Problems reinstalling Windows 8.1

I have a Dell XPS 8700 with an internal SSD (drive 0), an internal magnetic HD (drive 1) and two USB-connected HDs.

I booted from the DVD that Dell sent me ("Windows 8.1 Recovery Media for Windows 8.1 Products 64-bit"). Without asking which drive I wanted to install W8.1 on, it installed 8.0 on drive 1. It also divided drive 1 into 6 partitions, each with a letter.

1. Do I need for all of those partitions to have letters?
2. How do I get 8.1?
3. How do I install the OS on drive 0 the next time I do this?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Were the recovery DVD's 8.1 or 8?  I think they might have been Windows 8. If this is the case, try to get to Windows 8.1 quickly via the Microsoft Store in Metro. Then proceed with updates and installing software.

I have 4 partitions in my Windows 8.1 machine:  Main, EFI recovery and 2 Recovery partitions. What ones do you have?
1. depends on what's on those partitions. Usually though, you don't need them
2. just install, let all the updates install (might take several hours or days). After that, the 8.1 update will be the first item featured in the Windows Store.
3. next time, the easiest way, is to physically disconnect all hard drives. You can connect them after installation has finished
eschampAuthor Commented:
Darn! I knew that!!! :-)

1. The partitions:
--- 640MB EFI
F:          304MB FAT32
C: OS 583GB NTFS (boot, etc.)
H:        575MB NTFS

2. Are you suggesting that the only way to get the OS onto drive 0 is to disconnect drive 1 first?

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Since its a customized disc by Dell, I don't know the logic programmed to install it. Instead of trying to figure out how to install it properly to the drive you want (maybe even not possible!), I just gave you the answer that will work 100%.
The original Windows installation media, would have prompted you with a choice. Since you didn't get it, it's most likely done fixed routine programmed by Dell.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The partitions look OK, so as I noted right after your post, install Windows 8 and then update to Windows 8.1 as quickly as possible and then proceed to update and complete it all.
eschampAuthor Commented:
Kimputer - there was no original Windows installation medium.

John, can I get rid of the letters on some of them? What do you think the PBRImage one is?
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The only way to get rid of the Letters is to delete the partitions. I would not do that. Dell probably has a different way to setting up than Lenovo (which I use). So I would not delete any partitions.

You have lots of letters (from Z: back to M:) for mapping drives so you are not in any danger of running out. You should not see the hidden partitions in Windows Explorer, only in Disk Management.
eschampAuthor Commented:
John,  Windows Explorer shows all of them!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Must be the way Dell set it up. This does not happen on Lenovo machines (mine or clients). I would still leave them.
I know you didn't get the original installation media (from Microsoft), hence my somewhat weird solution for installing it on disk 0. There's probably no other way (and it's also the easiest way anyway)
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
In another post, this machine is having issues with BIOS as well if I am reading eschamp's post correctly.
eschampAuthor Commented:
How does Windows know which drive to booty for? Does it look for an MBR on each and boots from the first one it sees?

If that's the case, what if I cloned the mag drive to the SSD and then booted? Since the SSD is drive 0, would Windows try it fitst?
The first boot device can be chosen either setting it in in the BIOS, or using the startup override key (different key for different main boards).
In the past, a simple clone would work, however, with newer Windows, there are newer more complicated boot routines, and it won't be so simple as before.
If you tried though, my best guess right now is that you still have to do a start up repair after cloning (should be an option after Windows fails to start properly).
was the drive it installed on cleaned out before installing?
if not it may simply have found the old install, and installed it on it again

in any case, i always disconnect all other drives before installing an OS - to avoid this kind of problems
You don't have to delete the partitions to get rid of the letters. Rather you should use diskmanagement and just remove the drive-letters for those partitions where you don't need them. If the partition needs a letter, it should complain when you want to remove it. Don't delete the partitions. They may be needed.

As has already been mentioned, it is always best to remove those disks you don't want to install the OS on before using the recovery media. If the disk that is left over is large enough, the installation should work. Normally you'd install the OS to the SSD.

