How to install Windows 7/8.1/10 on the Samsung XP941 / SM951 / SM961 / 950 Pro SSD

Author: Rod Bland | Date Posted: 26 August 2014

Having trouble getting Windows 7/ 8.1/10 installed on the Samsung XP941/SM951/SM961? Look no further, as we have all the detailed steps right here.

Note 1: this information is specific to a system setup utilising the ASRock Z97 Extreme6 motherboard with a clean Samsung XP941Samsung SM951, Samsung SM961, or Samsung 950 Pro installed securely in the onboard Ultra M.2 socket, but is useful for anyone else who want to install Windows from scratch in UEFI mode, or if you just want to install from a USB drive instead of the usual DVD Media. If you are planning to use a Samsung XP941 /SM951/ SM961 SSD and are not sure if your motherboard is compatible, then see our famous M.2 Compatibility List for more details.

If you want to learn more about how to clone your old SSD to a new XP941, SM951, SM961 or other SSD, then see How to Clone an Existing Drive to a New SSD.

Note 2: This guide was written and tested using AHCI drives.  The procedure is pretty much the same for the SM951 NVMe on Windows 8/10.1.  However, to install Windows 7 on a Samsung SM951 / SM961 NVMe it is more complex.  See this post on tomshardware.com for more information.

Complete Guide all in one Video 

The video below will walk you through the entire process of installing Windows 7/8.1/10 on your XP941 / SM951 / SM961, and the same procedure applies for Windows 10.  Note, as of 4/5/2015 we are recommending that the Rufus settings be changed to Select GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer, and FAT32 file system.  This creates a boot drive that is universally compatible with the XP941/SM951/SM961 and Windows 7/8.1/10.

See further below for the same content broken down into sections:

How to install Windows 7/8.1/10 on the Samsung XP941 (Complete Guide)

1. BIOS and Hardware Setup

This is how I set up the system to prepare to install Windows 7/8.1/10 from scratch. If you are a gamer with overclocking going on, then you may need to go back to BIOS defaults, then try introducing the tweaks after everything is installed.

  1. Make all bios settings default if you changed anything
  2. Check you have ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 bios 1.3 installed or later. Update 24/4/15.  I have had 100% success installing both Windows 8.1 x64 and Windows 7 Home Premium on the XP941/SM951/SM961 using the instructions in this tutorial after I installed the  ASRock 97 Extreme6 Beta Bios 2.04. (Obviously, if you have a different motherboard check that it has the latest version installed. ASUS boards are quite mature now in terms of M.2 support, but MSI boards may require a beta version).
  3. Disconnect any other SATA hard drives or SSD's. (Note, I did this so I was certain of which drive I was booting from. If you know what you are doing, you can probably leave them connected.)

2. Prepare your windows installation media

Most people get stuck trying to install windows on the XP941/SM951/SM961 because you can't install the OS from a DVD. The installation process will seem to go ok, but once you get to the point of selecting the drive where you want to install Windows, a screen like the one below will appear. The message detail reads 'Windows cannot be installed to this disk'.

To overcome this, you need to prepare an 8GB or larger USB drive with the Windows 8.1 installation source files. Before you can do anything, you need an image (.iso) of your Windows installation media.

For Windows Retail version owners

If you have the retail version of Windows and your registration key handy, you can simply run the Windows 8.1 setup program (this link is for Windows 8.1) from the Microsoft website and download a shiny new ISO.

The video below will walk you through that process:

Download ISO of Windows Installation Media (Retail version)

For Windows 7/8/10 OEM version owners

If you have the OEM version of Windows you'll need to make an ISO file from your installation media instead (using Magic ISO), as Microsoft doesn't support downloading an ISO for the OEM version.

The video below will walk you through that process:

Create ISO of Windows Installation Media (OEM version)

3. Burn the ISO file to a USB Drive.

Now we are going to use a neat piece of software called Rufus to burn the ISO file to a USB drive and turn it into a bootable Windows installation drive.  Update 24/4/15: Contrary to what is in this video, I have had 100% sucess so far by choosing 'GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer' , and formatting FAT32.  This works with the XP941/SM951/SM961 and also Windows 7/8.1/10.

The video below will walk you through that process:

Make a bootable Windows 8.1 Installation USB Drive

4. Run Windows Setup

Select the UEFI boot option

Now comes the fun part. Plug your shiny new Windows 8.1 USB drive to a spare USB port on your system. Turn the system on. Start tapping F11 (for ASRock boards), or F8 (for ASUS boards), (or whatever key your particular motherboard requires to bring up the boot options) as soon as the system begins to boot. There may be several boot options, but in my case I needed to select the option UEFI: (NTFS) Kingston DataTraveler 2.01.00 below.  The main thing is that you choose the one that starts with UEFI and indicates your USB drive.

Choose Custom Install

Since upgrading isn't an option with a freshly formatted drive, select the second option Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) at the next screen.  Notice the absence of any annoying error messages now that we are booting the installation media in UEFI mode:

Choose the XP941 as the destination

Since I'm using a 512GB XP941 SSD, I'm going to choose the most obvious option when asked the question 'Where do you want to install Windows?'. You don't need to format the drive before hand, just go ahead and press Next.

Installation Complete!

On my system it took a total of 6 minutes from when Windows installation began to where I had a usable desktop. Fast!

With pure default settings the scores from Crystal Diskmark are 1079MB/s Read and 897MB/s write for sequential 5k file transfers. With some driver and bios tweaking you can probably do better. Let me know in the comments what you've done to improve performance even further.

Closing notes

Note, I didn't need to change any BIOS boot settings, disable CSM, or anything like that. I just installed windows and it kept on booting after that. In the Bios, under the Boot section, Boot Option #1 is set to Windows Boot Manager and I've left it that way for now.

Like this post, but want to clone an existing drive instead of installing from scratch? See How to Clone an Existing Drive to a New SSD.

 


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