Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Installing Windows on Asus UL20A

asus-ul20a-2x143v-1oi_1Ever since the very first day my new Asus UL20A laptop arrived, there was one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to install Windows. Why? There were few reasons.

For one thing, the OS was Japanese. But I managed to install the English language pack on, even though Microsoft doesn’t allow you to install language packs on Windows 7 Home Premium, which came with the laptop. There is a little tool called “vistalizator” and it downloaded the English language pack and installed fine. But once in a while, a window would come up with ugly fonts. The fonts are small and the typeface is not what is generally on the Windows 7 interface. I didn’t like that at all.

The other issue was that the laptop came with a lot of bloatware and even if you restore the laptop using the recovery partition, it would still install all those bloatware. Most people these days install Windows fresh as soon as they get hold of the laptop, and most of the times all you have to do is put the CD key that is stuck on the backside of the laptop when installing from a disc. This laptop came with a recovery DVD as well; ironically the laptop doesn’t have an optical drive. They should have shipped an external optical drive as well!

And, I wanted to see what would happen to the recovery partition if I install Windows and so forth.

So I made up my mind to install Windows. Other that the issues I mentioned, there were hardly any issue with the laptop. It was fast enough for what I bought it for: browsing mainly.

Anyways, now that there is no optical drive, how was I gonna install Windows? The only method I could think of was the USB stick method. I created a Windows 7 installation USB stick using an online guide (there is also an official Microsoft tool) and tried to boot from it. I chose Boot from External Drive and tried to boot. It didn’t boot. It went straight to Windows. I headed back to BIOS and I saw that the flash drive was listed as a hard drive. So I made it the boot hard drive and set Boot from Hard Drive and tried to boot into Windows setup. And it worked.

But then the weirdest thing happened. I formatted the C drive. The hidden recovery partition was before the C drive. I tried to install the C drive and I got the error message

Setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition

Yikes! Was the recovery partition doing something. I removed the D partition as well, as I didn’t have important data there. Then I tried to install to the unformatted area (Windows 7 allows you to do that; it would format the drive and install there). I got the same error again. I was a bit worried and too quick to jump to conclusions. I formatted the entire drive. The hell with the recovery partition. I wouldn’t need that anyways, ifi I can install a fresh copy of Windows.

To my bafflement, I still got the same error. I tried few times and I still couldn’t get Windows to install.

I then removed the hard drive from the laptop, and plugged it in my desktop, and repartitioned. I put it back in the laptop and when I tried to install Windows, I still got the same damn error.

Then I tried to plug the laptop hard drive in the desktop and tried installing Windows to that drive, from the desktop. I booted with the same flash drive. Again, the result was same. Then it made me wonder if the flash drive was the culprit. It being the booting drive, could be preventing Windows from installing to the hard drive. I didn’t want to try this on my desktop, because to try that out, I would have to format the C: drive. I at least needed one PC up and running.

On the forums, some people were saying that some laptops wouldn’t boot from the USB stick. Some people had to upgrade their laptop BIOS to get the feature working. Now that the UL20A wouldn’t let me boot from an external drive, I thought maybe there was a new BIOS that let me do that. There was a newer BIOS that what I had. So I downloaded it and flashed BIOS. Everything went smoothly. But it would not still boot from an external drive. Sucks! asus_ul20a_black_notebook_4

Now what was I to do? Of course I can’t order an external DVD player. That would cost me a some bucks. (Turns out they are not that expensive) I thought if there was a way I could pull this. Then I remembered that Windows 7 setup is almost a copy and paste for the most part. First it would install the files to the disk, and then it would configure the setup for the PC with a couple of reboots.

So, what I try to do was to jump start the Windows 7 installation on the laptop drive. I would plug the drive to my desktop, start the installation and when it asked to reboot, I would shut down the PC, unplug the drive ad put it in the laptop and let the setup resume in the laptop’s environment.

So, I found my Windows 7 disc, and tried booting from it. It worked fine and I could now install Windows. So it WAS the flash drive. Hmm…. (for some reason, it would not work on my desktop either. Funny how my old PC didn’t give me any problem like that back then) I did exactly what I was gonna do and finally I managed to install Windows onto the laptop.

So that is that! I now have a fresh Windows installation. I install Acronis Trueimage and now that is my recovery environment. At least now I know what do to install Windows onto this laptop. It is a pain in the ass, but at least there is a way without spending money on an external optical drive.

A long post, I know. But it might help other people with a UL20A laptop.

Edit:

If anyone has a second PC, which you can access from the laptop via LAN, you can make a recovery partition and install Windows 7 from a recovery partition on the hard drive. Check out the following video.

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