New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide

Introduction

Imagine that you have just ordered a new Dell laptop, such as a Dell Precision 7750. You are anxiously waiting for it to show up at your doorstep, and you are trying to get ready to start using it. Your plan is to swap out some components and also install a fresh copy of Windows 10 Professional. This New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide is designed to help you do that.

Do Some Research

Before I buy any laptop, I always do some research to determine whether I will be able to swap out the RAM and storage. The best way to confirm this is to find the service manual for your machine. For example, the Dell Precision 7750 Service Manual is here. Once you have the manual, you will know for sure what you can do, and you will have instructions for how to do it.

New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide
Dell Precision 7750 Service Manual

Many new laptops from Dell (and other vendors) do NOT have user serviceable components. Their RAM and storage is soldered in place, or you just can’t get to it for replacement.

Don’t Let Dell Gouge You on Components!

Dell, like most hardware vendors, is very happy to charge absolutely outrageous prices for RAM and M.2 storage. Don’t fall for that if you can avoid it!

If the model laptop you are considering has user serviceable RAM and storage, then you can usually save a significant amount of money by buying your components from Amazon, Newegg or Micro Center.

Memory Pricing

For example, Dell charges a $599.64 upgrade price for two 32GB DDR4-2933 non-ECC SODIMMs. You can get similar (and probably better) RAM on Amazon for less than half that price.

You can see the very high upgrade pricing for RAM that Dell is currently offering.

New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide
Dell Laptop Memory Prices

M.2 Storage Pricing

Dell storage pricing is even more outrageous. They use different storage vendors as they see fit, and they just break down their available SSD choices with different numerical classifications, from Class 20 to Class 50.

For example, Dell charges an $1,129.55 upgrade price for a 2TB M.2 NVMe Class 40 SSD. You have no idea what brand or model it is, or what its specifications are. In contrast, Amazon sells the 2TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus for about $330.00. That Samsung drive is probably better than what Dell is offering for nearly four times the price. You can also get much higher capacity M.2 drives from vendors like Sabrent.

These are extremely high prices for M.2 storage from Dell.

New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide
Dell Laptop Storage Prices

Unfortunately, Dell (and other hardware vendors) will not sell you a new system with no RAM or storage. What you want to do is configure the system for purchase using the least expensive RAM and storage that they offer. Typically, that means one 8GB SODIMM of RAM and one 256GB M.2 SSD. Then you buy less expensive (and probably better) components that you choose, and install them yourself.

My System Has Arrived!

Ok, so what do you do now? Here is what I typically do, in this order.

  • Unbox it and turn it on to confirm that it is not DOA from the factory
    • Go ahead and go through the standard “out of box” Windows first boot experience using the factory installed RAM, storage and Windows 10 image
    • Go ahead and let it run Windows Update
  • Check to see if it needs a BIOS update and update the BIOS if necessary
  • After the BIOS update, shut it down and unplug it
  • Consult your service manual while you disassemble it to remove the factory RAM and storage
    • Set the factory RAM and storage aside in case you need it later
  • Install the RAM that you bought
    • Make sure you install either two or four SODIMMs that are equal capacity and specs
  • Install the primary M.2 storage that you bought for your boot drive
    • If you have additional M.2 drives, leave them out for now
    • The Windows 10 installation will sometimes put things on other drives, which you don’t want
    • You can probably leave the bottom cover off for now
  • Use another system to download and create Windows 10 installation media on an 8GB or larger USB 3.0/3.1 flash drive
  • Insert that drive in a USB 3.0/3.1 port and turn on your new laptop
    • The Windows 10 installation should automatically start
    • Don’t enter a license key now. It is better to do it later
    • You can choose “I don’t have a license key” during setup
  • After Windows 10 is installed, see if you have WiFi or Ethernet connectivity
    • With most new systems, the default Windows drivers will work to get you started
    • If not, use another system to download the Dell WiFi or Ethernet driver for your system
  • Change the Windows Power Plan to High Performance
    • Make sure you are plugged into a wall outlet rather than running on the battery
    • This gives you much better performance for running Windows Update
  • Let Windows Update run as necessary to get Windows fully updated
    • You might have to go through several rounds of updates and reboots
  • Run Windows Disk Cleanup when you are done doing this
    • Choose the “Cleanup System Files” option
  • Rename your machine in Windows
  • If you have additional M.2 storage, you can install it now
    • Turn off and uplug the system first
    • You can reinstall the bottom cover now
  • For Dell systems, download the latest Dell Command Update utility
    • This will let you automatically download and install the latest Dell drivers for your system
  • If you have 3rd party storage (such as Samsung SSDs), download and install their drivers
  • If you have a discrete graphics card, you can try to download and install the latest driver for that card
    • This will probably be newer than what Dell offers
    • Some laptops won’t let you do this
  • After you have installed and patched Windows and installed all the latest drivers, if everything is working and you are happy with the system, you can use your license key to activate Windows
    • Don’t use your license key until you get this far
  • Finally, you can install whatever other programs that you will be using

Related Posts

I have some other related posts that might be of interest.

Final Words

Remember, all of this assumes that your system has user serviceable components, and that you are willing and able to work on your system to install different components. If you are going to install a fresh copy of Windows 10, you will eventually need a license key to activate it.

I know that many people have absolutely no interest in taking their brand new expensive laptop apart to do something like this. They would rather just pay extra, and avoid the hassle of doing this work themselves.

On the other hand, this sort of work is not really that hard, and some people actually enjoy doing it. If you have the right tools, and you are careful, you should be able to do it with no major problems. A toolkit like this is very, very handy for working on laptops.

I hope my New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide has been useful for you!

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

PC Hardware

2 thoughts on “New Dell Laptop Preparation Guide

  1. Hey Glenn! I liked your detailed step-by-step new Dell laptop preparation guide & I feel your article will help people lot who are planning for a new Dell laptop. Excellent share, keep it up!!

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