Installing Windows 8 on a Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110)

Perhaps this post should be titled “How to make a terrible user experience” and be authored by Dell.

Today I’m on my way to London from Hull to go to an event as part of the Windows 8 | Elite Program in which we get to meet Microsoft CEO and all round legend Steve Ballmer. So that I wouldn’t spend the vast majority of my day bored on the train I wanted to bring my laptop along.

Unfortunately my laptop has been out of action for several days now. The reason why? Drivers, and a real lack of support from Dell.

A few months ago I attempted to update my laptop to the Windows 8 Release Candidate, this seemed to work fine until I attempted to boot for the first time and was presented with a totally blank screen, apparently the only driver available didn’t work in Windows 8 on the actual laptop screen — the only way to view what you we’re doing was to plug into a monitor, thus my laptop became the most unportable laptop ever.

This obviously wasn’t good enough but I was told that dell would be releasing an update to the drivers to work in windows 8 at the beginning of October — somewhere around the 8th. This never happened. So I waited, and waited and assumed that the drivers would come out on the day of Windows 8 general availability — October 26th. That they did, ish. If you pressed “Download Driver” the page simply threw up an error message. I’d waited long enough so another days wait didn’t fuss me.

The next day I downloaded the drivers, this time the link actually worked, and reinstalled Windows 8. (I’d previously uninstalled Windows 8 and downgraded to Windows 7 to actual be able to do work at university). I had assumed that to be able to install the driver  I would have to connect to a display, which was fine. What I didn’t expect was that having installed the driver nothing would change — I would still be unable to use my laptop screen.

Now, this is the crux of the story. My laptop’s BIOS was 4 versions out of date. I was on version A07, and the most recent release was version A11. I only discovered this however after downloading & installed everything from the Dell website related to the N5110. Once I’d installed my BIOS update everything worked fine. The most irritating part of this experiance is that Dells Update Program didn’t pick up on my BIOS being out of date and none of the driver installs picked up on my BIOS being out of date.

So, in conclusion if you’re trying to install Windows 8 Drivers for the Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110) make sure you install the A11 BIOS update first. Oh and if you happen to be one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world try to improve your user experience so that driver updates first check that your BIOS is up to date, or at the very least the driver download page recommends you update your BIOS first.


Life Tutorials

Installing Windows 7 using USB 3 – “Cannot Find Required DVD/USB Driver” Error and Solution

As many of you will know from my constant complaining my Dell Inspiron 15R has suffered a gradual but somewhat annoying slow-down and build up of weird bugs — Microsoft Word only opens on the third attempt, after multiple attempts at reinstallation, for example.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough and it was time for some spring cleaning, so I downloaded Windows 7 Professional 64bit from The Univeristy of Hulls Microsoft Academic Alliance portal. Academic Alliance is great, it allows students of subscribing institutions to download and install free versions of Microsofts products including Windows XP, Windows 7, the Windows 8 Beta and parts of the Microsoft Office Suite.

Once my Windows download had finished I started up another bit of Microsoft Software, the “Microsoft USB/DVD Download Tool” which allows you to “Create a bootable DVD or USB flash drive” — In other words make a Windows Install Disk, or in my case an Install USB Flash Drive.

Having installed Windows 7 — and indeed 8 — from USB a few times now the process went pretty quick for me. Select the ISO, Select USB, wait a few minutes, restart the computer, press F12, select boot from USB. Simple right?

Normally, yes, if you put the USB stick in one of the old USB 2.0 ports everything will run through as you expect and you’ll have your shiny new install of Windows 7 in a jiffy — much quicker than burning and installing from DVD.

However if you, like me, for whatever reason plug your USB into one of the blue USB 3.0 ports you’ll run into problems once you’ve selected your language and keyboard type. The error will read “Cannot Find Required DVD/USB Driver”, this is because Windows 7 by default doesn’t have any drivers for USB 3 controllers, and therefore cannot interact with the flash drive in a way it expects to.

At first it took me a while to work out why, and indeed someone less computer literate than myself might not have worked it out — then again I doubt someone less computer literate than my self would be installing from USB 3.0, but i digress. So this blog post is to help anyone who may come across this error.

The fix is simple. Move the USB Flash Drive from the USB 3.0 Port (that’s the blue one) to the USB 2.0 port (that’s the black one).

I assume some other laptops and desktops may encounter similar issues, so i hope this helps a few people — if it does why not let me know in the comments 🙂