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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
I’ve been playing about with Windows 7 in a VM for a while now in a VM, but now the beta is out I wanted to install it on a physical machine, I’m not ready yet to upgrade my main laptop to Windows 7 (although I have a cunning plan to p2v my Vista install and convert to a VHD so I can dual-boot that way which is a neat trick)
I have a Dell Inspiron 510m laptop that I use for testing things (I used it for my Patespin series) that I wanted to install Windows 7 on, it still gives pretty good performance and has 2Gb RAM – the installation itself went smoothly and quickly – less than 45mins from format to finished 1st boot, but it doesn’t detect the wireless or video card.
In my experience this isn’t that unusual for a Dell, although video did surprise me as Vista had a default driver for the Intel 855GM on-board video that worked well, there is no built-in driver in Windows 7 it would seem.
So, a bit of a problem – I’m stuck with 640×480 VGA mode which isn’t much use.
I tried several ways to hack the Vista version of the driver into my installation, all without success – it always defaulted back to the default VGA drivers, some discussion here if you are interested
In the end I came across a post suggesting that I use an application called DriverMax – this is capable of exporting and importing installed drivers, I’d not tried it before but decided to give it a go, I know Vista had a working 855GM driver so the plan was to export it from there, and import it into a Windows 7 installation as I was unsure of how to extract it from the Vista installation media.
This necessitated a format and reinstall of the Dell 510m with Vista, which was painless enough as I had an auto-install DVD that I’d previously built
Once Vista was installed there was a working video driver running – I used DriverMax to export the working driver from the running OS – no source or driver CD required via a couple of clicks in the UI to a .zip file on a USB drive.
I then formatted and reinstalled Windows 7 again and on the laptop and installed DriverMax again.
then I simply imported the driver from the .zip file
Note – it knows the driver I saved was a default Windows driver
Summary screen – important to note it can install unsigned drivers if required
After a reboot the Windows 7 installation is running with a working (full-res) video driver.
I did find one slight problem with DriverMax that I had to work-around, with the default VGA video driver the buttons on the dialog boxes were inaccessible and I couldn’t resize or hot-key around it to progress, so in the end I had to do the process via remote desktop to the Win7 machine from another machine on my network over a wired LAN connection!
It’s not an ideal solution as you have to have a working Vista installation to extract the driver from and is probably totally unsupported, this is essentially Windows 7 running a Vista video driver – but it’s a beta anyway, hopefully MS or Intel will ship an 855GM driver again when Windows 7 goes RTM.
My initial impressions are that Windows 7 seems a lot more responsive than Vista, although to be fair it’s a vanilla installation thus-far. I have high-hopes for the beta, by my reckoning the change in the code-base isn’t as fundamental as it was between XP and Vista so it’s more focused on incremental features and performance improvements. I ran beta copies of Vista on my main work machine from Beta 1 through to RTM without too many problems, maybe I’ll be confident enough to do that again this time around – the VHD booting feature is certainly compelling for what I do.