Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Upgrading with an SSD - the fiddly bits.

I bought a 500Gb SSD as a Christmas present for my gaming rig. As usually happens with PC upgrades things didn't quite go as smoothly as planned. Most of the difficulties arose from peculiarities of my own rig but for posterity I am recording the main issues here:

0. Peculiarities of my rig: Prior to fitting the 500Gb SSD I had two 1Tb  HDDs,  one 120Gb HDD (archives from older computer) and one 64Gb SSD being used as a cache drive. The plan was to install Windows and common programmes on the new SSD freeing up one of the 1Tb drives for additional storage.

1.Preparations: Shrinking my 1Tb C: drive so that it would fit onto the new 500Gb SSD took quite a while. Mindgems folder size was handy for identifying the main space hogs. I used symbolic links to shift programmes I wanted to keep installed to another drive.

2. Even after deleting a bunch of stuff I still couldn't shrink the C: partition below to 500Gb because of Windows immoveable files. This guide pointed me to the main culprits: Hibernation, System Restore, virtual memory and debugging information. Finally got them all disabled and managed to shrink C: partition down to 150Gb. Minitool is my free partition manager of choice.

3. Fitting the SSD: Thankfully my ageing motherboard (P7P55D-E)  is generously provided with 9 SATA ports which would be enough for my five hard drives and one DVD drive. Two of the ports are even rated for the faster 6Gb/s SATA 3 so I plugged the two SSDs into these.

4. I disabled the cache drive just in case it caused conflicts while cloning.

5. Samsung provided a disk cloning utility with their SSD so I used this to transfer the nicely shrunk 150Gb C: partition onto the new SSD. I guess Minitool could have done the same job.

6. Surprise surprise even after cloning the PC wouldn't boot from the SSD. Checking the BIOS I was frustrated to find the new SSD wasn't even an option in the boot order settings. Remember I said that I plugged the SSD into one of two special SATA 3 ports? Well it turns out these are not integral to the chipset but instead provided via a third party Marvell chip. I had to dig a bit deeper into the BIOS to make sure this Marvell chip was set up correctly and then to get it added to the boot list.

6. Eventually Windows boots from the SSD. Hurray. Everything seems to run as expected.

7. Sony provide an SSD monitor tool called Wizard. I ran this and it gave some suggestions about optimising the system for SSD. Not terribly useful. They have a feature called "Rapid Mode" which I couldn't get to work because it refuses to recognise my operating system (Windows 10???). I am not to bothered because it looks like a RAM cache and I don't need another cache on my system.

8. Gradually try to get things back where I started: re-enabling virtual memory, system restore and debugging. Didn't bother re-enabling hibernation because I don't use it on a desktop. Re-enable the cache now using it only for the HDDs.

9. Hold on a minute: Metro apps aren't all working. Some just hang. It turns out that Windows search index is confused and sometimes points to the old copy of an app on the now replaced HDD. sometimes this will run but more often it won't. I deleted and rebuilt the search index (indexing options in the control panel) making sure it was focussed on the new C: drive. Useful hint - if your metro search interface isn't working you can still access all the useful tools via Win+X menu.

10. Finally everything seems to be working correctly. I have even been brave enough to delete the old C:partition from the HDD in order to use it for programme storage.


No comments: