Windows 7 – Clean Install

One of the best ways to insure that your computer will have an optimal installation of Windows 7 is to do a clean installation.  Of course, you have to make sure you save off all the information on your machine before you start (the migration wizard can help, but if you have important data you might want to be doubly sure).

With Windows 7 when you install on a clean hard drive, either a brand new one or one that you have deleted all the partitions, Windows 7 will want to create a small (100MB) primary/active/system partition for recovery (WinRE – Windows Recover Environment), but that really isn’t needed since it would put the files for WinRE on the system partition if it didn’t have the ability to create the small partition.

There’s no straightforward way to get the installer not to create the WinRE partition, but there are ways to do it.

Using A Disk Manager (3rd Party)

By far the easiest way is just to partition the drive ahead of time, you can allow the installer to format it.  I recommend something like Acronis Disk Director, but you can use almost any software you want.

Using Windows DiskPart

If you’re a “geek” and understand how to use Microsoft diskpart utility you can hit Shift+F10 at the first setup screen (where you select language, keyboard, and locale) and a command prompt will open.  From there you can use the diskpart utility.

Be warned, if you’re unfamiliar with the diskpart utility you might not want to be too quick to use it… it’s unforgiving.

Commands that will help you with diskpart (in the order you’d use them)

  • list disk
  • select disk 0
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=ntfs quick
  • exit

There are options to many of these commands I haven’t specified.  If you’re not a geek and you don’t understand disk geometry (partitions) you probably shouldn’t be doing this.  Read up on diskpart before trying this at home — even if you think you know what you’re doing it’s worth looking over the commands.

Using The Windows 7 Installer

You can trick the installer into getting rid of the WinRE partition; simply let it do what it wants and create the two partition.  Then delete the LARGE partition that you’d normally install Windows into (leaving only the 100MB partition).  Extend the 100MB partition to fill the disk.  Then format the partition and select it for installing Windows.

I’m sure there are other clever ways to accomplish this… but it’s really hard to understand why Microsoft wants to make this difficult.  In point of fact the Mac creates a small EFI Boot partition much the same as Windows 7 wants to… so maybe it’s just Microsoft getting wrapped up in doing things like Apple; maybe there’s a good reason; maybe it’s just stupid.  You decide.

NOTE1:  I would be extremely careful about using a disk partition manager after installation to delete the WinRE partition.

NOTE2:  I generally recommend letting the installer format the drive even if you’ve already prepared it with a disk partition manager.  This insures that the file system defaults are set the way Microsoft expects.  If you don’t know about all the parameters for setting up an NTFS file system and understand their impact on the system, save yourself a headache and let the installer format the partition.

Originally posted 2009-11-09 01:00:43.