Sunday, July 26, 2009

Windows 7 on Dell Latitude D810

This may not be my most technical post, but I would like to share my recent experience with Windows 7 on my company provided Dell Latitude D810 laptop. It has a 1.73 Ghz Intel Pentium M Processor, 2GB of RAM and a 60 GB harddisk.I have been using this laptop since the day I joined the company, second week of December 2006.

I have always been amazed by the fact that this laptop was capable of running Windows Vista. Although I have been working on this laptop since December 2006, the laptop was actually purchased in June 2005. Because Vista OS was brand new when I started to work for BVA, I started right away with Vista. My first few months (OK I admit, my first year till the SP1 was released) was not so pleasant. I had performance issues, intermittent VPN connectivity problems and wireless network issues of all kinds. I used to think my problems were caused by due to the fact that Dell did not provide any Vista drivers for this model. However, after the SP1 install, all of my problems disappeared. Since then, my experience with the laptop and Vista has been quite good despite all the negative hype created around this version of Windows. Please keep in mind that this laptop is not officially "Built for Vista" or even "Vista Ready". The only label it has on reads: "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP".

So when Microsoft announced the next version of the Windows Operating System, I got curious. When I read comments and reviews like "Windows 7 runs much better than Vista", "Windows 7 can run on any hardware which supports XP", I thought I could give it a try. When my coworkers started to install and test out the RC code with their relatively newer generation laptops, I decided that it was time.

Because I was too lazy for a backup and restore operation, I initially decided to perform an "in-place upgrade". To avoid conflicts during the upgrade process, I uninstalled my VMware Server, Cisco VPN Client and virus scanning software. Upgrade process ran about an hour or so with no problems. At the end of the process the laptop rebooted for the last time, and I got the infamous "blue screen of death" (BSOD). Following the BSOD, the installer ran again and rolled back the upgrade process. Within 20 minutes of the BSOD, I got my Vista OS back, like nothing's happened. This first unsuccessful attempt was about six weeks ago.

Following this unsuccessful attempt, I had no choice but to perform a "wipe and install" operation. Because of time constraints, I was not able to perform this operation until last weekend.

I had considerable amout of data, but I did not want to perform any "System Transfer" (or Files and Settings Migration). In addition, in case of a second failure, I needed a tool that can perform image based backups and restores. So I used the free DriveImage XML tool (http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm) for this purpose. The tool let me create an image based backup of my full drive, and gave me the option to perform file and folder level restores using this backup set. You can use the tool to create online backups (i.e. you can backup your computer while the operating system is running), or you can use it with WinPE and create offline backups. I used the online backup method.

Following the backup, I started the Windows 7 RC installation. I wiped out the existing partition and Windows 7 created a new hidden system partition, plus a new boot partition. Intallation was quick like Windows 2008 installations.

After the installation I found myself with some non-working devices. My network card was there, but wireless card (Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection) was not recognized by the installer. In addition, I had an "PCI Simple Communications Controller" device with no drivers. Finally, my video card was recognized as "Standard VGA". First I had to find the Wireless driver to gain access to the Internet. Then after a brief Google research, I found that the "PCI Simple Communications Controller" actually was listed as "Texas Instruments PCI 6515 Cardbus" at Dell's web site. Finally, I was able to install the "ATI Mobility RADEON X600" driver with no issues. Please keep in mind that all these drivers from Dell were actually created for Windows XP. After the drivers, I updated the OS, and installed my favorite virus protection tool. Finally, I installed Driveimage XML, and only restored Downloads and Documents folders from the backup set. I installed MS Office 2007 quickly and started to test and see the differences between Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RC. First impression, Windows 7 boots and comes back from hibernation faster than Vista. With Latitude D810, my "Windows Experience Index" is 1.0, because of poor 3-D graphics support. I searched for an updated driver for ATI X600, but so far I have been unsuccessful. Most importantly, Windows 7 has a smaller footprint than its predecessor: right after the boot, it's using roughly 700MB of RAM while Vista was consuming almost 1GB. No need to say, any program looks (or feels) faster in Windows 7 as well.

Finally, my biggest challenge with Windows 7 was to install Cisco VPN client. I heard and read bad experiences and BSOD horror stories about Cisco VPN Client on Windows 7. However, I really needed Cisco VPN Client on my laptop, so I asked Google. I was lucky enough to find not only one but two alternative solutions to the problem.
1. Following the instructions at http://weblogs.asp.net/bhouse/archive/2009/01/15/how-to-successfully-install-cisco-vpn-client-on-windows-7.aspx, I first installed Citrix DNE Update, then installed Cisco VPN Client v5.0.05.0290 with no problems. I have tested a number of different connections, and it works great.
2. Dell Latitude 810 does not support this option, because it requires a CPU with Intel Hardware Virtualization support. This option is called "Windows XP mode for Windows 7". Microsoft presents this option to break the incompatibility barrier between the older applications and the new OS. According to Microsoft, any application compatible with Windows XP should work in this mode. However, because of hardware constraints, it is not for everybody. As the first prerequisite, you need a CPU with hardware virtualization (Intel-VT or AMD-V) support. Even though the newer CPUs support this feature, you have to explicitly enable it at the BIOS level. Then, you can follow the instructions here (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/download.aspx). As a final step, you can install Cisco VPN Client in the XP virtual PC. This is a great feature and provides a very well integration with the host operating system (i.e. Windows 7). One of my co-workers was able to complete this process with his Latitude 820 and got Cisco VPN Client working without the Citrix DNE update.

My overall experience with Windows 7 on my 4-year-old laptop so far has been great. Next step is to get my hands on the RTM code and upgrade the OS one more time. I will try to post about this experience as well. How about your experience/thoughts about Windows 7? Please us the "Comments" link to provide feedback about this post or share your experience about Windows 7.

