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  • MSI GTX 1070 MXM successfully working on Alienware M17X R4 (another socket victory against BGA crap)


    An0npl4y

    Hello all here at T|I, I have good news!

     

    OK so it's a lon,g story, I'll try to make it short but I want to give as much informations as possible so it can help anyone interested about such project.

     

    The story is how to go from this (stock 675m):

     

    firestrike-stock.png

     

    To this (MSI GTX 1070 MXM):

     

    firestrike-1070-oc.png

     

    I used to be a gamer when I was younger, then I worked a lot and had no time to play. I came back to gaming last year, and noticed my 2012 M17X R4 was not really up to date for gaming, so it needed to be upgraded. Before you try to do the same, you must be sure you have pretty good knowledge of computer hardware and software, because you may brick your laptop or your GPU in this process, be careful!

     

    In order to get a MSI GTX 1070 MXM fully working on a Alienware M17X R4, you need:

     

    - unlocked BIOS

    - the 120 Hz screen

    - UEFI boot with GPT partition

    - find a MSI GTX 1070 MXM

    - dremel the chassis

    - mod the heatsink so it can fit the GPU

    - make good BIOS settings so you can boot with the new GPU

    - install driver with modded .inf

    - fix GPU throttling issue

     

    OK, let's go for the big upgrade, step by step.

     

    Unlocked BIOS

     

    Eveything you need to know is here: https://www.techinferno.com/index.php?/forums/topic/1516-m17x-r4-unlocked-bios-versions/ Thanks to svl7 for this great share!

     

    120 Hz screen

     

    You can find it on Ebay, for example here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/162380820165?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    It's required because pascal GPUs need EDP mode to run. The nice thing is there is one LVDS connector in M17X R4 motherboard, even if you have a 60 Hz screen, so you can make the upgrade.

    It's pretty easy to install, but you may have no boot issue with it, like I had. This is when I had to install unlocked BIOS so I can set graphic settings which let laptop boot with the 120 Hz screen. From what I remember, required setting  was "Primary display" to PEG, see here:

     

    primary-display-peg.JPG

     

    GPT partition and UEFI BOOT

     

    I had MBR partition, and since I'm using my laptop for working I didn't want to reinstall everything. I used a very nice tool to convert my system SSD parition from MBR to GPT called EASEUS Partition Master (they also provide partition and data recovery tools for years, maybe you already know this company): http://www.easeus.com/partition-manager-software/convert-mbr-to-gpt.html

    They offered a discount so is cost me around 30$ to convert without having to reinstall, which is cheap for the time and all datas it saved me.

     

    Then, you just need to make sure your boot options are set to pure UEFI, which means Load Legacy option ROM is disabled, here in the BIOS:

     

    load-legacy-disabled.JPG

     

    I noticed it can't be disabled if you're running a GPU which vbios doesn't have UEFI compliant driver. If this is the case, you'll get the "can't detect MXM card GOP driver" error like this:

     

    gop-driver-error.JPG

     

    Once again, thanks to svl7 you can fix this using vbios with UEFI driver for your GPU: https://www.techinferno.com/index.php?/forums/topic/2079-m14x-r2-m17x-r4-m18x-r2-uefi-fast-boot-secure-boot-gpu-issues-solved/ This is not what I did, I just enabled integrated graphics again (it's UEFI compliant), so I can disable Load legacy option. Then I could put the 1070 in, and boot successfully. With this option enabled, I had 8 beeps "GPU not recognized" error at boot, stuck with no POST like a loser.

     

    GO BUY A GTX 1070 MXM

     

    Here too, you can get headaches. It's expensive, and hard to find. I searched a lot, and I can give you a few advices. For me, you have mainly 3 choices:

     

    - contact Lee James Wood, who is member of this forum and very serious seller: https://www.techinferno.com/index.php?/profile/3501-lee-james-wood/

    You can also check his website: https://store.alezka.com/en/ and his Ebay store: http://stores.ebay.com/woodzstack666?_trksid=p2047675.l2563

    I must say I contacted him, and at one point I had no answer, so I contacted another seller. But he explained me it was because for some reason he didn't received notification from the forum so he didn't knew my message, and missed the sale. But even he was not the seller, he gave me some advices which were really helpful when I was stuck with 8 beeps no boot problem because of the Legacy mode yesterday. Thanks a lot man, maybe you missed this sale but I'm sure you'll get lot of others since you're so helpful, thanks again!

