Lenovo x120e - How to install clean version of Windows 7

The Lenovo x120e ships with either Windows 7 Home Premium x64 or Windows 7 Professional x64 pre-installed, as well as a whole bunch of manufacturer bloat. I always prefer a clean install of Windows 7. This is a quick guide on how to do this for the x120e, and other Lenovo models:

Step 1 - Download x120e Network Drivers: 
Download the network drivers for the x120e from the Lenovo support website. Namely, go to the Lenovo support site, search for "x120e", and click on the link for the corresponding model number (printed on the back of the machine). Then download the Ethernet and WiFi LAN drivers shown in the image below. Save these on a USB stick.
Step 2 - Prepare Windows Bootable USB
The x120e does not have a CD/DVD drive, so you must install Windows from a bootable USB. You can legally download the official Windows 7 installation images from here. Namely, you will want to download the Windows 7 Home Premium x64 image from the above page (direct link). You'll end up with a 3GB .iso file.

Next, you need to make a bootable USB. For this, download and install the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. Run the tool, and step through the simple wizard to copy the .iso image onto a USB stick (4GB minimum size) and make it bootable.

Note that this will erase all data on the USB stick. You can copy the network drivers back onto the stick after copying the .iso file, and place them in a directory, say "drivers".

Step 3 - Write down Windows Serial Key
The Windows license key for the machine is printed on a sticker underneath the battery. So turn off the machine and remove the battery. Write down the license key from the sticker that says "Windows" on it onto a piece of paper. Double-check it's accurate.

Step 4 - Boot from USB and Install Windows
Power off the x120e. Insert the USB stick with Windows that you prepared above. Press the power button to turn it on, and continuously press the F12 key over and over again. This will take you to a boot menu, where you need to select USB and press enter. This will now launch the standard Windows 7 installer. Follow the prompts and install as normal.

Step 5 - Installing Lenovo Drivers
Once Windows has finished installing, you'll need to connect the laptop to the internet. Install the network drivers that you downloaded earlier -- either the Ethernet driver if you're going to connect via a physical cable, or the WiFi driver if you will connect via wireless.

Once you have an internet connection, go back to the Lenovo x120e support website and download the ThinkVantage System Update utility. This is Lenovo's own driver update tool. Install and run this, and it will find all the latest drivers that you need and automatically install them all for you.

Step 6 - Done!
The ThinkVantage System Updater is a great tool. It really saves a lot of time and hassle and it ensures that you have the best and latest drivers for your machine.

As a final step, you may want to also run the standard Windows 7 "color calibration" utility (search for it in the start menu). I find the standard colors on the x120e screen a bit too bright and too blue. After calibration though, it looks much better!

    Comments

    1. Richard, thanks a million for this guide. Saved me a lot of time - excellent clarity, detail, and helpful links.

      ReplyDelete
    2. Hello,
      i have been looking for this. i also faced this problem many times but after reading this article i fixed it. Thanks for sharing this post.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Thanks Richard.
      I have been looking for this and finally found it!

      Great job!!

      ReplyDelete
    4. Many thanks for your useful post, Richard. Just wanted to know one more thing. What do you need to do if you want to uninstall the OEM Windows 7 from your laptop and clean install a retail Windows 7 for which you have a genuine key and activation rights? Do you still have to edit the sources/ei.cfg file as you have suggested above? Is that you CANNOT do a clean install of a retail Windows 7 on a laptop which had an OEM operating system earlier?

      ReplyDelete
    5. I have just tested this new Video Drivers on my freshly formatted win7 x64 Professional.
      This one is latest
      http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/downloads/detail.page?DocID=DS029185

      ReplyDelete
    6. what is the right storage size for usb stick for doing this clean install on x120e?

      ReplyDelete
    7. This guide does not mention the Lenovo Q: Recovery drive that comes with the x120e. Is this drive not used at all for this process???

      Also, can I use a USB harddrive with other data on it as a boot disk to install windows?

      ReplyDelete
    8. Excellent article. Clear step by step guide. Good links.

      ReplyDelete
    9. I really can't thank you enough. Couldn't have done it without your clearly laid out process. You saved my fav laptop from the trash !

      ReplyDelete

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