The Resplendent Developer

Software Development and Software Quality Assurance

Upgrading to a Solid-State Drive

This is less programmer/QA and more in the “Tech Geek” realm, but I figured it was worth writing about.

For my birthday this year, I decided that I could do a bit of a hardware upgrade on my main system: Dell XPS L702X laptop. I replaced the main drive with a 256 Gigabyte Solid State Drive and placed the hard disk in the second drive bay for storage. This prompted an interesting journey. For those who don’t know, the beauty of a solid state drive is that reads and writes reach speeds that approach read/writes of RAM.

Lifehacker has a nice little article on SSDs.

I still had all of the media which came with the system. To my less technical readers, I say this: keep the discs that come with your system – it makes your life unbelievably easier. The Windows install went amazingly fast, as expected with the reads from the Windows 7 DVD being the only bottleneck. After the first boot into Windows 7 (at very low resolution), I installed the chipset driver as Dell recommends.

It was here that the process started getting painful.

I started trying to work through the Dell Drivers and Utilities only to run into an error message indicating that the driver was not valid for my system configuration. The only drivers I could get installed were the network drivers. Note to Dell: I know what I’m doing. Windows is smart enough as well such that if I say install something, don’t tell me I can’t; you will only make me mad. At the urging of my wife, I put the computer down for the night and went to bed.

That night, something magical happened.

Those of you who remember previous versions of Windows and the mediocre functionality of Windows update know the pain of trying to play the game of connect the dots between drivers and hardware. The update often didn’t work, didn’t install correctly, or the driver just didn’t exist. However, the next morning, I woke up and picked up my system and discovered that all of the driver configuration and installation was complete.

Go me! Windows Update is NOW what it should be!

With that in mind, I ran through a checklist of details one must do for SSDs. Luckily, the drive already had the latest firmware, so I didn’t need to muck with that. The above Lifehacker article deals with the main things I needed to do.

Next, I decided to move the C:\Users directory to my D drive to save space. The best description of what to do can ALSO be found on Lifehacker (but before you follow that, keep reading)

I should note that this introduced me to the Windows command mklink. WHAT THE HECK!?!?! I’M ONLY NOW FINDING OUT ABOUT THIS? If you are a Unix or Mac user, it’s the same as the UBER useful ln command.

After doing this, and being rather pleased with myself, I rebooted. Aaaaaand boot failure. I couldn’t log in, my system was totally dead in the water. Furthermore, Windows repair couldn’t fix the problem.

*weeps softly*

Reformat, reinstall. I probably could have found a more elegant way to fix the issue, but I realized this would be faster. This time, after doing the “Move the users Directory”, I did one more trick – I did the Registry edit described here.

BINGO! I moved all of my data back on to my D: drive and enjoyed Windows booting in 9 seconds and various pieces of software install incredibly fast.

Next up, Backup software!

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