     

    - go buy directly from China, where you can find it much cheaper. You have one chinese marketplace to rule them all: it's called taobao: https://world.taobao.com/

    Problem is if you don't speak chinese, you may have trouble just to get their chat software working, it's same kind as alibaba trade manager for those who knows. So buying from taobao is like entring an unknown area, sellers there mostly only speak chinese, some don't want to sell out of China, so it's really weird to buy from there. But prices are really interesting, for example around 3000 Yuans (410$) for a GTX 1060 MXM, and around 4900 yuans (665$) for a GTX 1070 MXM. If you're looking for a cheap pascal MXM GPU, this may feel like heaven:

     

    taobao-1070-mxm.png

     

     

    -instead of trying to learn chinese, find a way to make dropship. There are lot of companies for taobao drophip, like Yoybuy for example.

    I found a russian MSI forum member whose nickname is Onside182, his name is Andrew and I made the deal with him. He knows Taobao sellers, so he dealt with that for me. He was serious and helpful too, and you can chose to contact him on russian forum: https://forum-ru.msi.com/index.php?action=profile;u=1111063 (you must be registered there to see his profile), or just contact me so I give you his email address, he'll deal for your taobao order and you can pay him with paypal.

     

    Let's make some room inside

     

    Yeah  know it's bad, but honestly I don't care about chassis integrity when it's time to get overkill Firestrike score. So yes, you have to dremel the chassis to make some room so the MSI GTX 1070 will fit in. First, you need to disassemble the whole laptop, so you can get the motherboard out:

     

    m17x-r4-teardown.JPG

     

    You need to remove little sides on the MXM connector, so the card can fit in. Before

     

    mxm-before.JPG

     

    After:

     

    mxm-after.JPG

     

    You must get a modified MXM connector like that:

     

    mxm-connector.JPG

     

    Then you also need to cut part of the chassis, here is the result:

     

    chassis-cut-1.JPG

     

    chassis-cut-2.JPG

     

    Now, you can install the card:

     

    gtx-1070-in.JPG

     

    MOD the GPU heatsink to improve cooling

     

    Here you have 2 ways: keep stock heatsink, and mod it so it can fit as explained here: https://www.techinferno.com/index.php?/forums/topic/10982-m17x-r4-gtx-1060-upgrade/#comment-155003

    Or build a custom made heatsink. This is what I did, I ordered this heatsink with the GPU: https://world.taobao.com/item/540331819333.htm?spm=a312a.7700714.0.0.ZzDuN1#detail%201%20sortie%20sur%20le%20cot%C3%A9%20ok%20et%204%C3%A8me%20stripe%20pour%20cpu%20ok

    It was designed for a MSI computer, but it can be modified for the M17X R4 since copper stripes are soldered horizontally. You need to unsolder it, and solder the copper stripes and radiator from stock heatsink instead. You also need to cut off the part which must cover the CPU heatsink, which is not useful. This way, you have a more efficient heatsink, because it was designed for pascal GPU:

     

    heatsink.JPG

     

    Soldering heatsinks is crap, when you heat one side, you can easily unsolder the other side by mistake because all heat will be transmitted everywhere very quicly. The trick is to put side you don't want to unsolder in water, and heat the other side where you want to unsolder with a torch. But I warn you: soldering this stuff is a real nightmare.

    With my modded heatsink (which is so ugly and crappy I can't even make picture of it for now), I reached 72°C max while benchmarking, which seems to be pretty good temp. Right now writing on forum, GPU temp is at 55°c.

     

    Spend some time finding the good BIOS settings

     

    You'll have to try out some settings, and you may have no boot issues, black screens, and many errors. You'll feel very lonely at this time, I know. But searching forums saved me most of the time! If you're in trouble, just search and ask :)

     

    You can boot? Well you still have to wait a little until it works!

     

    Once we're here, we can boot with the GTX 1070 inside the laptop, and it appears as something like Microsoft basic display in Windows device manager. So we need to download official driver from Nvidia, extract it and mod the .inf file. I used this howto: http://null-bin.blogspot.fr/2015/08/how-to-modify-nvidia-notebook-driver.html

    There are many others, it's well documented on the web.

     

    Lines I added are those ones:

     

    %NVIDIA_DEV.1BE1.057B.1028% = Section408, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_1BE1&SUBSYS_057B1028
    
    and
    
    NVIDIA_DEV.1BE1.057B.1028 = "NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070"

    Then it just installed fine after disabling Windows driver signature enforcement of course. I could even install whole Nvidia Geforce experience stuff.

     

    The GPU POWER LIMIT throttling issue

     

    OK so you think it's installed, now it's over, after all those countless hours searching, testing and tweaking our good old M17X R4? Of course you launch a benchmark, and now you notice another problem. GPU core frequency is good, then it goes low, then it goes high again, then low again... GPU is throttling. I went into HWinfo, and noticed GPU power consumption was going higher than 110W, then I had GPU throttle, it went down around 50W, then it went up again, and so on... I searched and found nothing. I thought it was because I only have 240W PSU and I must change for a 330W one. Then and angel appeared and said to me "Hey, man, this must be a BIOS setting related issue, just fix it". So I went in the BIOS again, and I noticed this setting called "adapter warning". I just disabled it, and now it's running fine. When checking, I can see I still have POWER LIMIT message, but it doesn't slow down GPU frequency, no throttling anymore.

     

    This is the funny part where the 2012 laptop kicks ass to BGA craps

     

    Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! We can say we made it, the MSI GTX 1070 is working in the Alienware M17X R4:

     

    gpuz-1070.gif

     

    Now, please have a look at this latest Alienware 17 R3 (BGA crap) Firestrike result: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/8941795 Yeah I know, this is serious expensive hardware we have here: a 6820HK CPU and a GTX 1070, such Alienware laptop must cost around 2500$, no? Of course, my poor old laptop cannot not beat this beast, what do you think?

     

    SI_Wii_PunchOut.png

     

    Here is benchmak I just made today, with little OC, it's not optimized at all: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/19201328

     

    Ladies and gentlemen, on the left we have my 2012 M17X R4, and on the right a brand new 17 R3: http://www.3dmark.com/compare/fs/12289770/fs/8941795 :)

     

    To finish, before I can go at last trying to play GTA 5 at maxxed out settings, here are some links which were very useful, and can help if you want to make such mods.

     

    MSI 1070 in Alienware ranger by loafer987: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/msi-1070-in-alienware-17-r1-ranger-success.797893/

    German Alienware forum with huge CPU and GPU heatsink mods: http://alienware-forum.de/index.php/Thread/7254-AW-17-R1-CPU-Heatsink-Pipe-Mod/

    http://alienware-forum.de/index.php/Thread/7254-AW17-R1-CPU-GPU-Heatsink-Pipe-Mod/?pageNo=2

    http://alienware-forum.de/index.php/Thread/8042-AW17-R1-3D-120Hz-GTX-980-N16E-GXX/?postID=69530#post69530

    Zotac BOX GTX 1070 MXM in Alienware 17: http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/alienware-17-r5-gtx-1070-mxm-3-1b.800137/

     

    I hope sharing all those informations helped M17X R4 owners to keep faith in this old good laptop. I'm pretty sure it can also handle a GTX 1080 by the way, if someone is willing to try (I can't be the guinea pig for the next step) it would be nice ;)


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    here is stock speeds for an AW17 I just modded for the same 1070 version.

    http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/19211309

     

    So as you can see, your 1070 there is performing admirably. In my bench here, the CPU is bottlenecking the GPU maybe up to 10%

     

    Oh another thing, not trying to advertise my services, but when i sell a 1070 or any videocard for that matter, I make sure it has the right vbios on it to avoid having extra issues. 

