I’m a long time fan of Ed Bott’s work with Windows 7, and frequently draw from his blog for mine. Recently, he’s put together a three-part series on Windows 7 and SSDs that includes some very useful information and pulls together lots of tips and facts. IT professionals tasked with switching Windows 7 machines from conventional to SSD system drives will find all of these stories useful, but none more helpful than the third one in this triune collection:
- Part 1: Windows 7 and SSDs: Just how fast are they?
- Part 2: Windows 7 and SSDs: Setup secrets and tune-up tweaks
- Part 3: Windows 7 and SSDs: Cutting your system drive down to size
I’ve done this same task on a few systems myself, and have occasionally fallen prey to some myths about SSD setup that Ed omits entirely (most notably, the admonition to turn off volume shadow copy and thus also, restore points on the system drive, and to move the paging file to a different drive). His advice is clear and cogent, and includes no more tweaking and tuning than is absolutely necessary.
I would add a few tips to his excellent advice based on my own experience:
- Make sure your target system supports AHCI before you purchase and install an SSD. Unless the disk controller lets you use this technology, you can’t take advantage of best-case SSD performance anyway (TRIM, that is). I have an old and still very serviceable Dell D620 Latitude notebook, but it has no AHCI, so I’m not going to give it an SSD, either, though it runs Windows quite nicely. The latest Intel storage driver is also a definite must, where applicable, so locate and download the latest Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) driver: at this time, January 2011 10.1.0.1008 is the latest version.
- Check out elpam.soft’s SSD Tweaker (or their $12.99 Pro version, if you plan on doing multiple conversions, or really want to dig deep into related Windows tweaks). It brings everything together you’ll need to convert a Windows 7 system from IDE emulation to AHCI (except for SSD firmware stuff, of course).
- It’s easier and cleaner to reinstall Windows 7 on a Windows 7 machine you want to convert from conventional IDE (or emulated IDE) drives to AHCI drives. Though you can tweak your way to a working system, it ends up being faster in many cases to reinstall. YMMV of course, depending on how many applications get installed after the OS goes on, and how much other customization may be involved.
Adding an SSD to the Windows 7 mix definitely improves the overall computing experience, and is worth it for those willing to pay the higher costs for a fast but smaller system drive. They’re particularly good for notebooks where they also improve battery life (no moving parts) and reduce weight (by a little, anyway).