Saga of Installing Windows on Acer TravelMate 8473

I decided to pass my trusty old computer down to my son. Before doing so I decided it needs some cleaning up. It was mostly used for running in Linux the past years, and Windows 10 was installed just in case. A tiny issue with it, that there is something fishy with this pre-windows 8 machine that allows to run Windows 10, but makes it impossible to start it normally. Unfortunately there is no BIOS update in the past 6 years for this machine, so I have to work my way around it.

The machine in question is an Acer TravelMate 8740 i5 2nd gen, 8Gb RAM, with SATA and SSD drives installed. I used two USB sticks, one for the Windows 10, the other for the Ubuntu image. I also used a donor machine, that is able to install Windows.

First off I saved all the drivers for the machine using the device manager. Some of the drivers this machine needs is quite hard to come by.

Download Ubuntu Linux 16.04 (to make sure it starts up) and create a bootable USB stick. Start it up by selecting the install menu, editing the GRUB option adding noefi parameter to the ‘linux’ line.

Installed Ubuntu to a partition on the SATA disk. I don’t want to use Linux on this machine any more, but I keep some GBs just in case. Make sure that GRUB is also installed on this disk! That is what we will use to kickstart Windows. After rebooting the machine, make sure you can log in. (if there is anything wrong on this boot, modify the grub as before, switch to terminal, log-in and edit the /etc/default/grub file and add noefi parameter to the linux line).

As I hate to have outdated software I did a do-release-upgrade on the Ubuntu. I completely forgot that this takes a long time on a SATA disk.

Unnecessary upgrading Ubuntu

Installed Windows 10 using USB on the SSD using a different computer as a donor. Take it as far as you can log in. As I wanted a working system I updated Windows to the latest version. This might not be the best idea as all drivers of the “donor” were installed and updated on the way…

Donor with the SSD thrown in

It might be a better idea to use the “pure” Windows image before setting network or users up, so I may have to redo it from start… Also upgrading the Linux is also quite unnecessary if I don’t want to use it anyway.

As soon as the Ubuntu cooled down after the upgrade, I rebooted it to see if the upgraded OS is still working.

Then I transplanted the heart back to the Acer and booted Linux again. (set the primary boot device in BIOS to the SATA) This is to make sure all your devices are operational and disks and partitions are not referred to as sda or sdb but use the UUID references. In the Ubuntu I ran update-grub2 to add Windows and set up the /etc/defaults/grub to remember the last booted option and don’t wait so long to proceed. Then crossing my fingers I rebooted the machine again and selected Windows from the boot options.

And no luck!

So I revert back to the Windows 8.1 I had originally before the upgrade to Windows 10. Too bad I lost the product key so I used one from here. This is only temporary, as I have the legitimate key for Windows 10.

First I wipe the entire SSD from Linux by removing all the partitions. Than using a Windows 8.1 image from a USB stick I reinstall everything. After installing Windows 8.1, I set up the WiFi and leave it for a few hours to settle down and download its drivers. I also start the Windows update to bring it up to date.

Unfortunately the updater seems to get stuck so I tried the solution here to get it past the searching for updates state.

The aim was to install Windows 10, so I downloaded the latest MediaCreationTool and started to update the machine in-place. I moved to good WiFi reception first, as the tool needs the bandwidth.

The system was up and running in a couple of hours. Saving the original driver directory saved hours of Googling for the correct Acer drivers.

As a last step I reactivated Windows using the correct product key, and reattached it to my MS online acount. The kid has a working laptop now.

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