     

    I do not use SVL7 or Prema vbioses, ours are not overvolted as a means to get them stable, we just use better vbioses. However, I would LOVE to work with Prema or SVL7 but there's been no communication back and forth me and them for so many years...

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    Hello,

     

    The card is latest hardware version, it's VER 1.2 as you can see on PCB:

     

    1070-ver-1.2.JPG

     

    I asked for it because I wanted to have latest hardware, maybe it can make a little difference. Seller asked which vbios I wanted so I told him to put standard MSI vbios, which is working fine. But I saw some MSI users had problems with same vbios, with GT73VR 6RE laptop: https://forum-en.msi.com/index.php?topic=280126.63

    Also MSI released a newer vbios: https://www.msi.com/Laptop/support/GT73VR-6RE-Titan.html#down-firmware but since everything is running fine for now, I have no reason to flash vbios.

     

    I played a little last evening, GPU temps was between 69°c up to 72°c max, so it looks good. I tried little OC but I'm not getting much better FS score, best I did was this one: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/19208257 I'm only playing with MSI Afterburner settings, I don't want to install vbios which can allow to change voltage. I think this is very high performance for such a laptop, no reason to search for more. This is expensive GPU, I want to protect it.

     

    I think with 330W PSU and a 3940XM CPU, I could improve performance a little more. From what I read, Xtreme CPU can allow to use RAM at 2133 MHz max clock. I have G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3 2133MHz but I have to set RAM frequency lower, at 1867 MHz in BIOS or I get a BSOD one minute after booting.

     

    Anyway, this is good enough for my 5 years old laptop :thumbsup:

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    Wow, Seeing the old machines shining brighter than the castrated BGA crap is really feast. Kudos for the Hardmod and Gratz..!!
    Thanks for the share..

     

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    Thanks biggthumpup1.gif

     

    A little work on the CPU overclock today helped improve this with even higher Firestrike score: http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/19225824 :rofl:

     

    Other good news of the day, my M17X R4 is fully VR ready according to steam test:

     

    steam-vr-bench.png

     

    I don't think I can go higher right now, but keep in mind it's a 2012 laptop here :)

     

    By the way, while tweaking GPU with MSI Afterburner today, I noticed when I use too high settings, there is no artifacts like I was used to with older cards. Driver is just crashing at some point when benchmarking, so I know it's too high and I need to calm it down. Is it normal behavior with Pascal GPUs?

     

    Those cards are still quite recent, I guess in the future vbios tweakers will release optimized vbioses which will allow to really use full power of this kind of GPU.

     

    I think with a 3940XM and optimized vbios it may reach near 14k FS score...

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    Awesome project with a cool result, I also needed a new laptop for my gaming needs but I couldn't say farewell to my old trusty alienware. I personally got the gtx1060 with the 120hz screen and i7 3940xm. Still an awesome result, have fun with your machine! :o)

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    Hello,

     

    Thanks :)

     

    You asked about the unlocked BIOS before editing the post, so I answer about it:

     

    I don't think it's required if you already have the 120 Hz screen. But if you have to make the upgrade from 60 Hz screen to 120 Hz screen, with stock BIOS you can get stuck because some settings are not available. This is why I had to install unlocked BIOS, and it saved me for the 120 Hz screen upgrade. Otherwise, it's not mandatory.

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    Hmm that's pretty weird, because I personally had the 60hz model as well with the AMD HD7970m. Though I had no problems installing the 120hz screen on the 1060, after I installed everything it worked perfectly fine, plug and play. But that does kinda worry me for in the future if my 120hz might act weird. I currently got the normal A12 bios, what's the best way to go to the unlocked bios? If I read svl's thread then I first have to go to Bios A5  using the recovery method, though it's risky and I'd rather not brick my motherboard, what did you personally do @An0npl4y?

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    Hello,

     

    If everything is running fine, there's no reason why you have to flash the BIOS. I had to do it because in my case it was required, since I was stuck and couldn't boot with the 120 Hz screen, but it may not be the same for everybody. I think the need for unlocked BIOS will depend on production date, default settings and default GPU when the laptop was produced.

