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Old 08-12-2010, 02:07 AM   #1
Sephious
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Essential SSD Setup Guide, or How To Switch From An HDD To SSD Without Reinstalling

Essential SSD Setup Guide, or How To Switch From An HDD To SSD Without Reinstalling

So you've decided to get an SSD or three and don't want to reinstall Windows?

It can be a daunting process to reinstall your entire operating system, but if you want to switch to an SSD, you'd normally reinstall; however, you don't have to! Just follow my step-by-step guide and you'll be running your old instance of Windows in no time.

This guide assumes you'll be using Windows 7, but it should work with Vista as well.

The Goods

For this guide, you'll require the following:

Macrium Reflect Free or Acronis True Image Home 2010
SSD Tweak Utility
Hard drive space equal to space used on the drive you'll be transferring to your SSD(s)
Situational: GParted

Premeditation

The first thing you're going to want to do after hooking up your SSD(s) and setting up any RAID arrays, is configure the alignment of your first (and possibly only) partition on the SSD/array. I'm not going to explain in detail why you should align your partition, but there is a good read on the subject located here. Basically, aligning the partition makes the SSD do less work when performing writes, thus increasing performance, especially with many small writes.

Now, before we begin, you're going to need an alignment. 1024kB is the standard for SSD's, but 512kB, as well as other alignments, may work depending on your setup. I personally use 512kB. To check if either of these alignments will work with your setup, or if you have an odd RAID stripe size, please use the calculator located here. To use the calculator, input all the information and for the Partition Offset (AKA the alignment) enter 1024 multiplied by your desired offset, as the calculator is looking for the offset in bytes.

As a side note, Windows 7 will properly align a partition for most SSD's, but if you're like me you like to customize it and make sure it works with your SSD and RAID array. You can skip the next step in this process if you're not worried about customizing the alignment.

It's also a good idea to use Macrium Reflect Free or Acronis True Image Home 2010 at this point to create an image of your current Windows hard drive. You can also use other cloning software, but I know for a fact these two softwares respect partition alignments. Other cloning software may not.

Note: Currently, Macrium Reflect Free has issues restoring partitions with differing alignments, due to its partition detection system. If your original drive is not aligned to a size divisible by 1024 or the partition you're restoring to isn't aligned to a size divisible by 1024, you need to align the drive to something divisible by 64512kB (63MB) in order to keep Reflect from changing the alignment when restored, and to keep it aligned properly for an SSD.

If you're unhappy with a 63MB alignment, I recommend using Acronis True Image Home 2010 until Macrium updates Reflect to be able to handle custom alignments, which they plan to add in a future release.

Note 2: Macrium Reflect Free does not support restoring images to smaller drives, even if the space used on the larger drive is smaller than the smaller drive's max space. To overcome this obstacle, you may need to use GParted to shrink your partition size to something smaller than your SSD/array before making the image. With Acronis you don't have to worry about this, as it does support restoring to a smaller drive.

If you do use GParted to resize your drive, I strongly recommend making a drive image beforehand, as GParted can sometimes hose your filesystem, and we definitely don't want you to lose your data. Just remember to make another image of the resized partition afterwards.


The Calm Before The Storm

With your newfound alignment in hand, we move on to actually setting up the partition.

Open your start menu and type cmd. If you have UAC enabled, right-click on cmd.exe and select "Run as administrator". Otherwise, just open it up.

Next, type "diskpart", without the quotations, and hit enter. After DiskPart loads up, type "list disk", again without the quotations. You should see a window like below.

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Find out what disk your SSD/array is by looking at the size column. Now, type "select disk x" where "x" is the disk number, and hit enter. Now you want to clean the disk of any partitions that may be on it, so type "clean" and hit enter. Next, type "create partition primary align=x", where x is the alignment that you figured out earlier, and hit enter. Type "active", hit enter, and you're done the alignment process!

Going Deep

Now that we're done preparing, it's time to restore your drive image to your newly aligned partition. The process varies from software to software so I won't go into it, but after the restore process is complete it's time to restart your computer.

