Rolling Windows and Sticky Bytes

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Installing Windows 7 on an ASUS S400C Ultrabook

Edit (2016-01-08): I’ve since installed Windows 10 on this system so it’s unlikely I’ll be able to answer questions about this post in future.

My wife had a very reliable, very handy ASUS Eee PC that served us very well on our travels. It’s small, it’s light and the battery lasts for ages. Unfortunately it’s started to show its age so we decided to shop around for a replacement. The local computer store had an ASUS S400C Ultrabook on sale for $500 even which was exactly the budget we had in mind so we picked it up.

We knew going in that this new beasty shipped with Windows 8 on it but I have an unused Windows 7 license hanging around so I figured that if reports of the “suck” slider being turned up to 11 in Windows 8 proved to be accurate, I could just nuke it, install Windows 7 and we could move on with our lives. Oh, how wrong I was.

So I gave Windows 8 a shot. I used it for about two weeks while my poor Alienware system was off recovering from my clumsiness carrying a drink. I was told by somebody who is a fan of Windows 8 that the key thing is that Windows 8 is designed for touch screen devices so if you have a touch screen device (and the S400C is a touchscreen device), you will love the Windows 8 experience.

I hated it.

I hated every moment of it.

I hated switching between the Metro and desktop user interfaces.

I hated the Metro interface itself.

I hated all the crap they put on the home screen.

I hated the app store.

I hated the fact that Chrome crashed every time I switched out until I figured out how to put it into desktop mode.

Since my wife and I picked up the system for travel and she would be using it too, I decided to leave Windows 8 on the system so she could give it a try. Before she flew to the U.S. on business, I showed her some of the Windows 8 basics so she wouldn’t be completely lost. When she got home, I asked her how she felt about the system.

“The computer’s good. Windows 8 sucks.”

Today I finally decided to wipe the system and install Windows 7 on it. It was not a smooth road. After much Googling (and swearing), I managed to figure it out.

WARNING: Following the instructions below will cause the loss of all data on the system, including the Windows 8 recovery image. This is a one-way trip. You have been warned.

Since the system has no optical drive, the first thing you have to do is put a bootable Windows 7 install image onto a USB stick. From a system running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, do the following:

  1. Insert your Windows 7 DVD.
  2. Format the USB stick as an NTFS volume. Make a note of the drive letter assigned to it (I’ll use F: in the example below)
  3. Start up a Command Prompt as an Administrator.
  4. Change drives to the Windows 7 DVD and run the following:
    cd boot
    bootsect /nt60 F:
  5. In Windows Explorer, copy the entire contents of the Windows 7 DVD to root directory of the USB stick.
  6. While you’re at it, you’ll probably want to grab the LAN driver from the ASUS support site and copy it onto the stick. I saw some posts online from Asus support that said the Windows 8 drivers and the touch screen don’t work in Windows 7 but the NIC driver and touch screen both work fine for me.

USB stick prepared, you now have to start monkeying with the UEFI configuration of the ultrabook. Apologies if any of the options aren’t exactly as written below. I should’ve taken notes while I was working.

  1. Shut down the system if it’s running. If you reboot, it will skip the POST and you won’t be able to boot into the UEFI interface.
  2. Power on the system. While it’s booting, press F9 to enter the UEFI interface.
  3. Select Troubleshoot, then Advanced. Select UEFI Configuration.
  4. In the UEFI configuration, go to the Security page and set “Secure Boot Control” to “Disabled”. Reboot.
  5. Go back into the UEFI interface, then into the UEFI configuration. On the Boot page, change “Launch CSM” to “Enabled”. Plug in the USB stick and reboot.
  6. Once again, go back into the UEFI interface. On the Boot page, you should now see the USB stick (at least I did — YMMV). Go to the Save & Exit page and select the USB stick from the list of one time boot options and you should find yourself booting into the Windows 7 installer.
  7. Since Windows 7 doesn’t support GPT, you’ll have to nuke all the partitions to proceed with the install. Yes, this means delete all the listed  This includes the recovery partition and all the OEM partitions so you can never go back to the factory Windows 8 image.

Edit: Since this seems to be a common pitfall, let me just add in that when I say you need to nuke all the partitions to proceed with the install, I mean you need to hit “Drive Options (advanced)”, then select each partition on the system disk (normally Disk 0) and hit the delete button. Deleting a partition will destroy all the data on it. Data loss! Unrecoverable data loss! You’ve been warned (again).

Now that I read it over, this is a really short set of instructions considering how much time it took to figure all this stuff out. Good luck!