     

    I followed method 2 described in svl7's thread, so I went directly from A13 to unlocked A11 using the FPT tool, it's very well explained in his thread and you can find all files and required tools.

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    Well Done and great work !!! :frantics:

     

    could you please give us a step by step guide for the installation of this 1070,

     

    I have an m17x r4 120 hz and a gtx 680m and i would like to buy a gtx 1070 and install it on my laptop. 

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    Hello,

     

    @naightmehrYou just need to wait a little, and you'll be promoted so you can have access to all files.

     

    @decool: Thanks, I gave lot of details in my thread which should help you, you can see all required steps so you can have a working GTX 1070 into your M17X R4. I also had a 680m before this upgrade, which was an upgrade from a 675m. If you already have the 120 Hz screen, you need to make sure you're running in pure UEFI and not Legacy (you can see that in BIOS, check my pictures). Then you just have to get a 1070, dremel the chassis and the connectors on the mobo, mod the heatsink and you can put the 1070 in.

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    You need a full UEFI installation , make the hardware-mod to the bottom base (see the pictures here) and maybe a hardware-mod to the heatsink to make the card suitable.

    Then you just need a driver mod and thats it.

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    Here are my laptop specs :

     

    Alienware M17xr4 - I7 3740 - GTX 680m - 16 Go RAM - 256 SSD Samsung 840 Pro - 750 HDD - Full HD 3D 120 hz

     

    is that ok ?

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    Yes this is OK, you can upgrade your GPU whatever CPU, RAM, SSD or HDD you're using. I explained all requirements on the thread.

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    @decool if I were you, I'd go with a gtx1060, performance-wise it's still going to run all games perfectly fine at 1080P and it'll work great with the 120hz screen. The gtx1070 requires a bit more modding as explained in this thread, since you're probably not very experienced, I'd say the gtx1060 would be perfect for you.

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    I'll wait for the stress test on the 1070, i hope it runs fine

     

    The 1060 is less powerful the the 980 :(

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    @decool The 1060 beats the 980 while the power consumption is lower, also finding a desktop grade 980 for a laptop is really hard, and it probably might not even work, overheating, not enough power. And the gtx1060 beats the 980m hands down.

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    You're correct, in benchmarks the 980 outperforms the 1060. But in games the difference is minimum, if that's what you're going to use it for. But looking at it rationally the 1060 would outperform the 980 if you compare other factors like, almost the same performance but vastly lower power consumption, thinner card, longer battery life, lower temps and it's a newer generation card so it has more features, though I cannot support that last argument since I'm not too experienced with the features. :P

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    Hello,

     

    I don't know where they get those values, if you take one benchmark alone you can find all kinds of results, but most benchmarks are getting best results with GTX 1060 than with 980m. On Firestrike, graphics score is around 12k with a 1060: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/11110201 (AW 15 R3) or http://www.3dmark.com/fs/11542451 (AW 13 R3). Score is around 9k to 10k for a 980m: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/6964861 (AW 15 R2) or http://www.3dmark.com/fs/7358145 (AW 17 R3). You can find better scores for the 980m since this card is more common, it has been widely overclocked and there is modified vbios available.

     

    Best deal between those 2 cards is if you can find the 1060 for 500$ or cheaper. If not, you can try finding a 980m around 450$, it's still a good deal, altough it's an old generation GPU now.

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    On 4/17/2017 at 1:13 PM, decool said:

    Here are my laptop specs :

     

    Alienware M17xr4 - I7 3740 - GTX 680m - 16 Go RAM - 256 SSD Samsung 840 Pro - 750 HDD - Full HD 3D 120 hz

     

    is that ok ?

    I call dibs on the 680m lol! well if you do upgrade that is, im stuck between keeping the just about usless 3d function or update for better gfx, its more the wifes machine while the evga rig i built her gathers dust >_< but alas, was looking into an upgrade and while this is a wild bump in performance she only plays one game, FF XiV so no real need to have something so strong, maybe a 980m or an 880m bah so much to do so little time ^_^

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    Have you noticed that you're talking about the GTX 980 (Laptop) and not about the GTX 980M?

