I had a couple of old (circa 2004 I think) Dell D600 laptops. They were nice laptops and came with Windows XP but I decided to see if I could do a clean install of Windows 7. I popped the Windows 7 install DVD into the CD/DVD drive and turned the laptop on. I had to do an F2 to modify the boot sequence so that the machine would read from the CD/DVD drive first. The install process started up without any issues. I selected a custom install rather than the upgrade option — I wanted a completely clean machine. I clicked on the tiny “Driver Options (advanced)” to format the single C: drive. Setup continued and I followed the wizard to give the machine a name, set up a user account name and password, enter the product key, and set the time. Setup finished.
It looked like I was missing an audio driver (no sound), a video driver (no hardware acceleration enabled), and the wireless network driver (no connection). I had the original drivers on a Resource CD from Dell but those would not install on Windows 7. Luckily Windows 7 installation had installed a driver for a wired network connection so I plugged in and went to Windows Update, hoping that Update would install some or all of the missing drivers.
Before getting updates I had to manually activate Windows 7 from the Control Panel | Security | System page. And before I could activate Windows 7 I had to reset the system date and time — I got a weird error with an unhelpful message. I also set the screen resolution higher at this point. I had 99 updates. Yikes. I installed the updates in batches. After the first batch of about 12 updates the wireless adapter driver magically appeared — not sure why that happened.
An Internet search told me that a Dell D600 video driver was contained in a self-extracting executable from Dell named R82040.EXE so I downloaded that file, extracted the driver and ran the setup.exe program to install the video driver. However the GUI wrapper realized I was running Windows 7 and failed. The work-around trick was to go to Computer | Manage | Device Manager and then right-click on the Display Adapter driver entry (Standard VGA), select update driver from the context menu, and then point to C:\Dell\Drivers where the R82040 executable had extracted the binaries.
The process for the audio driver did not run into the OS version problem. I got self-extracting executable R90698.EXE, ran it to extract the audio driver setup files, and the audio driver installed without problem.
I installed Windows Security Essentials, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, the Java RE, and Office 2010. I updated the Updates and when I was all done I had an old but very nicely upgraded laptop.