When you restart, make sure you go into your BIOS and set your SSD/array as the first disk to boot, or chances are you'll be booting right back off your old hard drive again.

Friends With Benefits

When you get into Windows again, you'll notice that your SSD is not the correct drive letter (C:), and that C: is still your old hard drive. This is easily correctable.

Hit Windows Key+R and type regedit, then hit enter. Now, in regedit, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\MountedDevices and scroll down until you see a bunch of keys starting with "\DosDevices\". The window should look similar to the image below.

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Look for "\DosDevices\C:". You'll need to rename this key to any unused drive letter. To do this, hit F2 with it selected, and change the "C:" to any drive letter that doesn't have a key. After you're done that, rename the key corresponding with your SSD/array to "\DosDevices\C:". After you restart your computer, your SSD/array will now properly be listed as "C:".

Before you restart your computer, run the SSD Tweak Utility that I linked to earlier. You should see a window like the one below, though the text probably won't be as messed up unless you run a higher DPI like I do.

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Click on the big "Auto Tweak Settings" button to properly disable things like Superfetch, which are now unneeded with an SSD. Unless you deselect "Windows Vista Indexing Service", you'll also have to manually turn off indexing for your SSD/array.

Now restart your computer!

Abra Kadabra

You're done! Enjoy your new SSD(s)!

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to post. Thank you for taking the time to read my guide.

Last edited by Sephious; 09-21-2010 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 08-12-2010, 07:21 PM   #2
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Question: If using Win 7's built-in image restore functionality (rather than a 3rd party tool like Acronis), will it preserve the manual Diskpart alignment or default to what's on the actual image?
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Old 08-12-2010, 09:47 PM   #3
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I'm currently testing this right now, and will report back. I actually was unaware that Windows even had built-in drive imaging.

Additional Comment:

So I made the system image, and have no way of writing it to another hard drive for testing. Windows will not let me browse for the system image. Any advice would be great.

Otherwise, if you're talking about ImageX from the WAIK, according to Wikipedia it does not touch volumes or partitions so it should leave the alignment alone.

Last edited by Sephious; 08-12-2010 at 09:52 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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Old 08-13-2010, 05:59 AM   #4
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Here, check out this guide: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials...-recovery.html
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Old 08-13-2010, 10:00 AM   #5
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are there any raid controller that support trim as yet?
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orac View Post
are there any raid controller that support trim as yet?
Not as far as I know. However, OCZ's garbage collection will run on drives whether they're in RAID or not. Garbage collection is basically the equivalent of TRIM, just not in real-time like TRIM is. OCZ GC runs whenever the drive is idle (In your BIOS, on the Windows login screen, etc). I'm not sure if any of the other SSD's have garbage collection.

I will follow that guide and test today, Wildstaroct.

EDIT: Intel SSD's have garbage collection as of version 8820 of their firmware. The Crucial C300 also supports garbage collection. It seems that any of the good SSD's will support garbage collection, negating the need for TRIM.

Last edited by Sephious; 08-13-2010 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:44 PM   #7
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LMAO. I was up til 3am reinstalling 7 and software on mine last night. Great tut. I will bookmark this. I have not had time to play with mine much and about to go to work. I also still have to do more research on SSD's.

Thanks.
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Old 08-13-2010, 02:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sephious View Post
Not as far as I know. However, OCZ's garbage collection will run on drives whether they're in RAID or not. Garbage collection is basically the equivalent of TRIM, just not in real-time like TRIM is. OCZ GC runs whenever the drive is idle (In your BIOS, on the Windows login screen, etc). I'm not sure if any of the other SSD's have garbage collection.

I will follow that guide and test today, Wildstaroct.

