I’d print this out so you can refer to it while rebuilding: 1. Recommended: Download the drivers you’ll need BEFORE wiping the system. Go to support.dell.com, select your model, and download the drivers listed in Step 6. 2. Go into the BIOS settings of the new machine. You may or may not have all of these settings, their names may not be exactly what I’ve written here, and they’ll probably be spread across various tabs and/or buried in submenus, so look around, but set any of these as indicated if you find them: a. Intel Rapid Start: Disabled b. SATA Operation: AHCI c. USB Powershare: Enabled d. USB Wake Support: Enabled if you want to wake up your system with an external keyboard/mouse; Disabled if you’ll have a wireless mouse receiver connected to the laptop and don’t want to risk nudging a wireless mouse accidentally waking up your laptop. e. TPM Security: Enabled f. BIOS Boot Mode (may be called something else): UEFI g. Legacy Option ROMs (aka CSM or Compatibility Support Module): Enabled for Win7, Disabled for Win8 h. Secure Boot: Disabled for Win7, Enabled for Win8 i. Save changes and exit. Your system will reboot and may fail to start Windows at this point based on some of these changes. That’s not a problem. 3. Recommended for simplicity: Disconnect any secondary hard drives before installing Windows. 4. Connect the Windows installer flash drive you turned into a bootable Windows installation source earlier, turn on the laptop, and rapidly tap F12 repeatedly until you see a boot selection menu. This machine boots fast, so you might miss your chance if you’re not quick. Depending on whether Dell’s media supports UEFI booting, you might see a Windows Boot Manager option under the UEFI Boot Options category. If you do, use that one. If not, select your flash drive from the Legacy list. UEFI isn’t especially important on Win7 anyway. 5. Choose to Install Windows. When you arrive at the screen to choose what drive to install it on, delete all existing partitions and choose to install to the Unallocated Space. 6. Now it’s time to install your drivers, so connect whatever device has the drivers you downloaded. I would install the drivers in this order, restarting whenever you’re prompted: a. BIOS (may not be needed if your motherboard is already updated, though if it’s needed, your entire system will freeze while it runs. That’s normal, so do NOT shut your system off while it’s running to try to fix that.) b. Chipset c. Video (both Intel and NVIDIA) d. Audio e. LAN f. Wifi g. Bluetooth h. Card Reader i. Freefall Sensor (you’ll disable this since you have an SSD, but if you don’t install it Device Manager won’t be happy) 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. j. Touchpad k. Intel Management Engine l. Intel Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework m. Intel Rapid Storage n. Intel Smart Connect (unless you don’t need it AND disabled it in the BIOS) o. Airplane Mode Switch p. USB Ethernet adapter (if you use it) q. Any other peripherals you use If you want to delete the extracted drivers that are no longer needed to reclaim some storage, go to your C: drive and delete the Dell folder. Go to Control Panel > Free Fall Data Protection and disable it since you’re using SSDs. Open Control Panel > Mouse > Pointer Options and set a pointer speed that’s a good balance for both your touchpad and an external mouse (I use the fifth tick from the left). Then go to the Dell Touchpad tab and open up its properties. Configure the touchpad as you’d like. I strongly recommend going into Gestures and disabling the Swipe gestures, since you probably won’t use them and it can cause the touchpad to mistake regular usage for a swipe, which will get aggravating. You may also need to choose “Reverse scroll direction” to maintain regular scroll direction rather than smartphone style “Move your finger up to scroll the page down”. Open Control Panel > Dell Audio, and you may want to disable the MaxxAudio enhancements (not on the mic, just the speakers). Experiment with that setting while playing music; I find that it makes the built‐in speakers sound better but external speakers sound much worse, and since the enhancements are applied to both and I tend to use external speakers, I leave the enhancements disabled. You can also head over to the Advanced tab and choose to remove the system tray icon. Go into your Power Options > Change Plan Settings > Advanced Settings > Display and turn off adaptive brightness (if you have that option) for both battery and AC on all three power profiles. It doesn’t always guess very well and it makes it harder to manually adjust your display brightness. You may as well set any other power options you want while you’re here. Decide whether you want to enable Intel Smart Connect. Basically what it does is when your system is asleep, it will wake up periodically to refresh data in certain apps, and then go back to sleep, so that when you actually wake up your system yourself, the data will already be fresh in those apps rather than it having to update first. The tradeoff is of course somewhat more battery consumption from all the autonomous wakeups. Outlook is the only app you might use that supports this function. Right‐click the Smart Connect app in your system tray and enable or disable it as you wish. Set your keyboard illumination the way you want it using the Fn+Right Arrow (I think). It has a few different brightness levels. Right‐click your desktop background, go to Personalize, click “Change desktop icons” (upper‐left corner) and you might want to choose to have some of those icons shown, like Computer and User’s Files. You can make other UI tweaks as well. For example, you can further refine your icon sizes if you don’t need them to be that large; just right‐click your background, click View, and choose your desired size. And finally, right‐click the taskbar, click Properties, and experiment with the “Use small taskbar buttons” to decide which you prefer. Then under “Taskbar buttons”, you might also want to choose “Never combine” if you want to see app/folder names with individual icons rather than a grouped icon‐only button for everything.
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