Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Installing Win7 x64 on a Dell Precision 690? Read this!

I recently took the step of installing Windows 7 64-bit onto my 3-year old Precision 690 workstation and, as I hit some snags, thought I would share them and the workarounds in case they affect anyone else.

My system has 4GB RAM, 2 quad-core Intel Xeon E5345 2.33GHz processors, an ATI FireGL V7200 graphics card, multi-format card reader, a Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA drive and 2 Seagate Barracuda 750GB drives. The main use of the computer is for video editing so, for performance processes, the 2 750GB drives had been configured as a RAID 0 array.

When I originally set up the computer, I had two Vista boot partitions – a 64-bit Vista install for the video editing work and a 32-bit Vista install for general usage. I decided to replace them with a single boot partition of 64-bit Windows 7.

I have a number of external drives that I use for backups so I decided to connect them all up before installing Windows 7. My thinking here was that Windows would allocate them sequential drive letters, ahead of the card reader drives. However, this decision turned out to cause me some problems – and a bit of a scare! When I booted off the Windows 7 media and got to the stage where you set up the partition you want to use, I selected and deleted the two Vista partitions. I then created a new partition. However, attempts to format the partition failed. This is where I got a bit worried as I now didn’t have a bootable system. For some reason, it occurred to me to unplug all of the external drives and try again … at which point the format worked and I was able to install Windows 7.

Prior to starting this whole process, I ran Microsoft’s compatibility checker and looked on Dell’s web site for Windows 7 drivers for the Precision 690. The compatibility checker didn’t raise any significant issues. The Dell web site doesn’t list any Windows 7 drivers but states that the Precision 690 is compatible with Windows 7.

So how did I find things after installing Windows 7? The good news is that all of the built-in hardware got a driver from Windows 7.

The bad news is that those drivers weren’t necessarily the optimal ones. The Dell SAS 5/iR integrated controller, for example, had a Microsoft driver dating back to around 2007. Right-clicking on that and choosing Update Driver Software… got Windows to find a 2009 driver from LSI.

Running DriverMax revealed that Windows 7 wasn’t using the latest driver for the Intel components. Unfortunately, Intel’s web site didn’t seem to want to give up a newer driver but fortunately DriverMax does allow you to download 2 drivers a day free, and most of the Intel bits and pieces were covered by a single driver so I was able to get the system pretty much up to date. The only drivers that are “old” still are the dual channel PCI IDE controller and the AHCI Serial ATA Controller, both of which aren’t used much or at all on my system as far as I can figure out.

I am concerned about the write performance of the system and, searching the Internet, I don’t seem to be the only one. However, I don’t seem to find a configuration change to make that would help. I’ve found and installed the Dell SAS RAID Storage Manager and it is showing that the disc cache policy is being enabled. I’ve upgraded the controller to the latest firmware version. I suspect that this may just be a bottleneck issue with the system. It is the slowest part of the system, rating 5.3, while the V7200 rates 5.9 for desktop graphics and 3D/gaming graphics performance. The processor and memory, on the other hand, rate 7.5 which is a nice high number!

It is somewhat disappointing that for a system that is 3 years old:

  1. Dell aren’t specifically providing any Windows 7 drivers or tools.
  2. Windows 7 doesn’t come with all of the latest drivers or even find them all automatically as part of the installation process.
  3. That manufacturers are making hardware obsolescent far too quickly. ATI, for example, do not provide a driver for the V7200 now. I have to rely on Microsoft to provide it.

I know that technology moves at a fast pace but this system still has plenty of life in it! It is frustrating that the manufacturers don’t seem to think so as well.

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15 responses to “Installing Win7 x64 on a Dell Precision 690? Read this!

  1. Unknown February 12, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for the post. I am considering upgrading my 690 to Win 7 x64 as well. Are you happy that you upgraded? Is there performance better than Vista?

  2. Lazlo January 27, 2011 at 1:37 am

    I agree that it is a shame Dell is not officially supporting Windows 7 x64 for such a high performance machine. It is because of this that I am switching to the Mac Pro with Bootcamp to run my 3D graphics app. Dell just doesn’t cut it in terms of hardware. Apple cares about their hardware quality and they understand the investment that people make in their products. Dell just treats their hardware like it’s yesterday’s news. Wish I had something better to say, but it’s the truth. I will never purchase a Dell again.

