Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Windows 8 BIOS Keys - embedded goodness

Windows 8 BIOS Keys - embedded goodness

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imageA couple of weeks ago I purchased the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D-A02US notebook.  It came with Windows 8 Professional pre-loaded.  I’ve been wanting a Series 9 machine for quite some time, but I waited until the Ivy Bridge based silver model landed on USA shores.  When I saw that had them in stock, I purchased one. This particular model has a TPM chip and a three year warranty.

When I received the notebook and fired it up, I was a little dismayed at the bloated Windows 8 installation.  Not only that, the 128GB mSATA SSD was half consumed already.  Not a very good start. Since my family already owns the Sandy Bridge model, I knew it would run Windows 7 well and with a pending trip fast approaching, I wiped the drive and installed Windows 7 Ultimate x64.

Prior to doing the wipe, I did attempt to create the factory DVD disk set with Samsung’s built-in recovery solution.  I could never get that program to create the boot media.  After looking at the user guide, I noticed they no longer create DVD disk sets and expect you to store the image on an external hard drive.  That appeared to work though I am unsure how to do a successful restore without the boot media.

Windows 8 to the Rescue

The machine has been running great.  But the entire time the whole Windows 8 question has been nagging at me.  I ordered a Crucial M4 mSATA 256GB SSD and waited.  I also picked up a retail copy of Windows 8 Pro at the Microsoft employee store.  When the Crucial drive arrived, it was time to test some new Windows 8 features.

Now maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but in addition to secure boot and all of the other work in the BIOS and UEFI area, we have also worked with OEM’s on a new licensing model.  If you look at the bottom of my machine, you’ll notice there is no Windows 8 Certificate of Authenticity (COA).  There is an official Windows 8 logo sticker, but no product key.

The good news is that you no longer have to worry about it fading or getting scratched.  The 5x5 key is embedded in the BIOS.  Therefore all I had to do in order to install a fresh clean copy of Windows 8 was attach an external DVD drive, boot from the retail DVD, and run setup. As soon as I connected to the internet, the machine activated.  It never asked me for a key.  No fuss!!!

And in case you are wondering, all but three of the device drivers for this machine came right off the Windows 8 Pro DVD.  Two were resolved by running Windows Update and installing from the WU servers.  The remaining device it probably an Intel management driver or something.  I’ll look into it later.

I really dig this feature.  I don’t have to worry about the key and I know I can re-install whenever I want.  Pretty freaking cool.  Enjoy!

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  • @Dave re comments system:

    Hit refresh before copying and pasting your post from Notepad (or wherever). From what I can tell, it seems like a timeout issue. If you type your post and take about 5-10 minutes (or so?) before clicking post, your comment will be lost.

  • "Keith, any word on installing a different version of Windows 8 on a system with embedded product key? Say Windows 8 embedded and I want to install a retail copy of Windows 8 Pro, or the other way around.

    Will the bios key conflict with that?"

    I think what Martin wanted to know (as do I) is, what if you bought a system with a Windows 8 key embedded in the BIOS, and then tried to install a copy of Windows 8 Pro (or vice versa)? Would the embedded key interfere with the install or would you simply be presented with a key entry screen if you do this?

  • @James, I am not sure. If the embedded key is Windows 8, and you are using the Windows 8 Pro install, I would imagine setup would provide a way to specify a new key.

    My machine came with Windows 8 Pro and I tested with a retail Windows 8 Pro DVD.

  • Just an update... I've been struggling to get anywhere with Samsung's tech support. I've made 7 calls where they've said they'll call back (either 24-48 hours for an engineer, or in some cases, 1 hour for the call center person). They have not returned one call yet. I did find out after calling that the Easy Settings requiring local admin rights issue has been escalated, and that they're waiting on word from Samsung Korea to locate a version that doesn't have the local admin requirement.

    In the meantime, I couldn't wait. I spent some time with the ACT toolkit and was able to create (by trial and error) a shim that, to my surprise, works in every way, including the brightness fn key controls. The shim may grant more permissions than necessary (the permutations of options in ACT are almost endless), but it seems to work well in testing so far. If anyone is interested, I can provide the shim file.

  • Now if I could just get the thing to image via SCCM.... :)