Which software (that can actually IMPROVE a PC) & drivers should be put on a laptop after a clean install?

First off, apologies if this is in the wrong category - are drivers and OSes a hardware of software issue? :s

OK folks, a couple of questions - a bit long-winded but this is for clarity.


I recently did a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit on my Dell XPS L502X.

Upon the drivers & software download page though, I’m not sure what I should get/what I need.

The link to all of it is laid out easy to see here (remember to select Windows 7 as the OS as default is 'BIOS’.

In ‘Communications’ for example there are 11 different downloads - which of these would I need? The same issue applies to other categories as well. Also, of the software and applications offered there, is it really worth downloading and installing them or are they just useless bloatware? Additionally, will I need to go elsewhere to get drivers or software for other things like GFX card or audio - they work OK (although the sound sounds absolutely terrible and I’ve yet to try out any games that involve using my GeForce 1GB GFX card except for a 5 minunte go on Quantum Conundrum which seemed to have a rather slow framerate compared to the likes of Portal 2 for instance). So that’s one question.

Second (and more straight-forward) question:

I also have a similar question regarding an old lappy that I’m doing a clean install of XP Pro on for a mate - a HP Compaq nc4000 Notebook.

Oddly, there are 2 driver pages:

One for the ‘Base’ version,

…And the non-base version.

I’ve Googled but have had no success, does anyone know WTF these differences mean - which driver page (‘base’ or normal) should I select from and what should I download compared to any potential ‘bloatware’ (considering that this laptop will be for someone quite unfamiliar with diagnosing and fixing problems)?

If someone can help me understand, I’d be really grateful, and I love learning about this too so if someone can explain what I need and why, that’d be great.

Thanks alot!

My rule of thumb is to “Download them all but install very few.”

When I download drivers, I try to insert an accurate Prefix Name instead of the base default file-name - a prefix that can help during the Install Sequence, too, like 0_MB (motherboard), 1_SATA, 3_Chipset, 4_Video, 5_LAN, 6_Audio, etc. This helps because, in months or a year or more in the future, these Prefix-Add-On file names help with the next re-load.

I want my motherboard to work first and foremost. But I usually need to make sure my hard-drives (SATA) are working - which comes first? A chickens-and-egg situation, but usually this sequence isn’t too important or I wouldn’t have gotten this far!). Motherboard Chipsets are usually ‘enhancements’ but that closes out my “Top Level” installs.

Next comes Video, and if something’s going to go wacky, this is where “All Is Lost!” fretting can occur - if the video is screwed up, nothing else matters because it’s probably unreadable. So another Wipeout & Reload may be necessary here. But I haven’t spent too much time at this point.

I just hope my Downloads have been saved to a USB drive, too.

From there, LAN Driver updates can be installed. Since I’ve downloaded drivers, I know my LAN port works but updates can be installed here, early on. Audio is next.

After this, I run the PC like this - fairly bare drivers, with few enhancements - while I load all my other App software.

HP warnings… HP has a VERY nasty habit of producing very different products under the same base model number. HP4100 series might have DOZENS of sub-series under it (HP4100-3491aX12, HP4100-100423jTY, etc), and all of these sub-series must have their precise and correct drivers because they have different motherboard chipsets, or different video chips, different audio and LAN chipsets, etc. The only thing that MAY be the same is the plastic shell and the logo!

“Good luck on the HP” is my only comment. I never find HP’s usually cheaper purchase price is worth the dozens of hours of admin and download support problems they create. Save $100, then waste a $1,000…

One more warning: I never install Video Updates from Windows Updates. Never. Windows Updates is a nice “alert” that a newer driver exists, but going back to the true video-driver website is far better because, at best, WinUpdate only offers base functionality drivers while my rig might have (or need) significant other features.

Personally, I try to use as few drivers as possible to get most of the functionality working on a laptop. A lot of the extra software/drivers manufacturers provide do little other than provide their own solution to replace Windows’ functionality, such as Acer’s clumsy ePerformance package. To give an example, most laptop manufacturers have their own Wi-Fi wizard, but the Windows built-in Wi-Fi wizard is very easy to use and works just fine.

This is roughly my approach after a fresh Windows 7 installation on a laptop:

[li]Get the laptop on the Internet using an Ethernet cable (unless Windows has its own Wi-Fi driver) If necessary, use another PC to download the network driver.
[/li][li]Run Windows Update and let it install the updates.
[/li][li]Once the Windows update process finishes, I repeat the process another few times. In most cases, Windows will download and install the remaining drivers automatically, including difficult to find drivers such as for Wi-Fi where some manufacturers provide a huge list of Wi-Fi adapter models to choose from.
[/li][li]If the laptop uses an ATi or Nvidia card, I download the latest driver from the appropriate website. For Intel graphics and some laptops I need to get the graphics driver from the laptop manufacturer’s website, as ATi and Nvidia often don’t detect their own hardware in a laptop for whatever reason.
[/li][li]I then get the latest chipset driver (if available) from the laptop manufacturer’s website. If there is an Unknown “SMBus” device in device manager, the chipset driver will cover this.
[/li][li]For some laptops, there is a driver for hot keys, such as controlling the screen brightness, switching on/off Wi-Fi, etc. If some function keys don’t work, this driver is required.
[/li][li]Finally I have a last check in Device Manager to make sure nothing else is missing.

Basically, as long as nothing shows up broken in Device manager, the screen resolution, sound, Wi-Fi and special function keys work fine, it’s ready for the next stage, such as installing Antivirus, Office package, etc.

Generally the windows7 installer does a fairly good job.

If your XPS was factory shipped with Windows7 you SHOULD have been using a Dell windows7 reinstallation disc.

If the Network works don’t bother with the driver for it.
The same goes for the Video, Sound, etc…

Generally the first thing I do after the installer finally dumps me out at mthe desktop is to run Windows updates.

More often than not after accepting ALL the hardware drivers that Windows updates wants to give you, going through the Dell drivers will result in a loit of drivers that are older than what you’ve already installed.

The driver that typically gives me a bit of trouble is the Bluetooth driver.
Not on my personal notebook, Ive reinstalled Windows Home 64bit twice and both times it walked me through the bluetooth setup before it brought me to the desktop.

personally I’d be more concerned by what setings you made in Bios before
running the installer.

First and foremost the mode setting of the SATA controller most 2008 or later Dell computers the default setting is AHCI and I hope you didn’t change this.

I’d also recommend updating to the latest bios the dell support site offers, THEN install the “chipset” driver.

Another driver that RARELY installs itself, but will usually prompt you to install it is the driver for the SD card reader. these are typically Ricoh, but sometimes Texas Instruments.

On a Dell while using a Dell windows7 disc I have NEVER needed to manually install either driver for the network (wired or wireless)

But then again I always make sure the WiFi is turned ON and that there is a NIC cable connected before I start the installer

How about telling us the “Service Tag” number and the rest can look at dell driver site and see what drivers they have and then they can better tell you want you should get? Usually if they have vista64 drivers those are the one you need to download and install in windows7x64 O/S. That’s how I did it for my Dell M1710…Windows7x64 and Vista64 drivers…

Sometimes Vista64 drivers can be “Twitchy” about installing
on a Windows7 x64 computer.

On several computers “of that age” that were originally shipped
with Vista I’ve actually found it easier to Install Vista x64 verify
that everything works activate then run a windows7 installer as
an “upgrade installation”.

Specifically on my Dell 1525 notebook I needed to use that method
if I wanted the Bluetooth module to work correctly when I was still
running Windows7 x86.
It is not necissary when installing the x64 version of Windows7.

Let Windows 7 handle it, unless you get really big performance issues.

Windows 7 has a very good internet driver database. There are a few things it doesn’t automatically recognize and most drivers work flawlessly.

I haven’t been around for eon’s, but for my 2 cents worth, Mr Belvedere hit it right on the money. I built two computers around 8 and 10 months ago, and Windows 7 has been great and timely on all updates for the software and the peripheral (ancillary?), components I’ve installed. I do a lot of C.A.D. and used to have problems with graphics updates that would cause my main C.A.D. program to get jittery or freeze, (I used Rhino 5.0 64 bit). I would usually have to roll back to a previous version. I have not had any kind of problems, absolutely none. That also goes for the first Laptop that I have purchased new, an Acer Aspire, AMD Quad core APU, with 500 mb of video ram and 6 g’s of ram. :slight_smile:

I believe in Mean and Clean, so all you really need after a Clean Install are the Basic Drivers to make your Hardware work, and a good Professional Anti-Virus. For your Basic Drivers your guide is the Device Manager, and your source is the Manufactures Web Site. Usually about 5 Drivers, Audio, Graphics, Network both Wired and Wireless, and Modem. :cool: