How to properly do a fresh Windows 8.1 install on a modern gaming PC

guide

#1

I noticed @tommy2118 was considering a fresh install and since I just did one (due to Windows 10 :dickbutt: hype) I figured there might be others out there.

This guide is for installing on an SSD without raid. I used to run a raid array so if that’s of interest, let me know and I can add to this.

Pre-setup

  • Update firmware. I like to make sure everything is up to date before I do a fresh install. Updating your BIOS can sometimes cause unforeseen consequences to Windows if you do it later. This way, it’s good to go now. I also recommend checking the firmware on your SSDs and any Hybrid HDs you may have.

  • Back up your dataz. You’re going to be formatting your drives so be prepared.

  • Load drivers on a USB stick. This isn’t 100% necessary but sometimes Windows install does not recognize all your hardware. Finding yourself without internet during installation can be frustrating, especially if you don’t have easy access to another computer to download stuff and transfer later.

Download Windows

  • If you have Windows on a DVD you may be able to use it to do a proper install. However, your DVD drive will have to be UEFI-compatible and if it’s old, it may not be.

  • Instead, you can go to Microsoft’s site and use your Windows 8 Product Key to download the ISO.

  • Once you download the appropriate version, the installer will give you the option to create a bootable USB drive.

Get your motherboard ready

  • If you’ve overclocked your system, I recommend reverting it to default. After you’ve installed Windows, you can ramp it up again.

  • Enable AHCI. This is important and can be found in the SATA section of your UEFI BIOS. Note that if you’re going to go with a raid install, you would select RAID instead but that’s for another guide.

  • Disconnect all other drives. This is also important. Windows likes to be smart (read: annoying) and install boot sectors and different stuff in different places. Our goal here is one drive with everything Windows. This is the cleanest setup.

  • Put your SSD on a 6gb/s node. Some people skip this and they inadvertently have a nice 6gb/s SSD on a 3gb/s SATA node. Check your motherboard layout and do it right.

GPT vs MBR

Ok, here’s the part that everyone misses. By default, Windows will boot a non-UEFI drive and install a Master Boot Record on your drive. This is like circa 1992.

Instead, we want to install on a GPT-enabled drive using UEFI-enabled media so we can hang out with the cool kids at the cool kid table.

There’s a lot of technical benefits to GPT but the basics of what you care about as a gamer are faster boot times, better stability, better data integrity, and more access to advanced drive features later.

Reboot

  • Boot into your BIOS and look for the boot priority options. You want to do a 1-time override on your install media (either USB or DVD) that is prefixed with UEFI:, e.g. UEFI: Samsung DVD-ROM or UEFI: USB 3.0 Drive.

  • After that reboot, you should be loaded into the Windows install under UEFI-enabled media. This will enable you to install on a GPT-enabled drive.

GPTing your drive

  • After booting from your UEFI-enabled device, inside the Windows installer press Shift+F10.

  • Type Diskpart, press enter

  • Type List Disk, press enter. You should see a list of your drives (but if you’re following along, there should be only one).

  • Type Select Disk # (probably 0 or 1) to select your install drive, press enter.

  • Type Clean, press enter.

  • Type Covert GPT, press enter.

  • Type Exit, press enter.

Continue Windows install

  • Now you can go through the prompts, accept the terms, and put your product key in.

  • Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) when prompted.

  • You’re going to select your drive which should now be listed as “unallocated” and click the New button, then Apply to create a new partition.

  • Now click OK, then Next and you should be off and running.

Conclusion

Installing Windows with a MBR across multiple drives doesn’t necessary hurt anything. If you want top performance and the most optimal clean setup, do it the way I’ve described above though.

If you have any questions, let me know.


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#2

I’m reading this after spending most of the night getting Windows 8.1 back on my PC… I feel like I should start over. :smile:

I want to sit at the cool kids table…


#3

That’s what happens.


#4

TL;DR:
Install Windows 7; wait for Windows 10 :wink:


#5

For the record, that is most definitely NOT the tl;dr.

Windows 7 would follow the same format as GPT, AHCI, and UEFI are all advantages for 7 as well.


#6

Well I guess I know what I’m doing tonight. It unhinged me to think that I did not do this the best possible way.

Disconnect all other drives. This is also important. Windows likes to be smart (read: annoying) and install boot sectors and different stuff in different places. Our goal here is one drive with everything Windows. This is the cleanest setup.

^ @Vocino do I read this as physically disconnect or just disable them in BIOS?


#7

I suppose either way would work. I physically disconnect the SATA cable from the motherboard though.


#8

I do the same to avoid any potential problems.


#9

I might delay going back and following your step by step. I’m considering picking up a new SSD and I have not played a game in over a week. I need to play some ESO tonight. :smile:


#10

Any reason not to convert my 2nd Hard drive to GPT?


#11

Nope. All of mine are GPT.


#12

What are your thoughts on the optional Windows updates? Should I install them?


#13

Not if they’re optional, no. That’s like every version of .NET.


#14

Good to know, you just cut my install time in half.


#15

I believe there’s an OBS plugin we use that requires a specific .NET version. In that case you can go in and find that optional update and install it.


#16

Any trick to making the second drive available to Windows? Seems like Disk Managment wants me to convert it to NTFS when I set it up as a new volume…


#17

Why don’t you want it to be NTFS? FAT32 is going to be capped in terms of disk space and you would have to create a bunch of different partitions.


#18

I was more or less making sure I was going about it right. I figured I would ask you here just in case someone else follow this guide found themselves a bit lost. :slight_smile: Thanks for the assist!