[Legacy] A Clean Install of Windows

This guide is obsolete. See Windows OEM FAQs and Downloads for the latest Windows 10 and Windows 7 Downloads and Installation Guides.

* Windows XP has reached End of Life. Therefore there is no new driver support and it is very insecure with respect to Vista or later. For legacy software and specialist hardware Virtualisation is the way forward see Installation of Windows on VMWare Player where I give Windows 98SE and XP as an example.

37 thoughts on “[Legacy] A Clean Install of Windows

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  1. I've gone through your pages and they're quite informative. I want to install Windows 8 Pro on the XPS machine that has Windows 8 pre-install and with the key in the BIOS. Win 8 Pro installation always fails. It doesn't ask me for a product key because I think it's just using the key in the BIOS. Would you have any recommendations on how to do a clean install of Win 8 Pro on an existing Win 8 machine and bypassing the BIOS key and let me continue with what I thought was a simple installation. Thanks!

    1. Mike
      The easiest way to install would be to install Windows 8.1 using the BIOS Embedded System Locked Preinstallation Key as you have done. You should be able to change to a Professional Key as instructed here when uupgrading from one version of Windows 8.1 to another:

      The other way to direct install would be to add a EI.cfg and PID.txt file to the sources folder of your installation media as described here:
      The instructions are with the generic product key but you can instead use your Windows 8.1 Professional product key.

      1. Hi Philip. With the first link you provided … I actually did that. I had the key from the purchased Windows 8 Pro and entered it. The key was accepted and did the "adding features" page. It just kept going and going. I cancelled it after 15 minutes thinking that something went wrong. Should I have let it keep going? Is it installing the Windows 8 Pro version from a download? I thought it would have asked me to insert the installation disc. Thanks for your quick response. This has been pretty frustrating. your guides have been very helpful!

      2. It will download a files from the internet and may take some time to do so, just let it continue. Theres no way of referring it to the installation disc.

      3. Thanks for the help Philip. i think i screwed myself. When i try again with the product key from that screen it is now rejected. I`ve done so many upgrades and installations with other machines that I cannot believe how difficult it is with a Dell. I think i may be stuck. There goes a wasted product key?
        Thanks for all your help.

      4. This shouldn't be a Dell issue but an issue for all systems which have a Windows 8.1 BIOS embedded SLP key, Microsoft have made some real difficulties with Windows 8.0/8.1. Its possible the change key part is messed up because you cancelled it the first time round. I have found similar issues when I tried to uninstall Windows components such as hyper V. Try reinstalling with a PID.txt and EI.cfg file in your installation media.

      5. Hey Philip. I cannot explain it. It's a WTF moment. I had one of those "conduit search" bugs that i have no idea how it got there. i removed it and it required a restart. now..I've shut the machine down a few times since i gave up. But on this restart it started updating. When it finally restarted i checked the Windows version and it now says "Pro". I tested out remote desktop and it works successfully as well. Hyper-V has now been added as well.
        I don't know how to explain it.

        BUT…all i can say it THANKS for your guides and personal support!

  2. I'm trying to put win7 on an Inspiron M531R-5535.
    I get through the install process, and end up looking at a black screen.
    any suggestions?

    1. Do you have any external devices attached? it may be sending output to an external monitor, does tapping {Windows] and [p] do anything?

      Did you have the latest BIOS prior to installation?

  3. I had an external HD connected, and a mouse.
    As for the bios, I don't know. I just got the machine and haven't really done anything to it except try to install 7.

  4. BIOS is/was newest. I'll go through the process without the external HD attached and see if that alters anything

  5. Ok! as odd as it is, I got it installed by disconnecting the external drive!
    Now I only have one issue:
    the USB ports don't seem to want to work.
    Is there something I need to do to make them work?

    1. Install the Dell System Software and the Chipset Drivers. Dell don't have Windows 7 Drivers so try the Windows 8 drivers from the FTP Website or these directly from here:


      If you have more issues make a new post on the Microsoft OS Forum and provide the hardware IDs:


  6. What methods, means, criteria, specs, etc., are being used to determine if a hardware is Windows 10 capable or not?

  7. I have an xps m1710 and want to upgrade to a new OS. Which OS is most stable beyond XP.

    Where do I start. Do I need to purchase a disc, or is there a place to DL from…. Noob Seeking help.

