I love Mini-PC's.

I recently purchased a GIGABYTE BRIX barebone to use as media station and for some skyping. Officially it is called BG-BACE-3150 and I was totally impressed by todays performance of such mini-pc's. It comes equipped with a ULV Celeron N3150 and ist a bit larger than a butter dish. For folks who had a Turbo Button on a 4x86 such a mini-pc (as well as a Raspberry Pi, of course) such mini computers are simple magic.

The Problem with Windows 7

Now that the technology has advanced so much the last couple of years, the latest computers seem to exhibit only USB 3.0 ports, not USB 2.0. That means a boot from a USB CD drive or USB stick works. But an installation from a Windows 7 CD/DVD/stick will fail. The operating system cannot handle USB 3.0 propperly.

The Solution: Patch Windows to know USB 3.0

The solution is to let Windows know USB 3.0 before its very installation. This is not a hard process but can take a couple of hours (like for me) if you don't exactly know what to do. So I thought I'll provide a short procedure such that everyone else would have a better evening than I had...

Required Material

Here's what you need:

  • a Windows 7 image, e.g. a german one,
  • a tool called web clients to combine image and USB stick to a bootable Windows 7 installation medium,
  • a USB stick with more than 4GB memory size,
  • a tool to add the USB 3.0 (and further) drivers to the Windows 7 on the USB stick
    • for the GB-BACE-3150 it can be found here
    • for other GIGABYTE mini-pc's please go to the product page, to "Support and Download" and chose "Utility" as "Download Type". Officially it is called "GIGABYTE Windows USB Installation Tool"
    • for even other mini-pcs please look under the available downloads (e.g. for the Intel NUC's)
  • a PC running Windows 7 (yeah!)

Howto Patch Windows 7 to know USB 3.0

Here's how you do it:

  1. Use rufus to install the Windows 7 image on the USB stick: launch the program and chose your image file.
  2. On the Windows 7 PC run the "Utility" from GIGABYTE with the Windows-7-USB-stick inserted.
    • Chose "Source Path(CD-ROM)" as "None - Add USB drivers"
    • Chose your "Destination Path(USB Drive)" as the USB stick that you have just put the Windows 7 image on
    • Make sure to have "Add USB drivers to an offline Windows 7 image" checked
    • Click on "Start" (Note: If you do this on a Windows 10 installation it will probably never finish...)
    • The whole process takes in the order of an hour. If you want, check the Task Manager (CTRL-ALT-DEL, start task manager) for ongoing activities
    • After finish of the "Utility" unmount the USB stick
  3. Use the USB stick to happily install Windows 7. It just works.

Conclusions

With the help of very simple tools it is possible to install Windows 7 on the latest mini-pcs. The whole procedure takes about two hours.

Note: Windows 7, GIGABYTE, and INTEL are trademarks.

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