Installing Windows 7 on ASUS UX301L

The other day I had to install windows 7 on a laptop preinstalled with Windows 8. The laptop was a ASUS Ultrabook UX301LA with the Intel Core i7-i4558U processor.

ASUS Ultrabook UX301LA does not support Windows 7.

The setup

First you have to create a bootable USB stick with the Windows ISO file because the laptop doesn’t have a DVD tray. The laptops are supposed to be paper-thin nowadays so we can’t waste any space having a DVD player, r you nuts? The bootable Windows installation stick is easily created using Rufus, see. https://rufus.akeo.ie/?locale=en_US.

Now, we need to make sure that the laptop can boot with the stick. We need to change some settings in the BIOS. First I will walk through what I did, even though the solution to this next part is very simple, it makes for a good story.
To enter the BIOS on the ASUS laptop you can hit either the delete button or F2, shortly after you start the laptop.

When you are in the BIOS, first change the “Secure Boot option” to “disabled”, then “enable” “launch CSM” under the boot menu. Reboot and plug in the USB stick in the leftmost port and enter the BIOS again. This worked for me. For some reason the rightmost did not work…

Now we should see the USB stick as a boot option. Restart and the windows installer should run.

The bootable USB stick is suddenly visible in BIOS.

At this point I found myself with “No device drivers were found. Make sure that the installation media contains
the correct drivers, and then click OK” message. I always loved those things.

Greetings, “No device drivers were found”.

So why do we get this message? The reason for this is because of USB 3.0. Windows 7 cannot read the stick because we have not provided any drivers to it. So I found the drivers and put them on the existing Windows 8 HDD. The problem is that none of the drivers are compatible with the laptop. Hmmmm…

None of these device drivers for USB 3.0 was compatible.

According to the manual of the laptop, the USB port is backward-compatible with USB 2.0, it just can’t go ahead with the installation, something was not right here. I searched on Google and I found a tip about maybe the USB stick was corrupted or it wasn’t supported on the machine. So I RUFUSed another USB stick, to make sure. But the problem persisted.

Support?

At this point I gave up and called ASUS support, thinking they would be helpful, like the “IT Crowd” series. Imagine my surprise when I reached ASUS support and their response was that they cannot help me with the installation of Windows 7 because the laptop came with Windows 8 pre-installed. Why does that make any difference anyway? It is still Microsoft.

I then repeated what he said back to him, just to make sure we had an understanding of how stupid it sounds that support actually doesn’t give support to a customer. At least in the “IT Crowd” they tell their customers to “turn it off and on again”.

Roy asking a customer if they tried turning it off and on again. IT Crowd Season 1 Episode 1

I went back to the laptop and fiddled with the BIOS and found something related to USB called “XHCI pre-boot mode”. I disabled it and rebooted. I hoped it wouldn’t explode and it didn’t, which is always nice. When the laptop woke up, the Windows installer started up as it always does and started to install Windows 7, yay!

I did my research (heh) and found out that XHCI means “Extensible Host Controller Interface” which is the USB 3.0. By disabling it in the BIOS I force the USB to use its backward-compatible state of USB 2.0, which is what we want.

After this I just had to find and install the Wifi and the graphics card drivers.

See. the driver hooks the function by patching the system call table, so it’s not safe to unload it unless another thread’s about to jump in and do its stuff, and you don’t want to end up in the middle of invalid memory… Hello?
.

Driving it home

I found out the correct drivers by going to the ASUS webpage->Support->Drivers & Tools-> Ix-4xxxxU and pick Windows 8 as OS. Go down to “Wireless” and you will find that the Wifi network card is called “Intel WIFI Wireless LAN Driver”. If you pick OS “Other”, you will not get any relevant information. In the “VGA” section it says “Intel Graphics Driver”. On the laptop it says “Iris”, so I searched for “Iris” and “Intel” and found a recent driver for that one too.

Intel WIFI driver
Intel Graphics driver

I chose the 64 bit exe-version of the Iris graphics drivers and the 64 bit Ds version of the WIFI driver called “Wireless_17.0.3_Ds64.zip”. I installed the Wifi drivers from the device manager and picked the drivers in the extracted directory. I believe you can download the exe version and simply install the Wifi in that way, see Wireless_17.0.3_Ds64.zip but I have not tested this.

After a proper installation, the Wifi should be called “Intel Dual Band Wireless AC-7260” in the device manager.

Disabling the touchpad

By the way, if are like me you would really want to disable the touchpad, because you can’t stop accidentally touching it with your thumbs. For this you have to enter the BIOS again. Enter the BIOS and get to “Advanced” and disable “internal pointing device”, see image below. To disble the touchscreen you can go to the device manager and click on “Human Interface Devices”. Right lick on “HID-compliant device” and click on “disable”.