    The GTX 980 (Laptop) has an extra power connector and needs some work to the bottom base like the GTX 1070.

     

    The GTX 980M has no extra power connector and fits without any work to the bottom base like the GTX 1060. They are both nearly plug and play and the GTX 980M is on place 39 on notebookcheck.

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    Good to see successful upgrades to 1070.

    I want to get one, but they are so expensive, and then I dont know where I could sell my current 980m, I dont think that 500$ to go from 980m to 1060 is worth it, its a bit faster yes, but not 500$ faster..

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    Hello,

     

    980m i still selling at high price and there are buyers for it so you can easily sell it on marketplace such as Ebay. Then, if you want I can give you email of my russian contact who can get you a 1060 for interesting price, so upgrade won't cost you 500$ in the end but maybe around 200 to 300 only. If you can sell your 980m for a good price (I see it can be sold between 450$ to 550$), you can even upgrade to a 1070 for 300 to 400$ in the end, which seems interesting.

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      Cleaned everything, no dust left anywhere.
      Carefully checked the GPU for any visible damage or old TIM residue.
      Tried undervolting and underclocking, only took longer to get to 88C and still crashed.
      For the sake of it I actually strapped a Corsair H45 AIO to the GPU heatsink. Now i get to max 55C with furmark, but the laptop still cashes after around 2 minutes.
       
      I would be happy for any suggestion, thanks!
    • By 71hourahmed
      I'm looking at finally upgrading my m17x from its old 7970m to a 980m, but the person I contacted to buy the card from warned me that the 980m requires a 200W power supply, and win10 (I'm still on 7, but I can upgrade easily enough, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem).
       
      I have read that the 7970m only required 100W, so I have no idea if my laptop would even be able to power the 980m or whether this would just be a waste of several hundred pounds. Can anyone clarify?
       
      Also, I have read on here that installing a new card in an m17x require you to manually update the video drivers, but I'm afraid that I'm not quite sure what that means, exactly - would I need to rely on kindly users on here to keep uploading new modded versions of the video drivers in perpetuity, or is it just that I need to somehow tweak the installation on new drivers in future?
    • By SenikTheFasthog
       
      Good day,

      I am the owner of a used m18x r2 struggling to build it back up into a functional machine. The previous user had his system installed in RAID mode which won't suffice for my desired SSD boot speeds. I've ensured that both AHCI and UEFI are active in the A11 BIOS. I have also ensured to clean the main drive via diskpart CMD upon custom installing my copy of Win 7 Ultimate. Oddly enough, when the setup completes, I'll get an error message stating windows can't finish configuring and needs to restart. Heeding this message will only cause it to happen again on the next reboot, so CMD to the rescue and creating and off to making user account I go. Unfortunately, boot speeds are as slow as ever and I've verified that no RAID controllers have been left installed in the device manager. So far, my only potential lead is that I've noticed during each boot, Windows mentions that "Setup Is Updating Registry Settings" after about of minute of Starting Windows. I've been researching this exact string but I can't say I've found a concrete solution to attempt just yet.

      So here I am, requesting for advice as to what I should check next.

      Thanks in advance!

      EDIT: I've tried out a new install accessing the CD through legacy but still keeping the SDD Boot drive on UEFI mode. So far haven't had to mess with CMD anymore to proceed nor has the Setup needed to Update Registry Settings. I also remembered to install the intel rapid storage driver.  Alas, I'm still left with 2 minute boot times(particularly on the Starting Windows screen), so the problem still remains.

      EDIT2: Diagnosing with a Boot Manager, I discovered it takes about a minute before svchost even starts running. So with that, I ruled out it wasn't a software problem. I then decided on the possibility that maybe the other drives could be interfering with booting. Pulling out the other HDDs had no effect, but the actual culprit was the mSATA SSD that was left in from the last user. Now I can enter windows in 3 seconds!

      Even fishier, this mSATA drive says its 32 GB but Speccy says its a 1GB drive. But that's a problem for another time, at last my 850 EVO is showing off its expecting speeds.
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