EDIT: Intel SSD's have garbage collection as of version 8820 of their firmware. The Crucial C300 also supports garbage collection. It seems that any of the good SSD's will support garbage collection, negating the need for TRIM.
cool, thanks for that. i fancy putting some in raid for my next build, at least with this info i can make a target for how much a need to save
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Old 08-13-2010, 03:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildstaroct View Post
Alright, so I did some more research, and it turns out that system image recovery takes partitions into account when making the image, so the alignment will remain the same after the recovery as it was when the image was made.
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Old 08-14-2010, 09:49 AM   #10
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I just did a recovery with ATI 13 and it didn't work. I lost all my start menu icons and my task manager icons. I also had to do Win7 repair to boot into 7. Is there a issue with recovering within the OS with SSD's? Also, it didn't seem like it even worked since it was under a few seconds.

I ended up using the rescue CD and it worked fine that way.

Last edited by LUZR4LIFE; 08-14-2010 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 08-15-2010, 12:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LUZR4LIFE View Post
I just did a recovery with ATI 13 and it didn't work. I lost all my start menu icons and my task manager icons. I also had to do Win7 repair to boot into 7. Is there a issue with recovering within the OS with SSD's? Also, it didn't seem like it even worked since it was under a few seconds.

I ended up using the rescue CD and it worked fine that way.
Not that I know of. I personally swapped my OS over to my SSD's using ATI 13, and I recovered from within the OS without an issue. I even used the feature to shrink an image that would otherwise be too large, and it worked like a charm.

I think I might do an in-depth tutorial for ATI 13, and from there you can see if there's anything you did differently. I'll also do one for Macrium Reflect if the guy at Macrium and I that have been shooting emails back and forth for a week can figure out why things aren't aligning properly after a restore.
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Old 08-15-2010, 01:52 AM   #12
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I recovered like I have been doing for a few years (Disk and Partition Recovery) and found it odd that it fail twice when it had to reboot for the restore.
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Old 08-15-2010, 02:04 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LUZR4LIFE View Post
I recovered like I have been doing for a few years (Disk and Partition Recovery) and found it odd that it fail twice when it had to reboot for the restore.
I don't recall it ever asking me to restart.
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Old 08-15-2010, 06:15 AM   #14
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I don't recall it ever asking me to restart.
LOL. We maybe on different pages.

When I re-imaged my C: (OS) I have always done it within the OS and not the ResCD. So in order for the C: to be re-imaged it has to reboot since it is running to replace the files. When I clone to another drive I have never had to reboot.
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:34 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LUZR4LIFE View Post
LOL. We maybe on different pages.

When I re-imaged my C: (OS) I have always done it within the OS and not the ResCD. So in order for the C: to be re-imaged it has to reboot since it is running to replace the files. When I clone to another drive I have never had to reboot.
Ahh yes, that's where we differed. I imaged from my C: drive to my SSD's which weren't the C: drive at the time.

Additional Comment:

So I figured out the whole Macrium Reflect situation as of right now, and appended the notes with the needed information.

Last edited by Sephious; 08-15-2010 at 07:34 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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Old 08-15-2010, 08:09 PM   #16
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I have never heard of that program, looks promising though. I will have to test it sometime.
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Old 08-16-2010, 03:14 PM   #17
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Alignment is only necessary on Windows XP machines or drives that have been partitioned using XP. XP starts the offset at 64k. Something you should add... As mentioned in the TechPowerUp link, "Windows Vista/7 will both correctly align a partition."
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:04 PM   #18
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Thank you for leaving out the most important part of the procedure, the cloning. That's really helpful.
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:23 PM   #19
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Something I do at work when I set up a new computer with Win 7 for a user actually does a nice job of keeping your SSD clean as well. I found a website that explains how to edit the registry so that it moves user profiles off the system partition, so all of a users libraries, downloads, settings, folders, ect are not continually growing and eating up precious space on your SSD drive now. http://www.windows7hacker.com/index....-in-windows-7/
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:41 PM   #20
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Not knocking this at all as it's an excellent tut, but by the time people are upgrading from HDD's to SSD's it's prolly time for a fresh install anyway I wipe and install every 6 months like clock work
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