Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Windows 10 1909 on Dell Precision M2800

Thanks, Microsoft. For... for... for everything!

But especially for cheating me out of all the hours I could have spend more productive. Instead, you released the glorious Windows 10, followed by the even more glorious Windows 10 version 1909. And trying to get that thing to run on my Dell M2800 has been lots and lots of fun.

Though I did get it to work in the end...


M2800

The Dell Precision M2800 is a little older laptop, but still a fairly nice performer. It's huge and ugly and heavy, but with 16 GB and an Intel I7 4810MQ it still is fast enough for daily work, though perhaps not that suitable for the die hard road warriors.

It's considered a 'personal mobile workstation' and to that effect it actually sports TWO graphical cards onboard, an Intel HD4600 as well as a Radion FirePro W4170M.

Unfortunately Dell seems to have all but forgotten about this laptop. Drivers have not been updated in ages (the 2015 Radeon driver is all there is).


Windows 10 1809

I stayed on Windows 7 for as long as I could, but had to move to Windows 10 in the end. I could install 18xx (forgot which version) and ended with 1809. Then Microsoft decided to release 1909, and made it a forced upgrade.


Windows 10 1909

Unfortunately the upgrade from 1809 to 1909 fails every time, ending in a 'rolling back changes' screen etcetera. But MS keeps pushing, and my laptop kept trying to update, and kept rolling back.


Clean install

Next try: clean install of 1909. No luck. If you run the installer whilst being connected to the internet it immediately updates all drivers, which results in a crash.


Disabling driver updates

Well, you can use the registry (home version), try a policy (Pro version), toggle the Systems / Advanced Settings optting (both) but nothing works. The moment Windows 10 finds the internet it tries to update the drivers. And apparently Windows installs the wrong driver for the W4170M video card, resulting in a total freeze.

(Windows 10 completely ignores any 'do not update' flags when running the very first install / update.)


Solution

1. Disconnect the laptop from the internet before the clean install of 1909

2. Clean install of 1909 x64

3. Download the following drivers from the Dell website (x64 versions) using another PC:

- radeon_graphics_190601_M2800_Video_Driver_G5JNR_WN32_15.201.1101_A01

- intel_graphics_190601_Intel-HD-Graphics-4000-5000-500-P500-series-Driver_WWW9Y_WIN_20.19.15.5063_A10_01

4. Copy them to a USB stick

5. Manually install the Radeon driver. The filename suggests it is W(I)N32 only, but it actually contains both drivers.

6. Reboot

7. Manually install the Intel driver

8. Reboot

9. Now connect the laptop to the Internet and let Windows 10 do its thing


Why?

Why this works? I have no idea, but it does, for now. I assume Windows 10 (setup / update) recognizes there are already drivers installed for the Intel HD4xxx and WM41xx chipsets, and (fortunately) doesn't think it has better drivers.

I'm pretty sure, once the next Windows 10 update comes along, they'll manage to screw me all over again... sigh. Please, Microsoft, give me an option to block incorrect drivers from installing?

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