Windows 7 has Reached End of Mainstream Support (Extended Support Lasts until 2020) and it is recommended to use Windows 10 instead. All Windows 7 OEM and Retail Licenses (Enterprise and Volume Licenses are not eligible) of Windows 7 should be eligible for a Free Upgrade to Windows 10. For more details see Windows FAQs and Downloads.
Part 1: Windows and Office Licensing and Obtaining Installation Media
This section talks about obtaining Windows and Office installation media and their product keys. If you already have all the media and product keys the bulk of this section can be skipped. You will still need to download the standalone updates and system drivers however.
1.1 Information about your Windows License and Obtaining Installation Media
Its important to know whether your license is OEM or Retail and hence where you should request media, support and how to activate.
1.2 Information about your Office License and Obtaining Installation Media
- [Office 2010/2013 OEM] The MPI Card
Its important to know whether your license is OEM or Retail and hence where you should request media and support. The retail license will have boxed media with a product key or a product key sent via email, the OEM license will be on the MPI card. If you have lost your product key you can retrieve it with Belarc Advisor however Belarc Advisor won’t retrieve an Office 2013 key.
- [Office 2007/2010 OEM/Retail] Finding Information About Your System Hardware and OS Licenses Using Belarc Advisor
In order to install Office you need installation media. I prefer this as a download.
- [Office 2010 OEM/Retail] Microsoft Office 2010
- [Office 2013 OEM/Retail] Microsoft Office 2013
If you are looking for the free Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, its obsolete and there are no official download links. Use the free Microsoft Office 2013 WebApps instead which have all the functionality of Office 2010 Starter and much more.
- Microsoft Mathematics [Free]
Download the Microsoft Office installers and save to an external hard drive. Its useful to save your product key in a text file beside the installer.
1.3 Downloading Windows and Office Updates Offline [Part 1 Downloading]
At this stage you should download the Standalone Windows Updates or most of the Windows Updates using WSUS Offline Update and copy the folder to a USB external hard drive. Its advised also to download Microsoft .Net Framework, Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Live Essentials 2012.
1.4 Downloading System Drivers [Part 1 Downloading]
- Downloading, Preparing and Loading Preinstallation SATA Drivers
- Checking Hardware IDs
- Driver Installation Order
- Downloading Drivers from Dell and Unofficial Driver Sets
At this stage you should download the System Drivers and copy them in a folder to a USB external hard drive. If unsure of hardware variants check the hardware IDs and make a new post on the Dell Community – Microsoft OS Forum stating your version of Windows, model and hardware IDs. You may want to prepare SATA preinstallation drivers in case Windows 7 can't read your hard drive. This is normally only required for newer systems.
Part 2: Backing Up Data
This section talks about backing up data, if you have no data to backup then this section can be skipped.
Follow Backing Up your Files unless your installation can’t boot in this case follow Data Recovery Using Fedora.
You may also want to backup your entire old Windows installation in some cases:
Part 3: Updating the BIOS and Hardware and Preparing the System for Windows Installation
This section takes you through upgrading some hardware which will optimise your systems performance. It also takes you through updating the BIOS and making some changes which may or may not be necessary depending on your hardware configuration. Finally it takes you through preparing the hard drive before Windows installation i.e. securely wiping it.
3.1 BIOS Updates
The latest BIOS Update is recommended to be installed before upgrading to Windows 7 however requires a working Windows installation. If you cannot update the BIOS from the old Windows installation then update it after installing Windows.
3.2 Hardware Upgrades
- Solid State Drive and Hard Drive Upgrades for your System
- Memory Upgrades for your System
- Video Card Upgrade for your System – Ask on Desktop Video Forum [Desktops only]
Ensure that you refer to your Service Manual (older systems) or Owner’s Manual when adding/removing hardware. DDR2 RAM is quite expensive now and the best performance from old systems will be from a SSD.
