Upgrading to a Solid State Drive


For more Details about a UEFI BIOS in particular Checking your BIOS Revision, Updating the latest BIOS Revision, Enabling UEFI and SecureBoot, an overview of partition table and SATA Operation see my Updating the BIOS and Preparing for Windows 10 TH2 Guide.

Legacy Guide…

The Solid State Drive offers a significant increase in system performance over a conventional hard drive but at present has the drawback of a high price per GB (which is falling as time passes). Therefore its recommended to use a 128-256 GB SSD as a boot drive (Windows installed on the drive) and a Conventional Hard Drive >1 TB for additional storage.

For more details on this configuration see here:

Note run the Crucial System Scanner to determine what SSDs are compatible.

When selecting a SSD you need to consider the Form factor of the Drive and the bays and ports you have available.

2.5″ SATA Drive for Laptops

Note when installing a SSD in a laptop, many newer SSDs 7 mm are slimmer than previous 9 mm SSDs or HDs and include a spacer to make up for the reduced space. Installation without the spacer may mean the drive is not seated correctly and hence not detected in your system.

Here is a comparison of the height of an old Toshiba HDD with a Crucial M500 SSD.

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Note the difference in height. The spacer must be inserted under the SSD in order for the SATA connectors to be the correct height.

Many customers are buying new SSDs and HDDs and reporting they don’t work because they haven’t used the spacer and the drive isn’t connecting properly.

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2nd 2.5″ SATA Drive for Laptops and USSF Desktops and SFF Desktops

Laptops in general only have 1 2.5″ HD bay. As the optical drive is becoming obsolete, many users are converting their optical drive into a HDD/SSD bay with an optical drive to Solid State Drive Caddy which is explained below. When using this configuration performance wise the SSD should be installed in the original bay and the data hard drive be installed in the optical drive caddy as the SATA slot originally designed for the HDD is of higher speed. However in some systems this causes additional heat issues because the mechanical drive can generate a lot of heat.

At this point in time SSDs of 250 GB capacity are very affordable and enough in storage capacity for most users particularly on old (> 5 years) hardware. Due to the overheating, additional weight and loss of optical drive I therefore do not recommend installing such a caddy in your system. The money for the caddy is just simply better spent towards a higher capacity SSD.

The hard drive goes into the adapter and the adapter replaces the optical drive. This is an example of a 2.5″ SATA HDD to SATA Caddy:

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Note some systems will have a cover in front of the optical drive such as the Latitude D Series. These can be clipped off (be careful unclipping them) and clipped back onto the Optical to SSD Caddy. If you break the cover by unclipping it you can always glue it onto the Optical Drive to Hard Drive Caddy.

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The rest of the cover can likewise be removed:

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There may be an adapter in the caddy for example this goes from IDE to ATAPI but this can be reused:

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Once you have the Optical Drive out of any cover you should examine it to determine if it is IDE or SATA,

The Optical Drive to Hard Drive Caddy in the above case is SATA and the original optical drive in my Latitude D820 is IDE making them incompatible.

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I used this SATA 2.5″ caddy to install a Crucial MX100 into an OptiPlex 760 SFF. This has allowed it a SSD upgrade with the ability to retain a 3.5″internal 1 TB HDD.

I purchased an IDE optical drive caddy to add an addition 2.5″ SATA HDD to a Latitude D820 which had its main drive upgraded to a SSD.

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In the vast majority of cases you want a SATA hard drive installed opposed to an IDE drive as IDE ones are old of lower capacity and no longer manufactured.

Use of a Caddy allows a large capacity drive to be installed for data and an affordable SSD to be installed for the boot drive.

If using an Optical Drive to Hard Drive adapter its recommended for the storage drive and not the boot drive if its IDE as IDE is slower than a SATA connector.

3.5″ SATA Drive for Desktops DT and MiniTowers MT

Most SSDs are 2.5″ and older Desktops come with 3.5″ Drives as standard. Installation of the 2.5″ in the 3.5″ bay is possible but an adapter should be used to make sure its snug.

