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Insider Preview Clean Install Confers Insights

As I explained in a recent blog post, I’m busy rebuilding my Win10 desktop test PC. (Details: “Balky Mobo Caused Insider Boot Woes,” 4/28/17.) For the past few hours, I’ve been clean installing the Insider Preview version of Windows 10 Enterprise. Working through that process, I observe that the Insider Preview clean install confers insights worth sharing. I’d been updating the previous installation for over two years, so that’s saying a lot.

What impelled the clean install? I had to switch motherboards because the previous occupant of the test system went south. That is, after power on, I could only get it to give me an error code for “SATA problem” (A2) or “USB problem” (99). It’s hard to use a system when you can’t even get into the BIOS/UEFI! Thus, I had to rip out a failing MSI z87-G45 motherboard.

After shopping around, I replaced the old unit with an Asrock z97 Fatal1ty Killer. That meant I had to switch from a Samsung 840 EVO mSATA SSD, to a Samsung 951 m.2 NVMe SSD in the new board. Alas, the Insider Preview OS on that dual boot machine was affected. So that’s why I performed a clean install this time around. A “back to bare metal” situation argues pretty convincingly for such a move anyway.

This are the drivers the Windows installer found on its own in setting up the test system.
[Click image to see full-size view]

If Insider Preview Clean Install Confers Insights, What Are They?

I got my good friend and occasional collaborator, Kari the Finn, to build me an ISO for the latest Insider Preview build (16184).  (Kari’s the author of the recent “Windows 10 Custom ISO” 6-part-series of blog posts here, and a true master of the Windows image arts. Here are links to Parts 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6.) This morning, I used the latest version of Rufus (2.14) to build a bootable USB flash drive from that ISO, being careful to select the UEFI only option that perforce uses FAT32 formatting for the install media.

Overall, the install process proceeded without a single hitch. I did notice some changes in its overall speed. In fact, the first phase is much, much faster. The last time I clean-installed Windows 10 on that machine back in late 2014, it took 20-25 minutes to work through that process. This time, I was done in less than 15 minutes. The Enterprise installer is much more aware of its capabilities now, too. When asking for a Microsoft account for account set-up, it wouldn’t let me use my Yahoo! email address, and it was smart enough to know that neither nor would permit me to draw on a domain server or DNS connection. In fact, I had to set up a local account to get through initial install (my preference anyway). After the initial install was done, I linked to my primary MS account through the Accounts page in Settings without difficulty.

How Clean Install Has Changed Since Then…

This time around, Windows 10 did a bang-up job with device drivers, too. Earlier, the Windows Installer couldn’t recognize the Killer 2200 Ethernet adapter on the MSI motherboard (also present on the Asrock, BTW). I needed a USB GbE dongle (a $21 Startech model still available from Newegg) to bring my network connection back to life. In fact, all of the drivers I needed showed up after the latest clean install on that machine. I only had to update these exceptions:

  1. Logitech SetPoint for my m325 mouse.
  2. Dell E228WFP monitor (almost time to replace this guy, too)
  3. Intel devices 0C01 (PCI express controller), 0C00 (DRAM controller), and 8CA2 (SMB host controller)
  4. Intel Management Engine Interface (MEI)
  5. Nvidia display driver

None of this stuff was terribly hard to run down, and I’ve seldom seen any install get the Intel stuff completely right anyway. A quick check into Reliability Monitor shows me the system tried to grab current drivers for all system items (shown in the preceding screen grab). For some items my tool of choice (Windows Update MiniTool, or WUMT) was better informed or up-to-date than MS. But everything was working, with no unknown devices in Device Manager.

And then, there’s the usual tweaking and clean-up that follows any clean install. I had to change the network status from Public to Private, and join a Homegroup, before Remote Access worked. Usual tweaks in File Explorer options must come via the Microsoft account, because they were already set. Ninite helps with the tedium of adding back in most of my common apps, but not with more specialized tools. I still have a few hours left to go before things will be just the way I like them, and my toolbox fully restocked. Wish me luck!