[SOLVED!] How to Install Windows on Dell Optiplex 7040 (and other Skylake systems)

This should not be so hard. Dell did something with their USB hardware that is not built into USB installation media for Windows. I tried 7 and 10 installation media, USB and optical, with no joy. This literally took me two full man-days (on the clock, thanks) but I got it finally.

The NVME M2 hard drive is a separate ball of worms. Deal with those drivers and cloning disks and whatnot, if you want, after Windows is installed. The procedure described below required the use of a SATA hard drive I was glad to have sitting on the shelf. The new Windows installation may not have the networking drivers so you won’t be able to get online to download the rest of the things you need – get those drivers from Dell Support online, on another computer, and transfer them via USB after you get Windows up and running on your troublesome 7040.

The BIOS was set to UEFI, SATA to AHCI, boot to USB first.

You will need a separate, working computer with internet access. You will need a USB stick big enough, 8GB at least, 16 or 32 would be better. Use Rufus* to prepare your USB drive as an ISO with a GPT file system for UEFI boot. FAT32 is important, UEFI won’t boot from NTFS! Use your favorite Windows installation ISO to make your bootable drive. Boot from it in one of the USB2.0 ports on your 7040 and notice that it calls for drivers during the process of installing Windows – and it won’t find any. From any drive on any port. Suck.

You need to get the driver pack for the chipset from dell directly. In my case it took only this USB3 driver https://www.dell.com/support/home/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=CWGRX&fileId=3588430725&osCode=W764&productCode=optiplex-7040-desktop&languageCode=en&categoryId=CS found at this very simple 10-page explanation that has a wrong step and oh by the way I literally wasted an entire day trying to make it work even when i got all the steps right. Various failures including crashes. Very bad.
https://www.dell.com/support/kbdoc/en-us/000179740/how-to-install-windows-7-on-optiplex-7040-and-other-skylake-systems-using-mdt-2013-update-1

Anyway, insert the drivers into the boot.wim on your new USB installation media using DISM. The steps here are pretty clearly spelled out: https://www.msprofessionals.org/cloud/how-to-add-winpe-drivers-to-a-boot-wim-via-dism/

assuming you have installed the latest Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK)

Assuming a your windows installer file is located in windowsmedia\sources\ (i.e., if your installation files are on a drive called G, then G:\sources will have an install.wim inside; in this case the author used a directory of C:\WindowsMedia for their example location)

Assuming a test/working directory of \mount\boot (make a new directory e.g. C:\Mount\Boot to work in). I was on my last nerve and went ahead and worked with the boot.wim right on the installation disk and it worked.

The elevated command prompt commands you will use, copied here in case the msprofessionals web page disappears:

……

DISM /Mount-Image /ImageFile:”C:\WindowsMedia\sources\boot.wim” /index:1 /MountDir:”C:\Mount\Boot”

DISM /Image:C:\Mount\Boot /Add-Driver /Driver:C:\WindowsSources\10\1909\Drivers\winpe /recurse

N.B.: you may need to additionally use a /forceunsigned option in there, in case you get an error in the WinPE installation environment about unsigned drivers. Probably not. Hopefully not.

DISM /UnMount-Image /MountDir:”C:\Mount\Boot” /Commit

DISM /Mount-Image /ImageFile:”C:\WindowsMedia\sources\boot.wim” /index:2 /MountDir:”C:\Mount\Boot”

DISM /Image:C:\Mount\Boot /Add-Driver /Driver:C:\WindowsSources\10\1909\Drivers\winpe /recurse

DISM /UnMount-Image /MountDir:”C:\Mount\Boot” /Commit

Then you can go on and install windows as usual. If you don’t know how to do that, you are probably lost anyway after looking through the foregoing. Sorry.

Cautionary note: I tried to dism install all the drivers from the other two driver links on the dell explanation page and the windows installation errored out pretty hard. So maybe just brooming them all into the boot.wim was a bad idea.

*Rufus can be found here: http://rufus.akeo.ie/

Update: this has now come back and saved my bacon as I had to install Windows on a Dell 3620 tower.  The 10 installation media worked ok on this model, but the 7 installer couldn’t find drivers again. I wanted 7 on this box though, so I had to retrace my own steps.  The text has been updated a bit for clarity.

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