Disable the touchpad in the BIOS, you know you want to.

I have now used the laptop for the last two weeks and it works like a charm.

I think a clip from “The IT Crowd” is in place:

Please leave a comment if this helped you or if you have any questions.

26 Comments:

  1. You helped me, well I’m not sure yet. I’m gonna see later if it works.
    Windows 7 works without a hitch on the machine?

    Why do they advise you not to use windows 7? Is it because the hardware has conflicts or they just don’t want to provide support.

    • Nice, I hope the post helped you. Get back to me if you need any help.

      As far as I can see Win 7 works perfectly fine. I also managed to disable the touchpad (via BIOS) and the touchscreen (via control panel->device) and it works great.

      The deal with the “support” is just policy it seems. They have a deal with Microsoft and a part of the deal is to sell the laptop with Win 8 and not to let them downgrade to Win 7. You could use something called “Classic shell” to get a very nice look-and-feel of the Win 7 in Win 8. I really need Win 7 on the laptop because of an expensive program that is only available on Win 7.

      It would have been funny if I had called ASUS about support for installing Ubuntu or something. Then they would have fainted or something ;-).

  2. THANKS A LOT because apparently Asus don’t communicate on how to downgrade to Win7, I was told the machine doesn’t work with it !!!but where did you get the drivers ?
    cheers

  3. Nice. So far I’m running.8.1 with Classic Shell. I have a Dell that started out with 8 and their web site even provided the 7 drivers.
    Most programs I run work with 8 but I don’t like Apps (though no problems with my phones) because I want to use the Program not a tile.
    TL:DR thanks for writing the How to!

    • You are welcome Tim Ras. Yes I actually helped a friend with migrating from Vista to Windows 8.1. Copying files and stuff. One of the things she wanted was a Windows Vista “look and feel”, because a friend of hers had warned about the tiles in Windows 8.1. I found Windows Classic Shell and it seems to work fine.

      I’m actually impressed with the small details in Windows 8.1. For instance, copying files is reported in a nice window with statistics on speed and stuff.

  4. This blogpost saved me…!
    I bought a UX301LA last friday but found nothing much “Zen” about it :-(
    That didn’t have a lot to do with the hardware, I was just so bummed out by Windows 8.1. With this instruction, I installed Win7Pro in no time.
    Although it didn’t want to install at first “because the partition is MFT”. Removing the partition and creating a new one did not help either. Booting from GPartEd Live USB, removing ALL partitions, that did the trick :-)

    Now there’s one thing I was hoping you can help me with: drivers…
    I have 6 devices listed under “Other devices” in Device Manager with the well-known yellow exclamation mark by them.
    I have no clue how to find out what exactly they are. Once I know that, I can probably find the drivers at the Intel or Asus site but since I don’t know…
    The Asus site is not very informative; I remember these kind of situations with Dell laptops where I would just typpe in the service tag online and I’d see my whole configuration with all the drivers there.

    Really hope can give me a hint on how to figure this out; in the meanwhile: I’m all “Zen”with my Asus on Win7, thanks!

    • Wow, nice to know you appreciate my research.
      Yes you have to delete all partitions, I forgot to mention that. Windows 7 will create MFT and partitions itself. I just formatted them all within Windows 7 installation setup.
      I can also see that I have some “exclamation mark”-drivers. I found that one of them might be related to “Aeroplane mode”, but I looked and could not find drivers for Windows 7. I found the following URL http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-hardware/unknown-device-named-pci-data-acquisition-and/a258413f-6e73-481a-9078-a45170452c04. In it they talk about one of the exclamation points I have, the “PCI data acquisition and signal processing controller” which seems to be related to the “ASUS Wireless Radio Control (A driver to make you switch Airplane mode(Wireless) On/Off)”. I can continue the research if you want, but I will be on a trip next week and need the laptop to be in working order. I don’t want to mess anything up ;-)

      • I managed to get rid of all the unknown devices and exclamation marks. That doesn’t take away that I’m still not sure if everything works like it should; there’s some funny looking icons on some keys (a square with a “S” below the C key for example) which don’t do anything so far so there’s a chance that I’m missing out on a seriously awesome Asus feature here but I wouldn’t know what it could be.

        What I did: I installed the Intel Driver Update Utility which updated a couple of drivers to newer versions and I think it also installed one for a device that was listed as unkown. That still left me with a couple missing so I looked in the Details tab of the properties of the devices that were lacking drivers and then googled the device-id’s (in combination with “Intel”, “Asus” or whatever other search term I thought appropriate). That way I managed to find all the drivers in about one evening of searching and testing.