  3. Hobi1 January 28, 2011 at 7:40 am

    i found the post really interesting and helpful as ive had a precision 690 with win 7 x64bit using 8gb Ram a 160gb system HD and a 1.5tb storage HD……………I mainly use my computer for making music on and find that win 7 works great for everything except i cant seem to get it to play nicely with my external audio interface!! its the most frustrating thing in the world when i spend most of my time trying to sort out the digital feedback and latency issues instead of getting work done…….so much so that im considering reverting back to xp.

    Having said all that you have certainly given me food for thought and i will be going through all my drivers with a fine tooth comb to see which ones i can update to the latest firmware

    thanks again

  4. Altamirador April 22, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Maybe this could help people install Win7 x64 on a Dell precision 690 with the SAS 5/iR integrated controller..

    Probably, like many others, I had no luck trying to install Win7 from the cd. Obviously, the drivers for the SAS controller are not part of the standard installation disk.

    So, like many others, I went to check my favorite DELL support website to find out that they don’t even have a decent Win7 drivers for my system !
    Honestly, this is unacceptable!
    I tried to install the Vista 64 drivers with no luck. Then I got an idea…
    Wy not try installing Ubuntu. Maybe my disk partition has something wrong? Well what do you
    know…

    Let me cut to the chase…I found out through Ubuntu that the controller is in fact an LSI1068.
    So, after one Google search, I found this page:

    http://www.lsi.com/storage_home/products_home/standard_product_ics/sas_ics/lsisas1068/

    Downloaded the Win7 drivers and loaded the drivers at install. I even got the list of available drivers displaying “DELL SAS 5i/R 64 bits”…

    Selected it , loaded it, formatted the drive, installed windows NO CINCH !

    Hope this helps !

  5. 2YLITE February 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I was lucky enough to pick up a 690 with dual Xeon 3.2 CPUs.

    While I was successful in installing Windows 7 x64, the video card (GeForce 6800) needs to be replaced.

    Can anyone running Win7 x64 on the 690 please list the video card in use?
    Specifically I would like to put an Nvidia GTX 460 in, but I don’t want to spend the money only to realize it doesn’t agree with the MY171 motherboard.

    Thanks in advance.

    and special thanks to Philip for posting his experiences with the install. Much appreciated.

  6. james October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

    it should take the gtx 260 with no problem the slots are pci express 2.0 im currently running ati 5870 in my system

  7. James October 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I have the gtx 550 ti I just bought in mine and it works fine no problems at all… Make sure you have a 750 power supply or 1,000 power supply than you will be fine :) There is one thing I am having a hard time with though on bootup it says Bios AHCI Not installed, I updated it and it’s still saying this error on start up :(

    • HAppy at last! October 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      hia is normal if you do not have devices attached to SATA, worst case disable SATA or SATA devices and error should disapear.

  8. HAppy at last! October 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Following this and other links, got 10x write performance from my SAS.
    Was a shame to mirrir 2T WDC Black 64Mb cache and not use them at full extent.

    The LSI MegaRAID Storage Manager was not capable to enable the Write Cache bit.
    I used LSIUtil_1.62.zip and procedure from that thread: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/servers/f/906/t/18410505.aspx
    The LSI link is not working, one has to search the LSI website for LSIUtil_1.62.zip (LSIUtil only returns documents)

  9. rgouette November 27, 2012 at 3:41 am

    I don;t get it..I tried Win7 home premium x64 and tonight, WinXP x64 and neither OS would recognize more than 2GB usable..no matter what I did to the msconfig advanced settings..
    any ideas to have the thing see 6x1G sticks? BIOS says 6GB O/S(Win7) saw 6GB on PC properties, but said (2GB usable)
    ugh

  10. DET2 February 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    @rgouette – Sorry for the delay, but if you’re still stuck, check your BIOS settings. Under POST BEHAVIOR, change the OS INSTALL setting to OFF.

  11. mrzoonatwork April 10, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    I’m trying to do this as well, and it’s very frustrating. Win7 setup *seemed* to find everything, but as noted in the OP, not always optimal. My system has 8x1GB RAM directly on the mobo, Quadro 4500 (?), 2x500GB (R1), and 2x500GB (R0). The NVIDIA drivers v309 seemed to be OK, but then the kernel mode driver kept crashing, the display would blank, enter powersave mode, then come back on in 10-20 seconds to tell me that the driver had crashed, and then it was able to recover. I removed the driver, switched to 1280×1024, and it was a little better except that it began doing something very similar (less frequently), and when you could see the display, the system seemed to hang/respond/hang/respond, making it almost unusable. Running a memory test now. One thing to note with the 690 is that if you have the memory expanders installed for up to 64GB, and you only have 4GB installed, the *memory will run at half speed*.

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