Such an adapter usually comes with 2.5 ” Drives when purchased for a Desktop.

In Desktops with multiple Hard Drive bays the SSD boot Drive should be plugged into the SATA port denoted SATA 0 as its the fastest port.

mSATA SSDs

Much smaller in size then older drives and used only if you have a mSATA slot (the Crucial system scanner will let you know if your model has one).

This is the new form factor of drive and is present as the main drive in post late 2013 systems such as ultrabooks and tablets.

It is also present in some laptops and desktops mainly as cache drives but will eventually supersede the 2.5″ and 3.5″ bay when SSDs become more affordable than HDs.

23 thoughts on “Upgrading to a Solid State Drive

  1. Philip Can you please help. I am trying to install a Crucial M500 240Gb SSD on my XPS430. I am wanting to add as a second disk so I can migrate to a clean Win7 64bit build and maintain the 32Bit. (the original disk is also 95% full and I have off load a lot to external disk). The SSD is recognized by the BIOS and visible in Windows Disk manager when in SATA port 1 but not SATA2-4. When I connect the DVD drive that was in SATA1 in SATA2-4 it is also not recognized even if I force to SATA Port to ON in the BIOS. I am running the latest BIOS A01 from Feb 2009. (even though there appears to be a A01 from March 2009.

    You advice would be appreciated. regards Richard

    1. What SATA Operation do you have?
      http://dellwindowsreinstallationguide.com/a-clean-install-of-windows/ensure-you-have-the-correct-sata-configuration-in-the-bios-setup-for-your-configuration/sata-operation/

      Seems someone here had a similar problem which the BIOS update resolved for them (but you ar eon the latest BIOS):
      http://forums.techguy.org/hardware/1074129-dell-xps-430-sees-only.html

      Resetting BIOS defaults by removing the power and CMOS batter for a couple of minutes may help.

      1. Your article says: “I purchased an IDE optical drive caddy to add an addition 2.5″ SATA HDD to a Latitude D820 which had its main drive upgraded to a SSD.”
        May I inquire which SSD you used in the D820 main drive? I have a D820.
        Was the performance and experience as expected and is the one you used ‘still’ the one you recommend? Thank you. -MJ

      2. The system performs significantly better with the SSD but may overheat a little, I used a USB cooling pad. Anyway I personally felt the need to get a new system for increased performance.

  2. Philip.

    Thanks for the prompt feedback.

    The “SATA Operation” is set to “RAID ON”. The other option when selected (RAID Autodetect/ATA) fails to boot into windows and reboots the machine. When you return the machine to “RAID ON” the Start-up Repair runs automatically, and then boots OK.

    I have reviewed the techguy article but can see nothing that can further help me.

    I have removed the backup battery and left for around 5 minutes

    I am now in the situation where:
    SATA0 = 750GB HDD (Bootable Win7 OS)
    SATA1 = 240GB SDD (Visible in the Windows Disk manager with the option for format, make MBR etc)
    SATA2 = existing SATA DVD drive, not visible in BIOS even when forced “ON” in BIOS and generating warning on boot that SATA2 disk is not present.

    I have swapped around power connectors and SATA leads, everything works as expected.

    Other thoughts/ options? I have little need for a bootable DVD, I should be able to install Win7 64Bit from a USB thumb drive. But I do not want to loose the use of the DVD to rip audio CD and as writer. I could see if I can connect the DVD via the eSATA connector?

    Thx
    Richard

    1. Richard usually a system won’t boot if the SATA operation is changed, that is normal. In the configuration where it is at RAID Detect/ATA do you see both drives and the Optical Drive recognised in the BIOS setup, if so then you need to reinstall Windows onto the SSD and format the HDD during installation.

