How (not) to install Windows 7 on a USB3 computer

Yesterday, I finally managed to put Windows 7 on a totally USB3 computer. It’s only occupying a small part of my hard drive and exists for when something just isn’t possible on Linux, like setting the BIOS splash screen.

Bothering

At least that’s Windows 10 gone. Even if you need to pop into Windows for 15 minutes to do a little task, it finds ways of bothering you, (That’s even after you’ve switched off whatever-her-name-is!) with little jingles, telling you that it’s downloaded something for you (not that you asked it to), and telling you to send all kinds of personal info to Microsoft.

But first I had to boot into M$Win-10 while I used a program called “Rufus” to put my Win7 iso onto a pendrive. And then I was hooked in for a bit, while I carried out the procedure on this page to copy the USB3 drivers into two “wim” files.

Of course I found the drivers in Linux and copied them over to the Windows partition. The least time spent there the better.

No Mercy

The final stage involves copying a huge file (install.wim) back to your usb pendrive after you’ve amended it. It’s then that, while you’re sitting there waiting for the copy to complete, that Windows 10 shows absolutely no mercy in its efforts to wind you up, making you want to smash your monitor and throw your speakers out of the window.

Right, so pendrive in a USB port and boot the computer. Get to the Windows 7 install screen, but no keyboard or mouse! Because it wants the USB3 drivers that I just installed. I noted that one person, from hundreds that had commented under the article that I was taking the instructions from, had to use a different index number when adding the driver, so start again. It was somewhere around this point that I plugged in an old PS/2 mouse (see epilogue).

Once more into the breach…

Back into Windows 10, rewrite the original Win 7 iso onto the pendrive using Rufus, all the while as Windows 10 taunts me with messages, jingles, and all manner of annoyances. Then follow the instructions on that page again, but this time repeat the first instruction using “index:1” as well as “index:2”. And copy the amended files back to the pendrive as I’m thankful for the small mercy that I have very little hair to pull out or turn grey.

Second Attempt

So, once again, pendrive into a USB port and boot the computer. Get to the Windows 7 install screen and we’re good to go! Or not. Because Win7 is insisting on a hard drive that is formatted to “gpt” and mine is formatted to “mbr”. It’s fine if the drive is empty, but as I have my Linux partitions and a huge data partition, it’s going to need backing up. Luckily I’ve got an external 1TB drive, and a couple of live Linux CDs that include GParted. I’m quite experienced at this stuff now, because I’d moved all my stuff onto the external drive and converted my internal SSD drive to “gpt” in anticipation to install Windows 10, only for it to insist on “mbr”, and I swear that I hadn’t changed my BIOS settings in the meantime.

Attempts 3A and 3B

So, loads of partition copies later, I was ready for another go. But there was still another trap waiting. I put the pendrive into a USB port, and booted the computer. I got to the Windows 7 install screen, with both mouse and keyboard fully operational. Clicked I accept the terms, deleted all the partitions on my hard drive which I had just backed up, and off went the installation. Except for one thing, I had forgotten to limit the partition size for Windows and I didn’t want it taking over the entire disk. So a forced reset, reboot and start again. 100Gb allocated for Windows (leaving 1900Gb for sensible operating systems i.e., Linux), and watched as the installation went ahead. It got to the point of the first reboot, then it threw me an error message that it was unable to reboot the computer to continue the installation and I had to start again!

And Finally

Fortunately I’m not one to cry. I had a look in the BIOS and couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, so rebooted and tried one last time. And off we went! And it installed. And rebooted, and continued to install. And it’s working!! I still have to set up Windows Updates, but I imagine that will be a breeze in comparison.

Addendum: Added the next day

I discovered that Intel and Microsoft have conspired to force us onto the awful Windows 10, and does not issue drivers for the inbuilt graphics of Generation 7 and above processors, for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Fortunately, a search on the net revealed that there is a driver (even though they’ve kept quiet about it), and you can find it on Softpedia’s site. And it works, on H110 boards as well.

Epilogue

If you think that’s the end of the story, it’s not! I have a PS/2 mouse which I don’t use any more, it was a very good one in its day but it became a bit unreliable. I had plugged it in earlier, and left it there while using the USB wireless mouse. Having an unused PS/2 mouse plugged in. What could possibly go wrong?

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