I recently purchased an MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE, and I immediately wanted to do a clean install of Windows 10. The reasons for wanting to do a clean install of Windows 10 are threefold:
- Have a better understanding of what is installed on my computer
- Remove the bloatware that usually comes pre-installed on Windows computers
- Reclaim storage space by removing the data and recovery partitions setup by the manufacturer
After a clean install of Windows 10, there are usually a lot of drivers that need to be installed. The MSI Support page contains all of the needed drivers and utilities, but it is not clear what drivers are really required (i.e. some drivers will install drivers for multiple components) or in what order to install them.
The following post will describe the steps I took to do a clean install of Windows 10 and install the necessary drivers and utilities to get my MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE into a usable state.
Keep in mind, there are many different models of the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin. The entirety of this post pertains to the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin-051 8RE. If you have a different model, you might need to install different drivers than what I specify.
Perform a Clean Install of Windows 10
Prepare the Installation Media
To perform a clean install of Windows 10 you will need a USB drive of at least 8 GB in size to use as the installation media. Microsoft provides a utility that will setup the USB drive with everything needed to perform a clean install of Windows 10. After going to the utility web page, click the Download tool now link in the Create Windows 10 installation media section. Once the utility is downloaded, plugin your USB drive, run the utility, and follow the instructions. It will take about 30 minutes to prepare the USB drive, but this depends primarily on the speed of your internet connection.
Before booting to the newly created Windows 10 USB drive, you need to make sure you will have internet connectivity after performing a clean install of Windows 10. A clean install of Windows 10 will provide working drivers for the ethernet port but not for the wireless card. Because of this, if you do not have access to an ethernet cable for internet connectivity, you will need to download the wireless card driver to a second USB drive.
Depending on which MSI GS65 model you have will determine which wireless card driver you need. The GTX 1060 model uses the Intel Wireless LAN Driver, and the GTX 1070 Max-Q model uses the Killer Wireless LAN Driver. Go to the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE Support Page, scroll down the page and click the Wireless LAN category, download the necessary driver for your model, and save it to the second USB drive. You will install this driver later after Windows 10 finishes installing.
Boot to the USB Drive
To boot to the USB drive, you will more than likely need to reconfigure the BIOS to boot to USB drives first.
To configure this, reboot the computer and hit the DEL key during the boot process (this will be when you see the MSI logo on the screen).
Once you are in the BIOS, go to the Boot section and change the Boot Order Priorities so USB drives boot first.
Save your changes by going to the Save & Exit section and reboot.
Windows 10 Setup Process
Once the computer boots to the USB drive, you should be in the Windows 10 setup process.
Click through each of the sections. You will eventually get to a section titled Where do you want to install Windows? In my particular case, there were many partitions listed because this is how the manufacturer configured the storage. I only wanted one partition that was allocated to all of the storage space, so I selected each one of the partitions and clicked Delete until I only had one partition of unallocated space remaining.
Select that one partition and click Next to begin installing Windows 10. Installation will take about 20 minutes.
Windows 10 Activation
During and after installation of Windows 10, you should not be prompted for a Windows 10 product key. This is because activation is done using a digital license instead.
A digital license associates itself with your computer's hardware, so I can only assume a Windows 10 product key is linked to a hardware fingerprint of your computer's hardware, and that information is stored in a database somewhere. As long as there are no significant changes to your computer's hardware, such as replacing a motherboard, there is no need to reactivate Windows 10.
Required Drivers and Utilities
MSI makes available all of the necessary drivers and utilities for the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE here. If you have a different model, simply search for it in the search field titled Find Other Product.
You will notice the MSI Support page has many driver categories. I discovered that I did not need to install every driver listed, and, instead, I was able to install just some of the drivers which would contain drivers for multiple components. Additionally, because some of the drivers on the MSI Support page are out-of-date (specifically the graphics drivers), I instead downloaded some of the drivers directly from the manufacturer's website.
1. Wireless Card Driver
The Intel Wireless LAN Driver should be the first driver you install (unless you have ethernet connectivity) because you will need internet connectivity to download the remaining drivers.
Plugin the second USB drive you setup earlier, extract the zip archive, and follow the setup process to install the Intel Wireless LAN Driver.
2. Integrated and Dedicated Graphics Drivers
Instead of downloading the graphics drivers from the MSI Support page, I went to Intel's and NVIDIA's websites to download the necessary graphics drivers for the integrated and dedicated graphics, respectively.
Intel Integrated Graphics Driver: The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin comes with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU which uses Intel UHD Graphics 630. Drivers can be downloaded here. Installing the most up-to-date Intel integrated graphics driver was important, because I was encountering an issue where the display would stay black after the computer woke from sleep, and the latest Intel integrated graphics driver appears to have fixed that issue.
NVIDIA Dedicated Graphics Driver: My particular MSI GS65 Stealth Thin model uses the GeForce GTX 1060 dedicated graphics card. Drivers for it can be downloaded here. The same driver should work for the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q, but I would recommend filling out the fields here to verify.
3. Intel Component Drivers
Intel Chipset Driver: This was a quick install that required a reboot. You will notice the MSI Support page has specific drivers for the touchpad and Bluetooth. However, the Intel Chipset Driver appears to have installed the necessary drivers for the touchpad and Bluetooth, so I did not install the drivers for those two components.
Intel Management Engine Driver: This was a quick install that required a reboot.
Intel Thunderbolt Driver: This was a quick install that did not require a reboot.
Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver: I was not able to install this driver, because it threw error This platform is not supported. However, I think the necessary storage driver was installed during the Intel Chipset Driver installation. There is also an Intel Rapid Storage Technology F6 Driver, but I think this driver is not needed because of the criteria listed here.
4. System Control Manager Utility
Utilities are in a different section of the MSI Support page and can be found here.
System Control Manager (SCM): From what I understand, this is the only required utility. It should be installed to ensure proper operation of the Function (Fn) keys, and it provides the ECO system profile.
5. Verify Driver Installation
At this point you have rebooted many times. After the final reboot, open Device Manager and make sure there are not any components with a yellow exclamation mark next to them. The Device performance & health section in System Settings should not be reporting any issues either.
After installing all of the required drivers and utilities, I technically had a computer that was in a usable state. I was able to play games without any issues. However, if you want more control of the components in the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin (such as the display's color profile, keyboard, CPU, and GPU), you will want to install the following utilities found in the Utility section of the MSI Support page:
- Steelseries Engine 3 - Control the keyboard's LEDs
- TrueColor 2.0 - Control the display's color profile
- Dragon Center 2 - Monitor system internals and control the CPU and GPU via profiles
Future Hardware Changes
With the operating system and drivers hopefully now in a cleaner state, there's a decent chance you will want to make hardware modifications in the future.
The MSI GS65 is extensible for a laptop with the ability to re-paste the processor for better cooling, increase the amount of RAM, upgrade the first M.2 SSD, or add a second M.2 SSD.
I have not attempted to re-paste the processor or increase the amount of RAM, but I have added an SSD into the second M.2 SSD slot. The modification is not as easy as it could be because the MSI GS65's motherboard is flipped in the chassis, but, with proper tools, patience, and research, the modification is also not as difficult as it seems.