Reinstalling W7 on my son's PC

  Ian in Northampton 18:41 15 Mar 15
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My son has ‘bequeathed’ me his old gaming PC. I’m not surprised – it runs like a three-legged dog on tranquilisers. Goodness what he’s done to it, apart from install every game known to man. Anyway…

Spec is AMD 3-core Phenom processor, 6GB memory, GT250, 60GB SSD (I think) and 250GB hard drive. Motherboard is Asus M3A78-EM. OS is W7 Ultimate. In theory, it should be quite quick.

No, I didn’t leave out the optical drive: it doesn’t have one (although my son seems to have mounted a ‘virtual’ DVD drive). I’ve uninstalled what I can, run CCleaner on it – but it runs no better. Time for a more serious solution. So J have a copy of Windows 7 I could donate to it, but – how to install it without an internal CD/DVD drive?

One option is that I have an external USB DVD drive. Another is: could I take my bootable W7 disk and transfer it to a USB pen drive, and boot from that?

I’ve gone into the BIOS. Strangely, the guy who built it for him had an ATAPI DVD drive listed as the first boot device. Perhaps he attached one for the install, then removed it (it would certainly have spoilt the lines of a very pretty Fractal case which, in fact, doesn’t seem to make provision for access to a CD/DVD drive). Anyway, I’ve now reordered it to boot from an external device first.

There is another potential issue. The two drives are configured as RAID drives. That’s no use to me. I would want them configured as simple operating system/program drive and data drive.

So: what are my questions?

  1. When it lists ‘boot from external device’ – will it really? There seem to be plenty of stories on the web of a BIOS claiming to support this – but the motherboard doesn’t. Or something.

  2. What’s my best option? The external DVD drive – or copying W7 ISO to a USB stick? Or something different?

  3. The RAID thing bothers me. How do I ‘undo’ RAID? I’m guessing it’s something that’s set in the BIOS, which worries me. At what point should I try to restore the disk configuration to a ‘normal’ one – and how would I go about it?

Thanks, as always.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 19:54 15 Mar 15
  1. do you have the product key for it? download and run Magic jelly bean to find it

  2. Download win 7 ultimate and either put on USB stick or burn iso to DVD if you have an external DVD player. Thanks to JB for this article

  3. Back up all the drivers

  4. Disable RAID see here

  5. I would be tempted to remove the drives and format in another machine first or boot from external source with win 7 and format drive before install.

Best of luck

  Ian in Northampton 20:18 15 Mar 15

Many thanks Fruit Bat /\0/.

Product key not an issue.

I have W7U as an ISO on my PC - so I guess just copy it to a USB key? A PC will boot from an ISO image, right?

Drivers all downloaded from the Asus site.

Thanks for the pointer re disabling RAID. It sounds like I can/should do that before attempting the Windows reinstall?

Yep, I'll be booting from an external source, so will accept the option to do a format before the install.

If, as I suspect, C: is an SSD (at 60GB, it's pretty much got to be, right?) I'm guessing there's nothing special about installing W7 to it rather than to a 'regular' hard drive?

It worries me when you say "Best of luck"... Do you think I'm attempting something weird/difficult? Or am I reading too much into that?

  robin_x 20:24 15 Mar 15

Unchecky helps not installing junk as you grab software to set up a machine.

Imgburn can make isos from DVDs, if you have another machine with DVD and have problems with downloading an iso.

Rufus can burn isos to USB Flash

majorgeeks is currently one of the best junk free sites going

It's best to install W7 with SP1 iso. A 2009 W7 release needs many hours of updates. SP1 needs a fair few too unfortunately.

  Ian in Northampton 20:29 15 Mar 15

Thanks robin_x. In fact, I use www.ninite.com for most of what I need for a reinstall - it's an unattended process, you get the latest versions of everything, it's malware free and the installation automatically unchecks all the stuff you wouldn't want. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rufus sounds great - I'll give it a try.

I hear ya on SP1... (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt - and picked it apart and reassembled it waiting for updates to download and install.)

  robin_x 20:45 15 Mar 15

I must remember to recommend ninite, but I keep forgetting since I don't use it much.

If you feel brave, you could install and activate W7, then forget the updates and go for W10 Preview. Just an idea.

  Ian in Northampton 10:41 16 Mar 15

I just went to disable RAID in the BIOS. I think I've found the right place: the choices are RAID. SATA or AHCI. I seem to recall issues associated with installing Windows and AHCI, but may have misremembered. Can anyone tell me what are the pros and cons of setting the disk configuration to SATA or AHCI (and does it sound like I've found the right place to change it)?

  robin_x 11:27 16 Mar 15

See here until someone can give a definitive answer

I think SATA for fairly old machines, AHCI for newer. I think you'll know if you choose AHCI and it's wrong. (but I may be wrong)

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 12:35 16 Mar 15

Set to SATA

As your installing window 7 it shouldn't be a problem as windows will recognise SATA drives

XP was a problem as sata drivers needed to be loaded first at the "F4 prompt" and teh dives needed to be set as AHCI

  Ian in Northampton 12:39 16 Mar 15

Thanks guys.

I now find that mounting a USB pen drive with a W7 ISO on it not only doesn't boot into the Windows installation routine - it prevents the PC booting past the BIOS, so doesn't even load the current installation. (I don't have another machine that will boot from USB/external drive to test whether the drive or the ISO are faulty.)

I'll try an external DVD drive next.

  bumpkin 13:09 16 Mar 15

If that fails, you could use a normal (internal) DVD drive and just connect it up without fitting it in the case.

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