Update to the post (Nov 09):
After I had used the RC code for a couple of months, I finally found the available time slot to perform a transition to Windows 7 RTM. As some of you have already mentioned, all I needed was to download and install the Windows XP graphics and the audio drivers from Dell's Web site. All other devices were automatically recognized by Windows 7. For the wireless network card drivers, I had to run Windows updates.

In addition, Cisco released an updated version of their VPN client software. Right now I am running Cisco VPN Client v 5.0.06.0100 on Windows 7, and it is really fast.

14 comments:

Vince said...

Hi and thanks for this note,
I'm installin Windows 7 on the same D810. If In understand, you have used XP drivers ? (especially for graphic card abd audio card).
Thanks !

Ilker Aydin said...

Hi Vince,

You are absolutely right. Since Dell does not provide any other drivers (not even Vista drivers) for Latitude D810, I had to use XP drivers especially for graphics, audio, and fax/modem. Surprisingly, they all work fine. My experience was with the RC code, and I will be upgrading it to RTM code some time this week and will share my experience here as well. Thanks for the comment.
Regards,
Ilker

Vince said...

Thanks,
I did my installation last evening.
No problem. The graphic driver (ATIX300) has been updated by Windows update. I downloaded the audio driver for XP on the Dell site and it works fine. All devices has been known automatically.

Steve said...

Great article. Did you get the audio control buttons working?

Thanks,
Steve

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a D810 with a 2Ghz CPU and installed Win 7 last month. I have 2 problems with my new OS. My touch-pad can sometimes completely block the system when I use the scroll option (I use the drivers from the dell site). This happens 2 to 3 times in one week. Also, when I switch to battery, my CPU speed doesn't go down and stays to 2Ghz, which drains my battery faster. I even installed QuickSet and it didn't help me fix this problem.

bipin said...

Hi. I have a dell latitude D810 and cannot get my network card to work. I also have Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection which was not recognised, but now, Texas Instruments PCI 6515 Cardbus as you suggested is also not working. can you please help....

Ilker Aydin said...

Hi Bipin,

I had no issues with my onboard "Broadcom NetXtreme 57xx Gigabit Controller", Windows 7 RC recognized it automatically. I had to use Windows XP drivers for my graphics and wireless network cards, I also needed to install the "cardbus" driver for Windows XP from Dell's support site. If your onboard network card is not recognized, I can recommend going online with another computer and visiting "dell.com/support". Select Drivers and Downloads, then type in the service tag of your laptop. This way you will access the exact list of drivers you will need for your laptop. Although they are for Windows XP, they work fine with Windows 7 as well. Let me know if this helps.

Regards,

Ilker

Benjamin said...

Ilker,

I have a Latitude D810 from 2005 running XP Pro. I would like to upgrade to 7. The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor says the only issue is my hardware won't support Windows Aero. The only thing I can come with is the ATIX600 graphics card might not be good enough.

Do you have Aero running on your D810? Any advice?

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, Aero works fine on my D810 w/ ATI Radeon X600

Jim said...

When clean-installing Windows 7 on my Dell Latitude D810, Windows was able to detect drivers successfully for almost all hardware in my computer. (However I did have to run Windows Update several times to download updated drivers for everything, including the ATI Mobility Radeon X600 graphics card.)

The only hardware that did not work out of the box was the sound card and the Bluetooth. The sound simply did not work, and the Bluetooth light on the laptop was flashing rapidly (despite Device Manager saying the default bluetooth driver was working properly).

For the sound card, I successfully downloaded and installed Dell's Windows XP driver, which worked fine. (Running the R99254.exe file merely unzipped the drivers, which I had to install manually in Device Manager)

The Bluetooth card required more effort. Dell's XP driver does not work, and for this system Dell does not offer any Vista drivers. However, I was able to figure out that the bluetooth module in this computer is a Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth Internal Module, and with a bit of Googling I found a Windows Vista 32-bit driver for this card for the Latitude D820 machine. However the module is the same, and after installing it I have full Bluetooth support.

I downloaded this bluetooth driver from:
http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=r142181&systemid=latitude%20precision%20m65&os=wlh&osl=en&deviceid=7388&devlib=0&typecnt=1&vercnt=1&formatcnt=1&libid=5&fileid=189724

The installer updated my Bluetooth module firmware and installed the driver.

I am now running Windows 7 with no problems on my Latitude D810 - in fact it is running better than Vista!

Good luck!

Matt Jason said...

I installed Win 7 on my D810...and all is running fine...except...the CD/DVD burner is having issues. While I can easily read CDs, it does not seem to read DVDs anymore, nor will it burn either CD or DVD. I'm thinking I need some type of updated driver, but I can't seem to find it. The model number on the driver states C3284-A00. Can anyone help?

Chris said...

Hi,

I have my D810 on Windows7 Ultimate 32. The default ATI X600 driver only supports up 1600x1200. I tried download latest driver from different sites; None of them works. Where did you find XP version? From Dell site? Thanks.

Chris

Chris said...

Hi,

My D810 with X600 is running on Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit. The default driver only supports up to 1600x1200. I tried and failed other drivers from different sites. XP driver you mentioned from Dell site? Thanks.

Chris

Ilker Aydin said...

Hi Chris,

Right after the installation, I initially used the drivers provided by Dell's web site. But as you can see from the comments above, Dell only provides the video drivers for XP OS. These drivers work fine, but they do not seem to support the "Aero" interface. However, after the initial setup and completing the missing drivers from Dell, when I ran a Windows Update, the video drivers for ATI X600 were also updated by newer versions from MS. After this update and restart, Aero started to work with no problems. Hope this answers your question.