When I upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 in the near future I would like to do a clean install (from my own experience and from reading, that seems preferable to an in-place upgrade). I am wondering, though, whether I need to have an installation disk from the vendor (Dell in this case) containing their customizations for my system to properly take advantage of their hardware.

On the one hand, it seems very sensible that I would need it, since Dell would be the best one to know what drivers, etc. are needed. But at the same time it does not make sense: if that were the case how could anyone ever take an off-the-shelf Windows installation disk (i.e. Microsoft's disk purchased from a retail vendor) and get a working system? Does the Windows installer examine the hardware and automatically load all the right drivers?

Now I have installed various Windows to virtual machines a number of times and they just work--but then again the guest OS leverages the host OS which was probably a vendor-specific installation, so this does not prove anything one way or the other.

So I am hoping to get a better understanding of the installation process and the ramifications of using a vendor-specific installer or not.

closed as off topic by Mark Henderson Feb 9 '12 at 5:25

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  • This really should be on SuperUser... – Maximus Minimus Oct 15 '09 at 8:41
  • Agreed--my only excuse is that I missed the very quiet launch of SuperUser on August 18. :-) – Michael Sorens Oct 15 '09 at 16:52

You'll be safe using a vanilla Windows 7 install disk on your Dell hardware. Chances are good that it will automatically detect all of your core devices and just work for you, but to be sure you should get a list of all of the hardware on your computer before powering down the old OS. A screenshot of Device Manager should suffice.

There is a tool on the Windows 7 install disk to check your hardware before starting, just in case there is something that isn't compatible. That's worth running just to be sure there aren't any surprises.

Then, if you have another computer with Internet access around, go ahead with the install. If your network adapter doesn't automatically work you can go to support.dell.com and download the driver to the USB key and install on your computer. Chances are that it will work though and you won't need to do that. If your network works, you can obtain any non-latest-drivers directly from support.dell.com. If there isn't a Win 7 driver yet, chances are good that the Vista driver will work.

  • Just updated an HP from Vista Home 64 bit to Windows 7 Home 64 bit using 7 RTM from MSDN and no driver changes needed. Updated a Dell laptop as well and same result. As mentioned, Windows 7 drivers will likely be posted when Windows 7 goes "live". – Dave M Oct 14 '09 at 23:53
  • That's good news. A fresh repave should be clean then and should work without a hitch. – Scott Forsyth - MVP Oct 15 '09 at 0:05

'Does the Windows installer examine the hardware and automatically load all the right drivers?'

Pretty much.

Vendor specific disks, are usually just OEMs, with not much customization in them (if any), you will most likely still need to download drivers that aren't detected by the OS.


You could also download the Vista or Win7 NIC drivers before hand and copy to either USB stick or CD if you have to, also I suggest downloading Dell Support Center which will tell you which drivers to update amongst its other features. Then after your clean build of Windows 7, just install Dell Support Center and update whatever is needed.

  • I went to Dell to find a NIC driver for my specific machine. Once I drilled down to the machine, with Vista selected it showed a Realtek RTL81XX PCI-E driver, but when I switched the OS dropdown to Win7/64-bit it showed nothing for networking. Is this a matter of Dell not yet updating their support list or does it mean it there is no driver I can use?!? – Michael Sorens Oct 14 '09 at 21:54
  • I would say that its more of a case of Dell not updating there support list. You have to remember that Windows 7 isnt offically available yet and as such there is no real pressing need to have Windows 7 drivers available until the 22nd of OCT. I have found that in almost all instances the Windows Vista drivers will work just fine. Also you could go to the Realtek site and see if they have Windows 7 drivers for your NIC – Mr Virus Oct 14 '09 at 22:44

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