Monday, December 21, 2009

Going the SDD route

(Before and after benchmarks are at the bottom of the post)

[Edit] I’m no longer using the Intel AHCI drivers as they don’t support TRIM

After working with installing new VM’s on my Latitude E6400 where the programs to be installed were iso’s mounted on the same physical drive I decided to go the SSD route. That way I would not only end up with a blazing fast drive, but with two drives. My mind was set and the journey began.

After some research I decided on the OCZ Vertex 256gb drive. I long debated with myself to get an Intel X-25M 160gb, but the size of the OCZ won me over. I should still be able to experience the wow factor of an SSD.

Together with the drive I ordered an Icy Box SATA dock in order to clone the drive over eSATA which I can use afterwards for the old drive (a 250gb WD Scorpio).

Before I go into all the issues I encountered, I recommend non-geeks to do a clean install. It’s most likely faster (unless you know all the steps before hand) and will spare you a lot of grief. Personally I prefer a challenge as it involves learning.

These are the steps I did in order for it to work.

  1. Disabled bitlocker on the drive
  2. Followed this post on how to change SATA mode from IRRT to AHCI, as IRRT didn’t seem to work for the OCZ (I ended up with a blinking cursor and freeze during boot). The guide works for Windows 7 as well, but I downloaded the latest Intel drivers instead, v8.9. No reason to run on old drivers.
  3. Downloaded g4l to clone the drive (Acronis True Image 2010 failed to convert my Windows 7 partition) which I put on a USB stick with UNetbootin.
  4. Plugged the OCZ in the Icy dock and booted up g4l. (F12 brings up a boot menu on the Dell which lets you choose boot device)
  5. At the shell prompt I ran:
    dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb bs=1M
    This ran for approx. 74 minutes with average transfer of 56,5mb/s.
  6. Next I switched out the old drive with the new and booted where I left off.
  7. Once I had started I followed the “SSD Windows 7 Tweaks” guide on how to optimize Windows 7 on SSD’s.

I started venturing on a path for partition alignment, but the only misaligned partition on the Dell layout is the Dell recovery partition which I never use. The Recover and Data partitions both are aligned just fine for a 64 sector offset.


Action Before (seconds) After (seconds)
Startup 33 login box
130 Live Mesh
25 login box
60 Live Mesh
Shutdown 25 18
Hibernate 41 29
Resume 27 27

Live Mesh means when all is loaded and Live Mesh login box pops up.

I gained most on startup, as this is a lot of random reads/writes when loading all the programs. But the general snappiness of the OS is much much better. All in all, absolutely worth the upgrade.

My Windows 7 disk mark went up from 5.6 to 7.2 (where 7.9 is max).

The disk came with firmware version 1.4.