3.3 BIOS Settings
3.4 Preparing your Hard Drive
- Cleaning your Drive (optional/recommended)
- Preparing your Hard Drive: Setting Up Media Direct [A Small Subset of Dell Systems Only] [Part 1 Making System partitions and Part 3 downloading a Media Direct .iso]
Part 4: Windows Installation and Driver Installation
This part takes you through the actual Windows installation aswell as updating it and installing the system drivers.
4.1 Windows Installation
If you see no hard drives during installation refer to:
4.2 Office Installation
Office installation is pretty simplistic, simply launch the .exes and input your product key, I recommend installing Microsoft Office immediately after Microsoft Windows.
4.4 Standalone Updates [Part 2 Installing]
- Installing Windows Updates Offline [Part 2]
At this point you should install the updates using the updates downloaded with WSUS Offline Update. WSUS Offline Update can be set to update Microsoft Office as well as Microsoft Windows. Its advised also to install Microsoft .Net Framework, Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Live Essentials 2012.
4.5 System Drivers Download and Installation [Part 2 Installing]
At this stage you should install the drivers in the correct order.
4.6 Product Activation
4.7 Power Settings
Its recommended to optimise your power settings to your preference
4.8 Windows Update
4.9 Windows Experience Index
The Windows Experience Index should be run in Windows 7 as it is sometimes needed to enable the Aero Theme. The Aero Theme is often disabled at the initial boot because a generic graphics driver was used and the full potential of your graphics adapter was not taken into account hence Aero was disabled and the Windows basic theme was used. The Windows Experience Index was removed in Windows 8.1 for some reason but a third party tool mimics it.s.
4.10 Customisation and Desktop Enhancements
4.11 Recovering Files
This is only present if you didn't Securely Wipe the system or format the drive during the install.
Part 5: SSD/HDD Optimisation
This gives some hints about optimising a SSD/HDD configuration. If you aren’t using a SSD and HDD this section doesn’t apply.
5.1 mSATA Cache Drives
Note: If your system has a mSATA Solid State State Cache Drive you should review this document for configuring the Intel Rapid Responsiveness software here.
Note things may go wrong when using a Cache Drive. As mentioned earlier under hardware upgrades I do not recommend cache drives.
5.2 SSD (non-cache) and HDD configuration
Part 6: Creating a New Restore Partition, New Factory Settings and New Recovery Media
This step is highly recommended as it gives you a means to quickly restore your clean Windows installation if something goes wrong. I recommend making one before any additional software is installed.
6.1 Dell Backup and Recovery
The free version of the Dell Backup and Recovery program (Dell Systems only) will make a hidden recovery partition on the same HDD/SSD you installed the Operating System on upon installation. You can then make a Recovery USB (Recommended for MBR <2010 systems) or Recovery External Hard Drive (Recommended for UEFI BIOS >2010 systems) of this image and revert to it at any time.
- Dell Backup and Recovery/Alienware Respawn (Dell Systems Only)
Part 7: Third Party Software
This gives some notes about additional Dell software and other Third Party software.
7.2 Dell Preinstalled Software
- Dell Digital Delivery*
- My Dell Downloads (Use 32 Bit Internet Explorer)*
- My Dell formly Dell Support Centre
- Installing Media Direct [A Small Subset of Dell Systems Only] [Part 2: Installing the Media Direct Application, requires the Media Direct Partitions to be setup earlier]
* My Dell Downloads came with most Dell systems which came with Windows 7 (2009-2012). Dell Digital Delivery supersedes it for Windows 8.1 systems (2014). For systems which came out with Windows 8.0 (2013) try using Dell Digital Delivery and if it fails then use my Dell Downloads.
7.4 Adobe Software
7.5 Other Software
3 thoughts on “A Clean Install of Windows 7”
You are indeed a rockstar Phillip! I don't think I've ever come across a more comprehensive and resourceful guide to configuring Windows and other software on a PC/Laptop.
The amount of time and effort you've put into this is truly commendable. Keep up the good work!!
Thanks for the kind words 🙂
I've spent alot of time writing these guides.
Thank you so much for this clear guide! Best I've seen!