      P.S. I would suggest posting a new thread in the Disk Drives forum where some of the other Community Rockstars may also have some suggestions: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/disk-drives/

      Philip

  3. Hi Philip, please see if you can help me with this one.
    i have an old dell inspiron 640m laptop running windows 7 ultimate premium, i have recently purchased a Sumsung 840 Evo SSD to which i have cloned my HDD to it using Paragon software. I am running Samsung Magician and was told to boot system in AHCI mode however after searching and reading various articles, i did change the values (changing Start value from default value from 3 to zero following this guide http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/61869-ahci-enable-windows-7-vista.html) in registry etc but i can not find the AHCI Mode in Bios when i press f2 to enter bios on startup, do i need a clean install to get AHCI mode or my hardware is not compatible?
    Also i have noticed with the SSD my system startup though slightly faster but slower in opening my computer and files, net browsing (using Firefox) as constantly receiving Firefox not responding then after awhile its running again, definitely slower than i was using toshiba 250HD in my laptop. again is it just my laptop prob or is it the SSD itself? Many thanks in advance

    1. Hi Dat
      I am banned from SevenForums/EightForums for referring to my own guides. I would have recommended this opposed to that workaround: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976 however would recommend clean installation for optimum results.

      Regarding AHCI in the BIOS setup, it should be under Onboard Devices > SATA Operation. This model should have it as its essentially just a smaller Inspirion 6400 and this was taken from a Latitude D820 which has the same chipset and hence a similar setup:
      http://dellwindowsreinstallationguide.com/a-clean-install-of-windows/ensure-you-have-the-correct-sata-configuration-in-the-bios-setup-for-your-configuration/sata-operation/#VarB

      Likely a clean install would sort out your issues using the system drivers here:
      http://dellwindowsreinstallationguide.com/driver-sets/inspiron-laptops-windows-7/
      And following the installation instructions here:
      http://dellwindowsreinstallationguide.com/a-clean-install-of-windows/
      I just upgraded a Latitude D820 to a Crucial M500 and the system performance for everything is far superior, I upgraded an Inspiron 6400 to a Crucial M4 in the past. The Samsung 840 Evo is meant to be superior and I was considering using this opposed to a M500 however the price difference for a system with only a SATA 2 interface wasn’t worth it in my opinion. The clean install won’t take long on the SSD.

      Philip

  4. Philip, Thanks for the quick reply
    i have tried this “I would have recommended this opposed to that workaround:” and “Regarding AHCI in the BIOS setup, it should be under Onboard Devices > SATA Operation.”
    when i go into bios, sata operation is not listed under onboard devices

    i am in the process of backup all data i would like to keep, backup my itunes library, one i have done that then i shall looking into doing a clean install. by the way, do you happen to know a quicker/more efficient way/software of backup files and restore them after i have clean install windows 7?

    1. What BIOS revision is your system? A10? The screenshot was taken from the Latitude Dx20. It seems that the SATA operation might not be there for the Home model equivalents, E1405/640M/E1505/6400/E1705/9400. I don’t have my 6400 to test.

      I don’t use Itunes, I preferred Amazon mp3 downloader due to ease of coping files. I usually manually copy over the files to an external hard drive and back across after a clean installation:

  5. bios version A10, the controller that i have in my 640m is the Intel (R) ICH7-M Family Serial ATA Storage controller 27C4.
    “It seems that the SATA operation might not be there for the Home model equivalents, E1405/640M/E1505/6400/E1705/9400” does that mean my laptop doesn’t support AHCI? if so i won’t need to go ahead with clean installation then?

  6. Hi Philip, Hope you are well. Have only just now come across your rather interesting webpage and wondered if you are able to advise on my query. Am wanting to install a bootable SSD via PCIe interface on Dell XPS 720 in order to take advantage of the higher speed. Have run the Crucial system scanner and come up with a number of options but require something a little bit different. Wish to avoid getting this upgrade wrong, so am looking for advice on whether or not the Dell XPS 720 motherboard will permit a SSD to operate as a bootable drive via the PCI-express interface. Not sure if this will be blocked by the Dell BIOS or something else.