    1. Well you have essentially:
      Windows XP – Completely Obsolete April 2014
      Windows Vista – Reached End of Mainstream Support/Retail Sales and in my opinion obsolete
      Windows 7 – Reached End of Mainstream Support/Retail Sales
      Windows 8.1 – Has annoying Metro Apps.
      Windows 10 – The newest version of Windows.

      Windows 7 is the most stable however you cannot purchase or download it.

      I recommend Windows 10 which is the latest version. It still has its bugs but compared to Windows XP it should perform significantly better.

      There is a trick for you to get it for free using the Windows 10130 Insider Program. The Insider Program has expired so you have to be fast and you have to follow the exact procedure in this guide which incorporates some workarounds:

    2. Also note the M1710 may not work with Windows 7/8.1/10 64 Bit. Most of the processors in the model only had a 32 Bit instruction set so install Windows 10130 32 Bit and then install Windows 10240 Pro.

  8. Generic product key using command prompt?

    Step 7 confuses me.

    Not sure if I should have a product key or not. If so where do I get it from.

    I have made a bootable USB. Just need to make sure I'm perfectly clear before I'm at the point of no return.

    1. You should insert the generic key but because the build has expired. You need to change the date of your BIOS setup to September. You then need to install 10130 offline and disable the auto-update time setting.

      Then input the generic key via the command prompt. Finally connect online and activate via the command prompt. This gives you an activated 10130 which you can use to get Windows 10 Pro for free. This is done in a VM but see if it helps:

      1. Yes, that's exactly what I've done. Except I did not install it on a VM (didn't know what VM was until after the fact). I did a clean install on HD. I installed a generic product key successfully and then connected to the internet and activated it. MS has caught on and blocked all the generic product keys it appears.

  9. I'm trying to post image but can't.

    Maybe I have a bad product key. Can't seem to find any others that work. Tried several.

    So I will Type out the error:

    Windows Script Host

    Activating Windows(R) , Professional Edition
    (507660dd-3fc4-81f5-b559467ad56b …
    Error: 0xC004C003 The activation server determined the specified product key is blocked.


    Throw me a bone.

    I do appreciate your guidance regardless.

  10. Do I update to 10240 via windows update or use ISO.

    After the update can I sync date and time?

    1. You can use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool to Download the Windows 10 Pro .iso and then make a Bootable USB.

      You can then launch the Windows setup file from the Bootable USB while on the 10130 to initiate the upgrade.

      It will upgrade (providing 10130 has been activated).

      1. Will I need another product key? I'm about to install from bootable USB.

        When I downloaded using media creation tool. I could not tell if it was 10240 or not. I just selected windows pro. It does not let me select version.

  11. As suspected. Requires product key.

    Painful. Now to find a product key.

    1. If Windows 10130 is activated and you are installing Windows 10 Pro via the Windows 10130 Desktop (and not BIOS) it will not require a product key.

  12. Philip,
    Thanks so much for your work here. I inherited an Inspiron 17 that my wife's mother bought a few years ago and was going unused. She had forgotten her windows password and I figured a clean install of 10 would be the easiest process as I wanted to start fresh anyways. Somehow it lost access to the SLP/OEM key, and after a few hours of research (and luckily finding your site here), I have been able to do a fresh 10 install and found the key.

    Long story short (as possible): After a clean 10 install wouldn't activate (clicked skip during the product key screen during install) I tried to do a fresh install of 8 (pro, home, N, S, etc., none worked), which was the original OS. That wouldn't recognize the SLP key and wouldn't let me proceed any further. I went "back" to 10 unactivated, tried running the various apps to find the SLP key, nothing worked. I found you had a reply a few years old about rarely having to flash the BIOS to gain access. I followed your Youtube tutorial and updated the BIOS from A02 to A08. RWEverything wouldn't pull up the ACPI tables, but I had an app called "OemKey" from a previous attempt, and that worked! I copied and pasted the key into the Windows key field and all is well.

    So, thank you. I hope the above will aid you or someone else in the future.


    1. Its a very rare case… Thanks for letting me know that it worked for you. The Neosmart OEMKEy works well however I prefer RW-Everything for my guides as it reveals if there is a SLIC 2.1 present for Windows 7 in addition to the MSDM.

      Regarding RWEverything did you try the Portable Version as well as the installed version?
      It just hangs when you attempt to access the ACPI tables? This happened once to me on a system and I asked Jeff about it (10/09/2014). He had me run a debug version and then updated RW-Everything so it worked without issues on my system. Perhaps you could do the same which might remove the problem for someone else later? Thanks.

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