantage of the GPT scheme but not the additional preboot security.
Example 3 of a XPS 8300 Legacy BIOS (Mid Windows 7 System). The Boot list does not mention UEFI or SecureBoot. Both these technologies are unsupported.
- There is no option for SecureBoot.
- There is no option for UEFI.
- The Bootable USB should be formatted as MBR partition scheme for the Legacy BIOS. The system cannot take advantage of the GPT scheme or additional preboot security.
7. Upgrading to a Solid State Drive and Altering the SATA Operation in the (UEFI) BIOS Setup
Upgrading System Drives
For maximum performance its advised to upgrade to a 250 GB or superior Solid State Drive and to use this SSD as a Boot Drive in AHCI with no additional caching. To determine how feasible this upgrade is on your system you should refer to your Service Manual or Owner’s Manual which instruct in the removal of the drive(s). This can again be found on Downloads.Dell.com I advise searching for en-us when on your models page. Most Dell systems are well designed so that accessing the HDD/SSDs is pretty straight forward.
Once you have ordered your SSD ensure that you have Downloaded Windows 10 TH2 Installation Media and made the Bootable USB.
Changing the SATA Operation
Once you have your SSD installed and your computer is back together you should check the SATA operation in your (UEFI) BIOS.
Power up your system and press [F2] at the Dell BIOS screen to enter the BIOS setup.
You will be taken to the main BIOS tab
Use the → arrow key to move to the advanced tab. Then press the ↓ key to take you down to the System Configuration and Press Enter.
On the advanced tab press the ↓ arrow key to move to SATA Mode. Press Enter to modify the category between AHCI and RAID or other options such as IRST. Use ↓ and ↑ to select your setting and once again press Enter.
Press [F10] to save changes and exit.
Select Yes when prompted to Save Configuration and Exit. If you are using a system with a single SSD Boot Drive you are now ready to install Windows 10 TH2 on your new SSD.
If you are using a system with multiple drives (SSD and HDD) before Windows installation boot from the Windows 10 TH2 installation media and Clean the HDD and the SSD to prevent an unwanted dualboot. See Cleaning up a Drive for more details. After doing this you should be ready to install Windows 10 TH2 on your new SSD. You may also want to Change the Location of Librariees (User Files) in Windows 10 TH2 after installation..