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eschampAuthor Commented:
The BIOS of the Dell 8700 does not identify the different internal HDs. Instead, there is a choice marked "UEFI: Windows Boot Manager". I suspect that something in the boot manager knows about the different disks. Can anyone corroborate that?

At this point, the SSD installation is on hold. I did one before so if I can find my notes, I'm sure I can do it again.
eschampAuthor Commented:
To summarize, I left the partitions as is but changed their drive letters to the end of the alphabet.
modern install media usually has UEFI and normal BIOS boot capability, and when you have an UEFI BIOS, you should see both options for the same disk, and then you can normally choose which mode you want to boot from. UEFI mode should support secure-boot, as well as GPT boot disks, while normal mode doesn't support secure-boot, and also not GPT boot disks if the OS is Windows.
how to get it on drive 0 next time- i posted above
for now, you can copy the partitions over to the other drive, with the free paragon imaging software:      
then disconnect drive 1  - and boot from the SSD
after this - reconnect drive 1
eschampAuthor Commented:
nobus -- and Windows will remember that it booted from the SSD and will do that after I've reconnected the mag HD? Amazing!!
windows does not have anything to do with it
the bios looks for a drive, and looks for a bootable sector - only after booting from that - windows starts
eschampAuthor Commented:
If there are two drives -- 0 and 1 -- with bootable sectors, will it always pick drive 0?
It will pick the first disk with a boot flag set in the boot order of the BIOS. So as long as you have set the boot order in the BIOS correctly, it'll boot from the correct disk.
why 2 disks with bootable sectors?
if not needed- remove one, to avvoid selection problems
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
To keep everyone in the loop here, this machine has a knackered BIOS and needs to be repaired (the other thread has now been closed).

It may be because of this that Windows won't install normally.
eschampAuthor Commented:
John, I think your statement is overboard. The BIOS is not "knackered". It has one problem and one only, and that has not prevented the computer from booting.

Thanks for your other, more considered advice.,
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@eschamp - Possibly. BIOS is a tiny number of statements and corruption in the assembly stack that prevents shut down could have other ramifications. So I raise it as a possibility to be considered.
eschampAuthor Commented:
"Assembly stack"?

Interestingly, exit w/o saving works.

I will contact Dell.
i suggest you take an empty ONLY drive - an d install any OS on it
that will show if the bios is working, as well as the install procedure
eschampAuthor Commented:
How will that show whether or not the BIOS is working?
a couple of posts before, you said that your bios was booting
there are only 2 possibilities here:
1- it works, and sees the disk drives, and boot from it (if it is bootable- and the drive is selected)
2-it does NOT work

so decide which of both it is
eschampAuthor Commented:
The BIOS problem is this: When I enter the BIOS (F2 on this Dell 8700) and then "Save and Exit", the computer freezes. If I then cycle the power and do not use F2, the computer boots normally.

So, to my way of thinking, the BIOS is doing everything it should be doing as far as cold and warm boots go.
no - it is not doing everything it should do (otherwise it would not freeze on save and exit
you have to reset it to defaults (but you can't make any changes-so that's out)  -OR update the bios
eschampAuthor Commented:
Did I say that it didn't save the changes? As I recall, the newest BIOS did save the changes.
even so - if it freezes -it does not behave as it should . period
you either have a bad bios, or bad motherboard
eschampAuthor Commented:
I have a call in o Dell. What can you do with a bad BIOS???
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The only thing you can do with a bad BIOS is re-flash with the same or newer known good BIOS update. Otherwise, you have to replace the motherboard.
If your PC still has warranty, you should have it replaced by Dell. Reflashing a BIOS on a bad board, or if the BIOS is bad, can brick the board, and that could void the warranty.
eschampAuthor Commented:
I reflashed on Dell's advice. :-) I'm now waiting on them
post the result, please
eschampAuthor Commented:
(Didn't answer all of my questions.)
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