Using a HDD and SSD together with Dell Factory Settings in a UEFI BIOS

\solid state drives offered superior performance but had a higher price tag per GB.

Thus in Desktop computers it is recommended to use a Solid State Drive (preferably use a mSATA SSD if a mSATA port is present) as a boot drive and a Hard Drive for Data Storage. In laptops this is only be possible if there is a mSATA port and a HDD bay. In some laptops the Optical Drive can be converted into a HDD bay.

Dell are beginning to sell this highly desired configuration but it seems there are some initial teething issues and systems are being shipped out with a blank SSD and a HDD with Windows. Many other users are asking how to do this.

I have asked my Dell contacts to update Dell Backup and Recovery to support multiple drive configurations.



Step 1: Make Recovery media with Dell Backup and Recovery

Follow the instructions here to make a Rescue Disk (Bootable External Hard Drive) or Factory Backup (Bootable USB Flash Drive):

This should be standard procedure when you get a new Dell system.

Also make a Windows 8.1 UEFI Bootable USB as its required for the use of DISKPART:

This is useful to have to hand in case you later want a clean installation (For Windows 7 users the OEM .iso is unavailable to download so just use a Windows 8.1 .iso for DISKPART).

Step 2: Adjust UEFI BIOS Settings

There are 4 settings which need to setup correctly in the UEFI BIOS. Their exact settings depend on the Operating System being installed. In most cases these should be applied correctly at the factory defaults however some may be changed for example the SATA operation may have been set up for a SSD Cache Drive which is not what we want. Its worth taking the time to check all the settings before proceeding.

Windows 8.1 64 Bit UEFI (Recommended)
◦UEFI Enabled
◦SecureBoot Enabled
◦USB 3.0 Enabled – Debug Off

Windows 7 64 Bit UEFI (Recommended)
◦UEFI Enabled
◦SecureBoot Disabled
◦UEB 3.0 Disabled – Debug On

Windows 7 32 Bit MBR
◦UEFI Disabled
◦SecureBoot Disabled
◦UEB 3.0 Disabled – Debug On

Desktop systems <2012 may or may not have a UEFI BIOS and <2010 definitely won't have a UEFI BIOS. Systems without a UEFI BIOS will have a so called Legacy BIOS.

Windows 7 64 Bit Legacy BIOS MBR

Windows 7 32 Bit Legacy BIO MBR

Detailed instructions on how to change these settings are listed below:

This setting disables USB 3.0 functionality making USB ports exhibit USB 2.0 functionality. This setting is useful as Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows do not include native driver support for USB 3.0 and installation using the use of USB 3.0 ports can hence be stalled.

The SATA operation should be modified to suit your SSD/HDD configurations, such as SSD cache drive or SSD boot drive or just a conventional HDD.

UEFI is newer technology which makes the legacy MBR partition scheme obsolete. UEFI uses the GPT partition scheme. It has support for larger drives, more partitions and is more reliable than the MBR.

Associated with UEFI is SecureBoot. Secureboot requires a UEFI Boot and will only allow verified code to boot. This allows Windows 8.1 64 Bit to boot for example and will reject anything else. The idea is that Malware cannot boot before Windows 8.1 64 Bit significantly increasing the systems overall security.

For a video demonstration on changing the UEFI BIOS settings see the start of this video up till 1:21:

Step 3: Use of DISKPART

Boot from the Windows 8.1 installation media and use DISKPART > CLEAN ALL on the HDD and DISKPART > CLEAN on the SSD:

Step 4: Restore Factory Settings to SSD

Power down the system and remove the SATA data and power cables from the HDD (Desktop) or remove the HDD (Laptop). We want the computer setup so it has the SSD only otherwise Dell Backup and Recovery will restore to the HDD as its largest in size.

Use the Rescue Disk or Factory Backup to install Windows 8.1 or 7 to the mSATA SSD. Update Windows and check that its running okay.

Power down your Dell.

For Windows 7 power up and enter the UEFI BIOS setup, disable the USB Debug to re-enable USB 3.0. Power down your Dell.

Step 5: Initialise HDD and Assign for Libraries

Reseat the SATA and power cables (Desktop) or reinsert your hard drive (Laptop). Power it up and log into Windows. Finally you can initialise your hard drive and set it up to use the HDD as a data drive:

This should now have the factory settings on the SSD and the HDD used as a Data Drive.

3 thoughts on “Using a HDD and SSD together with Dell Factory Settings in a UEFI BIOS

  1. Philip,
    This is a great guide; thank you for sharing it. I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind.

    My system info for background: New, Dell XPS-8700 desktop; Windows 7 factory installed on a 256GB mSata SSD; with a 2TB hard drive for data. mSata is listed as Disk 1 (in Computer Management) with a 39MB OEM partition, 24GB Recovery partition, and 215GB OS (C:) partition. 2TB Hard Drive is listed as Disk 0 with 1863GB DataPart1 (D:). The system boots from the mSata SSD (Disk 1).

    I want to do a clean, reinstall of Windows 7 (with the reinstallation CD/DVD that I received from Dell) to get rid of the unwanted programs that Dell installed (Dropbox, Office 2013 Trial Version, etc).

    1.) Your guide instructs the disconnection of the Hard Drive, so Windows doesn't try to install on it. Do you think that's absolutely necessary, since Windows is already installed on the mSata SSD? I've read elsewhere that Windows can get confused with Disk # assignments (Disk 0 vs. Disk 1) if it installs without all drives connected. Does Windows always try to install on Disk 0? Why wouldn't my mSata SSD be Disk 0 since it's directly on the motherboard? Would the mSata SSD be Disk 0, if the 2TB HDD wasn't connected? If the SSD would be Disk 0 (without the HDD connected) does it revert to Disk 1 after the HDD is reconnected? Do the Disk #s matter? I'm terribly confused.

    2.) I think the Dell factory system image is in the Recovery partition on Disk 1, which I will probably no longer need after the clean install. Will Windows reinstall make it go away automatically, or do I need to delete it in advance? What's in the hidden, OEM partition? If it contains Diagnostics, I might want to keep it.

    4.) I've read about Windows creating a 100MB or 200MB Reserved partition during its installation. What's that? Do I need to worry about it being created? I don't want it if I don't need it, and it doesn't appear to be on the SSD now.

    5.) My BIOS version A08 doesn't seem to have the USB Debug option. Is USB Debug only available on a Windows 8.1 system, or in UEFI mode? There's a newer BIOS version A10 available, but I haven't installed it yet. Do you know if USB Debug is an option in it?

    6.) Is it safe to upgrade (flash) BIOS A10 within Windows, or should it be done from a bootable USB stick outside of the Windows environment? I've heard horror stories about BIOS updates causing bricked motherboards.

    I apologize for having so many questions, but the more I read about reinstalling Windows the more confused I become. Maybe I should just uninstall the Dell programs that I don't want and leave the system as it is.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. This along with some other videos on YouTube was very helpful. While the configurations were somewhat different on my new XPS 8700, they were similar enough to take the plunge and just do it. Interestingly, the junctions were already created once I moved the Libraries – when I tried to do it in the Command Prompt it said it was already done – when I checked out it and saved something, it went dorectly to the HDD drive. Thanks for this. I thought I would have to be on the phone with Dell for a whole day. At this point, have not had to call them at all.

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