Following steps worked for me to clean install Windows 10 on Samsung Pro 950 NVMe SSD on Alienware 17 R3.
Critical step was step 4 to ensure you have the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (Intel RST) RAID Driver files handy or your nvme drive might not be recognized by windows installation.
1. Install latest BIOS from Dell/Alienware Support website
2. Install Samsung 950 PRO (NVMe) drive in the laptop in the Slot #1 labeled “NGFF SSD1”.
- Other forums say that slot #1 has x4 lanes but slot #2 has only x2. So for faster read/write speeds use slot#1.
- The screw needed to install the M.2 SSD is CM2x3-3.3. This screw is commonly used in laptops to install wireless cards. It is smaller than the screw used to install 2.5” SSD or HDDs in laptops. I took the screw from my old Studio XPS laptop used to hold down wireless bluetooth card.
3. Create Windows Installation USB using Microsoft Media Creation tool. Find with google or use this Microsoft Canada link to download: https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/software-download/windows10
- 3a) Using this Media Creation Tool will ask you to pick from 2 options: A) Upgrade this PC now, or B) Create installation media for another PC. Select OPTION (B).
- 3b) Then you’ll be asked to choose which media to use C) USB Flash Drive or D) ISO file. Select OPTION (C).
- Note: using the ISO file option is not recommended, it seem to have trouble later in creating bootable USB from the ISO.
4. To get Windows to recognize your Samsung 950 PRO SSD during installation you must have the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (Intel RST) RAID Driver files during installation. Here is the link to download the latest RST driver: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/25165/Intel-Rapid-Storage-Technology-Intel-RST-RAID-Driver
4a) Use above link to download f6flpy-x64.zip folder which contains 5-6 small files.
4b) Unzip the folder. Make sure one of the files in the folder is ‘iaStorAC.ing’. Save the unzipped folder on a separate USB (not the USB with Windows 10 OS). You’ll need it during installation.
5. Check BIOS Settings. Turn Laptop ON while pressing the F2 key repeatedly to get to BIOS Setup:
- Leave all BIOS settings as Default.
- Below are some of things to check in BIOS. These were all Default settings in my laptop’s BIOS:
- Under MAIN tab: you should see Samsung SSD 950 PRO for M.2 SSD-1 (this means your SSD is screwed in properly)
- Under ADVANCED tab: SATA Operation should be [RAID]
- Under ADVANCED tab: select Intel (R) Rapid Storage Technology and confirm that Samsung 950 Pro is showing under Non-RAID Physical Disks. Then Select Samsung 950 PRO to confirm that that SSD Constroller Type is NVMe and Controller Interface is PCIe.
- Under SECURITY tab: Secure Boot Mode: [Standard]
- Under BOOT: Boot List Option: [UEFI], Load Legacy Option ROM: [Disabled], and Boot Option Priority has #1 as Windows Boot Manager.
- Exit without saving if you BIOS settings match the above defaults
6. Now you’re almost ready to install windows on the 950 pro.
- Make sure you’ve backed up any personal files from the original drive before continuing. I recommend unplugging the original 1TB HDD before starting installaion.
7. Plug in the Windows OS USB created in Step 3, and Intel RST usb created in Step 4. Turn laptop ON while continuously pressing F12 key for Boot Options.
8. In Boot Options, under UEFI Options you should see both of your USBs listed (or atleast the USB with Windows OS). Select the USB with Windows OS and press Enter to start installation process
9. When the installation process asks you to select where to install Windows 10, Samsung 950 Pro SSD partitions will likely not be listed. If you disconnected original 1TB HDD then you won’t see any drives available to install windows. To make the Samsung 950 PRO show up, you’ll need to select the option to INSTALL DRIVER, and then Browse to the USB with Intel RST driver files (created in Step 4) and select the folder with the driver files.
- Once you pick the right folder, Windows Installation will automatically select the file iaStorAC.ing for driver installation. The driver installation will take about a minute to complete, then you should see partitions of the Samsung 950 PRO (listed under Disk 1 or something similar with the similar capacity as your SSD). Select the larger partition of the SSD to start the Windows 10 installation. Follow the promps to complete installation !
10. Note: once I completed step 9, my windows installation went fine for a few minutes and then failed with some ‘unable to read drive’ warning. So I shut-down the laptop and repeated the process from Step 7. The second time everything worked and windows 10 installed on 950 Pro successively.
11. Following the installation, a couple of Windows Updates installed most of missing Drivers. You'd still need to re-install Dell/Alienware software and wipe out the original 1TB HDD to set it up as my storage drive.