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Installing windows…

published on Friday, June 10, 2016

I installed windows to my laptop the other day (yes, for gaming - you caught me). I scheduled 2 hours to be done with all of it - what can go wrong, right? It turns out, I am either lacking the necessary IT skills, or installing windows is considerably more complicated than archlinux.

The boot medium

The trouble started with getting a bootable installation medium. First, I tried two Win7 DVDs I had left from previous installations. Neither one worked: The first one didn't boot at all, the other one booted but then just hung up in the loading screen. They are a couple of years old, so maybe they turned bad. Since I didn't want to burn another DVD, I decided to try creating a bootable USB pen drive. From the linux world, I am used to just doing dd if=image.iso of=/dev/sdb to copy the image onto the stick, but no luck with the windows image. Apparently, you are supposed to use special program to create the bootable device from the image (WTF why?).


First option, the official tool from Microsoft: Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, which (despite its name) creates bootable USB pen drive from previously downloaded windows images. Okay, so I insert my zero'ed USB pen, and cancel the Format device dialog presented by windows, confident that the tool will take all necessary steps. However at Step 3 of 4: Insert USB device of the wizard, after selecting the device I can't proceed. WUDT spits out:

The selected USB device I:\(Removable Disk) is in use by another program.
Please close all applications and try again.

Okay, I close the explorer, maybe it somehow is responsible for that. Still the same message. I reinsert the device, this time applying the Format dialog in the default setting (Quick format FAT). Indeed, now I can proceed. The error message seems very off considering that the problem was that the device was not formatted.

Whatever. I proceed with Step 4 of 4: Creating bootable USB device and it tells me Status: Formatting.... Yay! Formatting the device twice? Whatever, yay! But then, only moments after the initial delight:

We were unable to copy your files. Please check your USB device and the
selected ISO file and try again.

The internet mentions, you need to setup the partition correctly before anything else. I wonder, this tool has only one job, and it can't even format the device for me? Sad, I start a cmd.exe as administrator and enter as recommended:

list disk
select disk 2
create partition primary
select partition 1
format quick fs=fat32

This time the image gets burnt! Full of joy, I reboot my PC, select the USB device to boot from and…

…nothing happens. Okay then.

Rufus to the rescue?

Let's try rufus, another tool to create bootable USB devices. It turns out that this tool even takes care to create the partitions. Great, finally!

Using the default setting MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI-CSM, the image is copied successfully. No errors, no pain! I reboot and select the USB device as boot medium…


Okay, just out of curiosity, switch the boot manager from UEFI Only to UEFI/Legacy (with UEFI first). This time the USB device actually boots! Wow, problem solved. I still don't know why it was not UEFI bootable before, since I explicitly selected that it should be (and there was an efi folder on the device), but that at least explains why the first USB pen drive created by WUDT might not have worked (DVDs still don't work). All that is in the past now.

Or is it? The installation ends rather quickly when I get to the step where you have to select the installation partition. I did format my laptop with a GPT partition scheme and windows complains:

Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is of the GPT
partition style.

Apparently, windows refuses to install to GPT partitions because it was booted in legacy mode. I have no clue why they don't just show a warning and let the user proceed anyway if he so wishes. It makes no sense to me. Since most of my hard drive is already in use with encrypted linux and data partitions, it's no option to change to MBR partitioning scheme (which is the solution most commonly suggested).

I will have to create a GPT UEFI-only boot device. Luckily, there is a corresponding mode GPT partition scheme for UEFI in rufus. However, after a short time rufus shows an error dialog:

-> Error: ISO image extraction failure.


Let's do one last attempt. One site mentions that the bootable USB device can also be created manually:

select disk 2
create partition primary
format fs=fat32 quick

Then simply copy the files in the .iso to the device. Alternatively, you can directly extract the iso onto the device using 7z. Indeed, this time everything works well! Windows is installed in half an hour or so. (By now, I've decided to directly install Win10.)