        Still need to do some research on the “missing” function keys (probably not driver-related but asus software) and need to test the network and vga connectors but I rarely use those. So far so good. Thansk again for inspiring me; I really thought it could’nt be done on these laptops untill I read your blog.

        Cheers!

        • Nice work, Koen. It is also nice to know that you find my post useful.
          This weekend I went to Singapore and I had to install Windows 7 on another ASUS. I will write about this project shortly.
          Unfortunately, the laptop that this post is about was only a loan from my university, so I don’t have it in my possession anymore.

  5. Excellent help here. I have succeeded in my Win8.1-ectomy and was able to install Windows 7 Ultimate.

    A couple of notes:
    – I created a backup of Win8.1 first
    – I had to delete all the GPT partitions on the SSD since Win7 will not boot from a GPT drive. However, this allowed me to have one, larger partition for Win7
    – You must turn off “Fast Boot” in UEFI if you want the machine to look for F2 or ESC keypresses at boot time (so you can control boot order, and select your USB device).

  6. Five months in and I’m still using Win 7 on this laptop. Question for other: how much battery life are you seeing? I’m getting about 4 hours or so, and that’s not great considering that under Win 8.1 this machine gets closer to 8 hours. Has anyone found any power management setting/software that help manage this? I’ve been using the Asus power management tool “Power4Gear Hybrid”.

    If I can’t figure out how to get better power management I might have to give Win10 a try. Blech.

    • Hello David, nice of you to come back to the site and updating. This is a very interesting issue. Just to update you on things: I borrowed the laptop for a project this spring and then I gave it back to the University. However, I am now involved with yet another project, with the same laptop. Unfortunately the researchers had installed Ubuntu, so I had to install Windows 7 again (I used this article to figure out how to do it). So, I will be using it for a while longer.

      So, I have researched this issue and, as you stated in your comment, when the laptop is using the battery the estimated time left is around 4 hours. So, what is happening here? According to http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/31431-sleep-states-available-your-windows-8-pc.html what’s new in Windows 8 seems to be many more “power states” and a “instant on/off user experience”. This seems to basically improve the way the battery is used, but still give the same user experience as with Win 7.

      I believe that since the laptop is basically built for Win 8, Microsoft made sure the hardware was utilized in the most energy efficient way possible. Maybe this is impossible to achieve using software on top of Win 7, I don’t know. If I had two “Zen”, one with Win 7 and one with Win 8, I would test the battery by letting the CPU run on 100%. If the Win 8 one lasts longer, then there is little one can do. However, if we don’t see any difference, then it all comes down to utilizing the CPU in a smart way.

  7. First of all, thank you very much for this very good and helpful report! I managed to install W7 on a UX301L without many problems. There is one thing, though:

    The sleep and hibernating modes do not work. Whenever I close the ultrabook or whenever I just leave it on until the sleep period is reached, the system just turns completely off. Meanang, when I try to wake it up, it asks me if I want to start in safe or normal mode.

    I have tried to install InstantOn and Power4GH, but no change.

    Do you also have encountered this? Any suggestions?

    Thanks a lot for any hints!

    Gary

    • Unfortunately I don’t have access to the laptop anymore, so I cannot try it out for myself. However, I used hibernation with no problem. I would try to download all updates from windows and look for any drivers related to power management. I would check if the laptop has Advanced Power Management enabled. If so, it can interfere with BIOS settings, so I’ve heard.

      A tip that might help: when I hibernate on my desktop computer I have a failsafe method for the times when it will not reboot at all. This happens quite often, but I found a solution to this particular problem. The issue was memory leakage in Firefox (or via extensions in FF). To solve this I simply save my tabs with session manager and kill Firefox before I hibernate. I can now wake the computer up every time without problems.

  8. Matz, thanks for your suggestions. Interesting that you didn’t encounter this problem.
    I haven’t found any clues looking at the drivers, so I decided to use this workaround: In advanced power settings I chose “do nothing” when the lid is closed and chose “shut down” when the power button is pressed.
    This works for me.

    Thanks a lot,

    Gary

  9. Many, many thanks for this guide!! I’ve now removed win 8 and managed to install win 7 on my asus zenbook ux301l instead.

    One question: Is it not possible to find drivers for USB 3.0 and use that in Win 7? and to switch XHCI on again?
    Again, big thanks!!

  10. Hi!

    No, I didn’t work to install Win 7 on my asus zenbook ux301l. It became unstable and I had to go back to Win 10 for it.

    Regards

    Peter

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