    This Dell XPS 720 computer has these specs:
    Motherboard: P611C
    Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 680 SLI MCP
    Processor: LGA775 Socket Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Q6600 2.4GHz
    Memory: DDR2 4GB
    Graphics: GeForce 8800 GTX
    Storage: 1TB/5400
    Audio: Integrated HDA 7.1 channel
    Video: GTX8800 via PCI Express
    OS: Win 7 [shortly upgrading to Win8.1]
    System BIOS: A06
    Expansion options
    IDE Connector
    SATA II Connectors 3Gb/s
    PCI Slot
    PCI Express x1 Slot
    PCI Express x16 Slots

    For the upgrade, I am considering purchasing a PCI-e to mSATA SSD [SATA III] Adapter and a Crucial 256GB mSATA [SATA III] Solid State Drive. SATA III [6Gb/s] via PCI-e should hopefully provide a significant boost to the startup & current disk I/O speed.
    If the above configuration does not work , should I be considering other upgrades instead, for example, SSHD or SSD via the SATA II interfaces ?

    Appreciate any advice you may be able to offer.
    Thank you.
    regards, krish

    1. To be honest I’ve not attempted an upgrade to a SSD using the PCIe interface, its best to post on the Dell Community Desktop Forums to see if anyone else has.

      A 2.5″ SSD will work fine with the SATA II interface.

  7. Dear Phillip,
    Your guide is clear and helpfull, but I don’t succeed.
    for 2 weeks I’m trying to upgrade my lenovo Y500 with a MSATA 250GB . I want to use that for boot and win8.1 (and later win10) and programs. The data stay on the HDD. But I don’t suceed ‘with the installation. 1 Drive-clooning is not possible from a 1T HDD (with a D=Data partition) to 250 GB SSD. 2 if clooning the partitions (boot + system) I can’t get the partition lettering good and it does not boot from the ssd-bootmanager.
    So I thought : I do a clean install and then substitute the content of C by restoring an image of the C on the HDD to it. But trial nr. 3. My old Oem-win8.0 DVD wont install on GPT ? 4. cleaninstal from usb from mediacreationtool.exe does not work the usb won’t boot (anyway there are only 2,8 GB “sources” on it, even if the tool requires a usb bigger than 4 GB (Something missing??)). What do I wrong ?

    1. I try trial nr 4 again with a new usb-medium, now 3,9 GB big. looks better.

      1. Yess, I got the msata ssd booting after a clean install Thanks your guide😉. but to my disappointment, I can’t clone the Hdd-system-partition to the SSD-systempartition. It evokes the restore screen: “the boot-device is not accessible”. ( “restoring” an image of the HDD-system-partition has the same non result). I don’t understand why the partition becomes not accessible, so I have no idea how to solve it. Do I really have to go back to the clean-install and install all other programs anew ???

      2. The time and wasted performance you’ll put into attempting to clone the HDD to SSD is better spent on reinstalling everything you want on the SSD with a Clean Reinstall in my opinion.

        Now that your system is a Windows 10 Device, I would advise Clean Reinstallation of Windows 10 directly. As you’ve noticed the Clean Reinstallation is far more reliable. See here, at the start of Step 4:
        http://dellwindowsreinstallationguide.com/a-clean-install-of-windows-10/

  8. Thanks for the clear advice. following your guide, I upgrade the HDD to win 10 and than I create the win10 install medium. Work to do ahead😉.

  9. Phillip,

    I have an original Latitude D630 running XP that I have cleaned up and stripped of most software other than Office. It works quite well. I also have a new Windows 7 Upgrade disc and thinking of doing a clean install of same. I don’t need a lot of storage, so I’m also thinking of getting an SSD on which to do the clean install of Win 7.

    It seems there are a lot of folks who have done a similar upgrade with good success. Is it as simple as pulling out the HDD, dropping in the SSD and booting the Win 7 install disc, with the XP product key handy? I know there will be a lot of Windows updates to install later.

    I’ve read through a lot of your guides (very nice work), but are there any potential pitfalls or details I should be aware of in doing the above?

    Thanks!

  10. Thanks, Philip – I think I will give it a go. My D630 has the nVidia Quadro NVS 135M video adapter. I seem to remember seeing someone having an issue with an nVidia adapter and Windows 10 on this or a similar system. Your thoughts?

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