OEM Operating System Install & Driver Disk Troubles…

December 11, 2006 by · 2 Comments 

Ok, for those of you that build your own systems, this really doesn't apply. However, for those of you that have pre-built OEM systems lying around (like I have at work), listen up because this advice is going to save you hours of wasted effort... DON'T LOSE YOUR WINDOWS OEM INSTALL CD AND DRIVER DISK!

Earlier today I spent almost 4 hours reinstalling a Gateway E-2100 system. The entire process was one giant comedy of errors. I started out by installing Windows XP Home because that is what all of the Gateway systems we have are running. As it turns out, that assumption was not a good one to make. It seems that this particular Gateway box is the ONLY Windows XP Professional system we have (aside from my notebook). In any case, there went 30 minutes...

Once learning that the only Windows XP Professional CD I had was for my Dell notebook (Latitude D820), I figured, "how badly could it go?". That, again, was a bad assumption to make. After spending 40 minutes installing Windows (again) I was greeted with a first boot at 640x480 in 4-bit color. Now, there probably aren't many people who remember 4-bit color, but yes, 20 years ago, 16 colors was all you got. Unfortunately, Windows XP was never meant to be viewed at this level and that made fixing the issue all that more difficult.

Once I finally managed to fire up Device Manager (all the while only being able to see half of any dialog box that opened), I noticed that neither network card in the system (a built-in Intel PRO/100 VE and a PCI Intel PRO/1000 GTL) had been detected. Again, after muddling around with the Intel Driver CD (dug out from the back of one of my desk drawers) in a resolution MUCH lower than was recommended for the install, I got my network cards working. On to the video card...

Intel's web site is another place that should never be visited while running at 640x480 @ 4-bit. Actually, Intel's web site should be avoided at ANY resolution. I mean, it's difficult enough to navigate around there while at the monitor's native resolution of 1280x1024, but when you have to keep scrolling right and left and need to click 5 different links to get the driver download AFTER it tells you to "click here to download drivers", you know someone's got to start working on a redesign...

Anyway, after finally getting the screen running at a reasonable resolution and color depth, I decided that now would be a good time to activate Windows. Unfortunately, the CD key from the stock on the BOTTOM of the computer (yes, the bottom) wasn't letting me activate. I ended up calling, walking through the automated phone activation, being told that it couldn't give me a confirmation code, and then stuck back on hold for another 5 minutes. Now, it asks you right up front if you've tried activating on the web. Why, exactly, would it think that the automated phone system would work any better than the automated web system?

Once I got off the phone with Microsoft and had a newly activated system (I still don't know why it wouldn't let me activate over the web, this is the first time I've reinstalled the system since we got it, must have had something to do with that Dell CD) I decided to work on the sound drivers. Here's where I ran into REAL trouble. After a quick visit to that Gateway web site, I noticed that in most sections of their site, they don't even acknowledge ever having made a system called the E-2100. When I entered my system serial number all it gave me was a monitor driver. The funny part is that this machine didn't come with a monitor...

After checking out one of the similar systems that came with XP Home, I determined that it was a Realtek AC'97 chip. A quick visit to the Realtek web site and a LONG download later, I was installing the drivers that I assumed would get those annoying Windows sounds working again. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through the install, the machine threw a BSOD! Every time I tried to reboot it would BSOD before I got to the login screen. I ended up having to use the "Last good configuration" option to get the machine back into Windows.

Now, assuming that I could just go find some older drivers, again, turned out to be a bad assumption. As it turns out, Realtek drivers will not allow you to install an older driver while a newer version exists on your system. Of course, since the newer version crashed during the install, there wasn't any way to uninstall it...

Long story short, I ended up having to open the case to get the exact model motherboard. Once I had that, I could search for that part on the Gateway web site and I ended up finding a driver package that worked. It had the same "I can't install over newer drivers" issue, but it also came with an uninstall script that didn't particularly care that the original install never completely finished.


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2 Responses to “OEM Operating System Install & Driver Disk Troubles…”
  1. download drivers says:

    Interesting article, Jason. Can I use it on my drivers-related website? Thanks in advance.


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