The HP Bad Omen – it was supposed to be easy

How did we get here?

The HP Omen needed a new SSD. A new NVMe drive in one of the two M.2 slots should do the trick. The reason was simple, Dustin was selling his computer and wanted to make sure his personal info wasn’t shared. Old drive out, and new drive in. Easy. Not so much. I had prepared for the swap, and it should have been cut and dry, but the Omen PC had other plans.

I installed Windows 10 on a new drive in a PC with very similar parts, but when we turned the new PC on, it boot looped. Okay, get into the BIOS and look for a bootable drive. That was a different problem. On HP computers the spam keys are escape and F10 instead of the Delete key (and occasionally F2), but this didn’t work. I couldn’t get into the BIOS.

We removed the drive to check it, and of course, it worked in the other setup. The original drive also worked in the Omen. Another try with the new drive produced more boot loops, but there was progress. We could get in the BIOS, now. The Crucial P3 Plus was being recognized as a boot drive, but not acting like it. We configured the boot order to see the media creation USB and tried again. The thought being to reinstall windows on the Omen.

Re-installing the OS

I had already taken the precaution of making sure that the SSD was compatible with the OMEN, and I had a back up plan if it didn’t. The media creation tool on the USB was the latest release to keep form a ton of updates when we finished, but we hadn’t gotten to that point.

Windows 10 allowed us to use a local account, and could be set up without needing the new owner’s personal information. The fewer things to worry about the better. The new owner could then update all of the account information, himself. We still had to get the PC to boot in the first place, though.

I was able to start running the media creation tool, but found yet another problem. Windows didn’t see the new drive. In fact, after some trial and error and experimenting, we realized it didn’t see any drive, not even the original. This was just getting weird.

Time to go to the internet. There are several videos for HP Omens and boot issues, but they all say the same thing, change the boot order in the BIOS. Um, we already did that. Maybe this wouldn’t help. I finally found one video from a channel called Lapfix that found the solution. (here). One, out of dozens.

The actual fix

It seems there is an Intel RAID driver required for the new PC to recognize the drive. What? Seriously? An obscure raid driver? It was also necessary to extract it from an exe file. (Obviously you cant use an exe file if you can’t get into Windows.) File was extracted, installed on a different USB, and back to the install. We found the option for using a driver and it actually worked. Finally, things were moving forward again.

Windows was installed along with a handful of updates; there are always updates. The Omen desktop app and the newest NVidia video driver installed easily and we were in business. I was still cautious, though, not taking anything for granted.

A couple of test boots and resets later and this thing was ready to pack up and present to it’s new owner. We installed a second NVMe for games (yes, we had also tried it as a boot), and things were in good shape. I have worked on hundreds of computers and never run into this. Heck, I’ve made stuff work that was never supposed to work together and hadn’t seen this.

Having a small tech channel, gives me an opportunity to see and learn a lot, but this may be one of the stranger things. There should be no reason a single boot drive would need a raid driver. It doesn’t make sense, but it definitely adds to the difficulty of taking care of your PC. It makes it look like these companies purposely keep us from upgrading.

Final thoughts

Prebuilts have parts typically optimized to work with each other, but parts go bad, or sometimes need to be changed. To need a driver like this seems shady at best. It’s entirely possible there is an important reason for it, but I would expect to see it more often, if so. I certainly don’t understand the need on a boot drive.

It’s no secret that companies prevent consumers from repairing their own equipment. Major corporations are guilty and don’t deny it, but this wasn’t a copy protect or proprietary parts. It’s just a driver that seems to be out of place if it’s necessary. To me, it seems shady, but at least now I am aware of it for the next time.

We set things up on Windows 10, but its ready for Windows 11, so by now it should be updated. It’s a shame this was so tricky, because it’s actually a good system. The BIOS isn’t special, but no HP BIOS is special. For that matter, not many integrator’s BIOSes offer many options, but it’s functional. This PC should last the new owner quite a while.

For my part, I will start looking for tricks or extra drivers, especially on prebuilts. I don’t have anything against a prebuilt, but I will stick to building my own. That way, I know the issues are my fault. Sometimes, it’s due to things I shouldn’t do anyway, but that’s a different blog.

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The video can be found here

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