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Vista Install Problem on Dell XPS M1330
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Since I installed Windows Vista on my desktop a few months ago, I have installed it on several other computers using a similar process (see previous blog entry: bb20070802_01.asp) (ref. 1). The process is largely pretty smooth, but the other day I ran into a problem when doing a clean install of Vista on a brand new Dell XPS M1330 laptop.

The problem

The Dell XPS M1330 laptop was brand new. I wanted to reformat the hard drive and install a fresh copy of Vista Enterprise on it (to replace the Vista Home that it came with).

I followed the steps in ref. 1, reformatting the C: drive along the way. About 20 mins. into the process the machine rebooted. This was as expected, but then, almost immediately while starting up, the machine crashed with a blue screen and rebooted again. This went on indefinitely until power was turned off. Booting in "Safe Mode" was no better.

This was puzzling and disappointing.

The solution

A web search yielded a hint that this may have to do with the disk controller drivers. I went to the Dell support site (http://support.dell.com/), clicked on "Search for Drivers", then "Select Model" and checked the drivers list for the XPS M1330 laptop, for Vista 32-bit. There are three items in the "SATA Drives" category. I downloaded the middle one, named "Intel Driver - Matrix Storage Manager.." (see fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Driver download

Figure 1 - SATA drivers for Dell XPS M1330

The date on the drivers was newer than the Vista install DVD, so that was promising.

The downloaded file is named R154200.exe. I double-clicked on the file to run it, and it created a sub-folder named C:\dell\drivers\R154200 on my hard drive. Next, I copied the contents of this folder to the root folder of a USB flash memory stick. There were 9 files (see fig. 2).

Fig. 2 - Driver detail

Figure 2 - Driver File List

Placing these 9 files in the root folder of the USB memory is very important. If they are placed in any sub-folder then the Vista installer fail to find them when needed. Once the files have been copied to the USB memory you can safely delete the sub-folder C:\dell\drivers\R154200 from your C: drive.

I inserted the USB memory stick in the XPS M1330, and started a new install by booting from the Vista install DVD. I reformatted the hard drive to erase any previously installed files, selected the drive where to install Vista, and clicked on "Load Driver" to install the new disk controller driver (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 - Loading a new driver

Figure 3 - Load Driver option

This brings up the next window, where I clcked on "Browse" and then selected the USB drive as the location for the drivers (fig. 4).

Fig. 4 - Looking for new drivers

Figure 4 - Looking for new drivers.

The ability to load drivers from a USB device is one of the big improvements in the Vista installer. By contrast, the XP installer only lets you load drivers from a floppy disk.

Because I had taken care to place the drivers in the USB drive root folder, they were found by the installer, as seen in the next window (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5 - Drivers from the USB memory

Figure 5 - Drivers on the USB memory.

Seems like Intel placed drivers for several different disk controllers in the same package. I was not sure which disk controller exactly was in my XPS M1330, so I clicked the check-box near the bottom labeled "Hide drivers that are not compatible with hardware on this computer". This shortened the list of drivers to just one (Fig 6).

Fig. 6 - The correct driver

Figure 6 - The Correct Disk Device Driver.

Clicking on "Next" brought up the disk selection window again (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7 - Disk selection

Figure 7 - Selecting target drive.

Presumably the correct driver was loaded by now, so I selected the partition where I wanted to install Vista, and clicked "Next". The install process proceeded at this point (Fig. 8)

Fig. 8 - Vista install progress

Figure 8 - Vista Install in progress.

The install process went normally from here on, and most importantly, after the next reboot the machine started normally, and has been working normally since then.

Discussion

It is not clear why Vista will install to a hard drive from the install DVD, and yet fail to recognize the same hard drive immediately after the install. This appears to be a strange flaw in the way the Vista installer is designed. I hope this post helps anyone else trying to do a clean install of Vista on an XPS M1330 laptop (and probably the entire line of XPS laptops).

References

  1. Installing Vista http://www.neurophys.wisc.edu/comp/blog/2007/bb20070802_01.asp

Comments
(in order from older to newest)

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am happily back up and running."

Oct. 26, 2008, 5:41 PM by cwm

"THANK YOU."

Nov. 17, 2008, 1:31 PM by ads

"Thank you very much, I've been trying to solve this problem for almost 2 days without a clue, now I can continue reinstalling everything :D"

Dec. 15, 2008, 11:31 PM by MiLo

"worked~"

Dec. 26, 2008, 4:48 PM by kaz

"WAO, i was stuck for a while didn't know why, first i thought it was the vista cd's that i have, u're the man, thnx."

Feb. 5, 2009, 4:19 PM by Anonymous

"Just in case someone else asks... you can download the latest drivers (32bit or 64bit) from intel website for the matrix driver, then extract the driver files (instead of relying on Dell) using the following command

<intel driver exe> -A -P <your dir to host the file>

After that you can keep following the blog instructions."

Mar. 13, 2009, 8:14 PM by Eric

"Great Help - Very Nice blog."

Apr. 7, 2009, 7:50 AM by Mohamed Y.

"Gracias Hermano. I'm from Mexico, I Just want to thank you for doing this. It works for me."

Apr. 8, 2009, 7:05 PM by Anonymous

"You ARE the man!!! Thanks a lot!!!"

June 26, 2009, 2:09 AM by Delpiero34

"Ole y Ole!!!! gracias desde España ha funcionado a la perfección!!! guauuuuuu!!!"

Sep. 15, 2009, 11:56 AM by Pepito

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