Fix internet access

Now that I finally have windows up and running, let's download and install all necessary drivers. Oh right: Win10 has only its own browser Edge (and IE) shipped by default. Let's quickly download Firefox and be done with it. But what is this? I can use google and go to the Mozilla website but when I try to download Firefox, Edge tells me that it can't find the page. It figures that Microsoft won't let me download another browser :D

No seriously, other parts of the internet don't work either. I can access google and the Mozilla mainpage but not the downloads subdomain. No automatic updates either. No github, no stackoverflow. Sad world.

Researching the problem on my other PC. There is talk that this may be due to the DNS Client windows service not running or due to the network being set to public. Not in my case. Others mention it would be a bug in Edge, but why then doesn't Windows Updates work neither? And the problem persists in Firefox that I have meanwhile downloaded using another computer and transmitted via the good old USB pipeline:)

Finally, I notice that my LAN IP is not in the subnet that we use locally. Instead, I have an address in the range. It turns out that this subnet belongs to the Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) protocol, an IP self-configuration protocol that can be used when DHCP fails. To disable this feature, edit the registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


This can be done by importing this regedit file: DisableAPIPA.reg.

Afterwards reboot. Internet works now! Great, but why did it use APIPA in the first place if DHCP works so smoothly? Why did part of the internet work? I don't know.

I boot to my linux to check that all is still fine there. Confusingly, now my internet on linux is broken! Again, I can load google, but not much else. ifconfig tells me that I don't have a IPv4 address. I got this same behaviour on two separate machines after disabling APIPA on windows. Why? I don't know. I delete the machines from the list of known DHCP clients in the fritzbox (router) web interface. Now it works again, on both linux and windows.


After hours of delay, I can finally start installing drivers and fixing all those small annoyances that windows delivers in its default configuration. These aren't huge issues. They are just annoying and each one of them cost me several minutes to navigate the corresponding config dialog by clicking through settings pages. And some of them really make wonder why anyone would consider them reasonable default settings. For example:

  • There are about a dozen tiles in the start menu displaying stuff that I'm not interested in. This includes things like advertisement (!!), barby, minecraft and many others. These tiles can be disabled by right-clicking and unpinning every single one of them individually.
  • There is a lock screen before you can login, requiring one additional keypress! So salty right now. This can be disabled by importing the DisableLockScreen.reg patch into the registry:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

  • It's the 21st century, why do we still have CAPS LOCK? On linux I set it to Escape for more convenient vim-editing, but on windows I'm happy to remap it to ScrollLock to make it useful as a hotkey for PushToTalk or to enable/disable the microphone in mumble or teamspeak. SwitchCapsToScrollLock.reg:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,46,00,3a,00,00,00,00,00
  • The most useful icon in the notification area for me is the one with which you can eject external USB devices. However, this is the only icon that is hidden by default. Instead, an upwards arrow is shown which you have to click first in order to access the icon. Let me make this clear: the most useful item requires one additional mouse click and since this is the only hidden icon by default, no space in the actual notification area is saved by this decision: it still requires the space for the upwards arrow. It took me at least 10 minutes to click to the corresponding config dialog with which you can choose to show all icons.

The following concerns bad default configuration of the UltraNav driver for my thinkpad touch pad which significantly worsened the behaviour of the touchpad right after installing the driver:

  • By default, the mode for the middle mouse button is set to Scrolling rather than Middle click. This means that you can't properly use middle click anywhere. For example, in Firefox you can't open links in new tabs using middle click. You can't press the middle button once to enable scroll mode as usual. Instead you have to hold the middle button while scrolling and the scrolling works pretty awful. It feels useless.
  • The two finger scroll direction is set to inverted by default. This means you have to move your fingers upwards to scroll down.


Installing windows is fun! You should do it too!

More seriously: Don't use tools to create a bootable USB pen drive, just go the manual route, that actually works.

This entry was tagged config, installation, rant and windows