• How to install Windows 7 from scratch

    Many of you have asked how to re-install Windows 7 from scratch. You’d think it would be easy, but it isn’t.

    Let’s start with the premise that you have a fresh copy of Windows 7 in your hands. We’re still wrestling out the details of how to get that copy. You also need installation media for any other programs – Office being a likely example.

    Star contributor Canadian Tech has a set method for starting over with Windows 7. He starts with the assumption that you’re going to install a new hard drive while you’re in the process. That’s a very good idea. If you intend to use Win7 for a while, a solid state drive will make Win7 work better than it ever has. Considering that SSD prices are down to the sub-$100 range (the 500 GB Samsung SSD – affiliate link – costs $135 from Amazon, for heaven’s sake, and prices will go lower next Friday) , you should seriously consider feeding an SSD to your Win7 machine.

    Here’s Canadian Tech’s procedure. He anticipates that it’ll take you 12 hours to complete:

    Step 1. Go to your computer’s OEM support site (Dell, HP, Acer, whatever) and find and download the drivers for your computer and store them on a USB stick.

    Step 2. You may be able to take your data off first. Remove the failing hard drive and put it into a USB external drive housing. Connect to a working PC, copy the data off. You may need a friend to do this part for you, but the rest is not really very technical or difficult for most people.

    Step 3. Install the new hard drive. Do not do any formatting or partitioning.

    Step 4a. If you made a set of disks for recovery or an image copy at the time your computer was new. This is the time you need them. Start your computer on the first of the disks as instructed and in an hour or so, your computer will look exactly as it did then. Skip to Step 5.

    Step 4b. If you do not have that set of disks, you will need a legal reusable Microsoft Product Key. You will need a Windows 7 install disk. The Win7 disk must match the edition of your product key, and its bitness (32 or 64). If you do not have the original Windows 7 install disk, borrow one from a friend. Hopefully, the disk you use will be labeled SP1 (Service Pack 1), because that will save you an additional 4 hours or so.

    Step 4c. Place the Windows 7 install disk in the disk reader and start your computer.
    Once the install process is started, choose CUSTOM. Ignore the check box about drivers, unless you can not proceed further. When the installer asks about Windows update, choose Ask me later.

    Step 5. Once Windows 7 SP1 is installed, install the following:

    Step 5a. KB3020369. If you installed the 32-bit version of Win7, download it here.  If you have 64-bit Win7, download it here. Double-click on the downloaded MSU file and let ‘er rip.

    Step 5b. Same story with KB3172605. Download 32-bit here. Download 64-bit here. Run the MSU file.

    Step 6. Open Windows Update, change Windows Update setting to Never check for updates (that is, turn off Automatic Updates). Do not install anything else at this point – NOTHING. Start the update process by clicking on Check for updates. You’re likely to see 200 or more updates. It will take some time.

    Step 7. Once you have a list of updates, you will likely want to prevent certain specific updates from being installed to reduce snooping. Click once on each Update that is NOT labeled SECURITY and check the date of issue on the right. If that date is after January 1, 2015 (date subject to debate depending on your paranoia), right-click on the patch and hide.

    Step 8. Click install updates and wait for it to finish. Restart when asked to do so.
    After re-start is complete and you see a desktop, start Task manager – Right-click on task bar. Look at the % at the bottom. Do NOT attempt to use the computer for any purpose until you see that % fall to and stay at 10% or less. Windows Update is still working and has a lot of work to do.

    Step 9. Keep running Windows Update again and again till it offers no new patches.

    Step 10. Start Internet Explorer, click the gear (upper right) in IE11 and select Compatibility settings and enter Microsoft.com in the list

    Step 11. Start Windows Update again and check the box to include updates for other Microsoft software. Run Windows Update again and again until you are satisfied you have all the updates you want.

    Step 12. After the install is complete, check Device Manager. Type device in the text box above the start globe when you click it and choose Device manager from the list to find out if Win7 was able to supply the drivers you need. You should get drivers only from the maker of your computer or Intel, as mentioned in Step 1. Do NOT use any of those driver download sites. They are all bogus, have bad drivers, and install malware.

    Step 13. Install your Microsoft Office software and then run Windows Update again and again till no more are proposed.

    Step 14. If you have a hard drive (not an SSD), defragment your drive. Type defragment in the text box above the start globe when you click it once. Choose the Defragmentation link. Wait till it completes all passes. (SSDs don’t need defragging.)

    Step 15. Next you need to decide whether you’re going to apply only Win7 security patches, or if you’re comfortable with letting Microsoft install all of its patches. There are strong arguments in favor of both approaches. Start with my patchocalypse article in InfoWorld and if you have any lingering doubts, sift through the debate here on AskWoody. It’s not a simple choice.

    Step 16. Make sure you have Automatic Update set to “Never,” and watch here to see when it’s safe to install patches.

    Many thanks to Canadian Tech for letting me publish these steps.

    May the debate begin…. 🙂