Clean Installing Windows on the EP121
Update: The direct driver links below no longer work. To obtain the drivers discussed in this post, please refer to the link information here: https://ep121.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/drivers-and-utilities/
I took the plunge and decided to completely wipe my EP121 and install a clean retail version of Windows 7 Ultimate on it. There are typically two reasons to do something like this:
1) Improving overall system performance
2) Reclaiming disk space
In the case of the EP121, I’ve found that clean installing Windows did not improve boot times or resume times and I noticed no difference in overall system performance. I also found that simply un-installing the applications I wasn’t interested in was just as efficient in reclaiming disk space. Further – clean wiping the machine will force you to search through the recovery disks for software you do want to re-install – like ArtRage.
So bottom line – clean installing the EP121 for performance gains or reclaiming disk space is not necessary. That being said, if you want to go through the process, here are the steps I followed:
There are 2 drivers that you will need to prepare ahead of time to make the process go smoothly. The first is the WiFi driver. Although this driver is on Windows Update, it is not on the retail Windows media disc because the WiFi part did not exist back when Windows 7 was released. So if you don’t have this driver, you will find yourself in a catch-22 situation since you will have no way to connect to the network to access Windows Update. You can download the WiFi driver from here:
You will need to navigate to the Wireless section as shown here:
The second driver is the Intel HD Graphics driver. It doesn’t necessarily need to be downloaded before clean installing but it’s very convenient to do so since the driver on Windows Update is older than the driver on Intel’s website and the older driver doesn’t perform as well as the latest driver. So to keep your system performing well, you’ll want to download the driver from Intel’s website located here:
Make sure you copy these drivers to a USB storage device or SD memory card as you will be wiping your EP121 drive clean.
Now it’s time to start the installation. You will need a wired USB keyboard (mouse is optional). If you decide you want to use both a keyboard and a mouse, you will need to use a USB hub since one of the 2 available USB ports will be occupied by an optical drive loaded with the retail Windows 7 DVD or a bootable USB drive with Windows 7 (available for purchase/download from Microsoft’s online store).
Connect the keyboard and Windows 7 retail media to the EP121’s USB ports. Connect AC power. Turn on the machine and hold down the ESC key to bring up the boot menu. The menu will look something like this:
The P1: SanDisk SSD P4 is the internal EP121 SSD device. The other item listed will be the boot media you connected (in my case it was a Sony device). Select the boot media and hit Enter. (Note: the latest BIOS for the EP121 will automatically boot from any bootable device it finds connected to USB – so it may not be necessary to bring up the boot menu at all depending on which version of the BIOS you have installed. The latest BIOS is available on Asus’ download site).
The Windows installation will now begin and you will be prompted to choose your language settings. Once that’s done, Windows will present an option to select the type of installation you want. Since we are performing a clean installation, you will want to choose the Custom (advanced) option like this:
Next you will be asked where you would like to install Windows. You will need to select Disk 0 Partition 2:
Windows setup will now proceed to install files on the EP121:
After about 12 minutes or so, Windows Setup will complete the installation and state that the system will be rebooting. At this point, you must disconnect the Windows 7 boot media or the system may boot again from the USB media and restart the installation from the beginning.
Upon reboot, you will be prompted to enter the Windows 7 product key. If you are installing Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, you can use the product key located under the EP121 bluetooth keyboard. If you are installing a different version of Windows, you will need the appropriate key.
Setup will continue and ultimately leave you at the default Windows desktop. You can now attach the storage media you used to hold the WiFi and graphics drivers that were previously downloaded. Proceed to install both drivers by running their respective setup executables. (note: the WiFi driver also installs the bluetooth drivers).
Once the WiFi driver is installed, you will be prompted to reboot at which point you can join a wireless network and proceed to Windows Update (Start -> All Programs -> Windows Update). You will see quite a few updates listed. If you select the Optional Tab, you will see all the device drivers listed:
If you are installing Windows 7 Ultimate, you will also see about 34 updates related to languages that can be installed. Go through the list selecting the updates you want to install making sure you select all the device driver updates – these are important. You may see an update related to the touch firmware. This update will flash the touch controller so you must be careful not to touch the display while the touch controller is being flashed. Once the updates are applied, you will be prompted to reboot the system. Depending on which driver updates were applied, you may discover that Pen and Touch are no longer functional. If that is the case, you will need to attach a keyboard or mouse so that Restart can be selected. After the system reboots, Pen and Touch will be functional again and you will be prompted with a window asking if you want to enable the Asus G Sensor.
The G Sensor is the device that detects when the slate is in motion and enables automatic screen rotation. So you will likely want to enable the sensor.
Go back to Windows Update and apply any remaining updates that you want. Repeat this process until you’ve exhausted the list of updates you want to apply. (Note: Some updates won’t appear until other updates are applied which is why you need to keep going back to check). At this point there should be no unknown devices listed in Device Manager:
Once you’ve confirmed that there are no unknown devices and that you have applied all the updates you want, you can proceed to run Winsat by going into Control Panel and selecting “Performance Information and Tools”. Winsat will perform some system tests, enable Aero graphics (desktop transparency effects) if they aren’t enabled and present you with a system rating like this:
If you made it this far, congratulations, Windows 7 has now been cleanly installed on your EP121. There is one final step which involves cleaning up your storage drive to remove any of the restore points and temporary files left behind during this installation process. To do this, tap on Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Cleanup. Select the “More Options” tab and tap the lower “Clean Up” button in the “System Restore and Shadow Copies” section:
Once the clean up is done, tap OK and confirm the deletion of the remaining unnecessary/temporary files. That’s it – you’re done!
Looking at the disk usage, we see that on a 64GB SSD system there is 41.5GB free space remaining out of a total 59.5GB.
So Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit took up 18GB of storage. (other versions of Windows 7 (i.e. Home Premium) will likely occupy less space).
In terms of boot time, the system took 28 seconds to boot, connect to WiFi and load a webpage. This is exactly the same amount of time it took with the factory pre-loaded version of Windows 7. You can see a video of that in my Product Tour post located here:
Resuming from sleep mode took 3 seconds from pressing the power button to re-establishing a WiFi connection:
One final piece of advice: if you installed Windows 7 Ultimate, you can create a system image backup onto an external USB drive or network location. I would recommend doing this as you would then have a clean image that you can re-apply to the system with ease should the need ever arise.