Upgrade Win 7 PC to Solid State Drives

Peter Bye
Peter Bye used Ask the Experts™
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I am considering upgrading a Dell T7500 workstation from Western Digital Velociraptor drives to Intel SSDs to improve responsiveness. I would like to know do you think it is worth doing, what to consider and look out for, how to do it.

Details on the system:

Dell T7500 workstation
Windows 7 ultimate 64-bit
Windows bitlocker active on both drives
one processor board, eight xeon processors
24 GB RAM
two WD Velociraptor 300GB drives:
* one with Windows, all applications, swap file partition. 100 GB used
* one with all user data. 82 GB used.

There are extra drive slots in the workstation so I can temporarily mount the SSD in addition to the existing WD drives.

I would upgrade to two SSDs to have sufficient growth space even though the existing used space would fit in one SSD.

I assume I have to deactivate bitlocker before doing this. What else should I consider and what procedure do you recommend?

Thanks,
Pete
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Commented:
My first thought as I read your post was instantly irrelevant when I read the last line :-)
... Bitlocker would undoubtedly complicate this => but if you deactivate it first there shouldn't be any issue.

Is it worth doing?   Probably.   You'll certainly notice a nice improvement in system responsiveness -- much faster boots; faster (nearly instant in most cases) program loads;  and quicker data access.

Given the data usage you indicated, I'd buy two Intel 335 series 240GB units.    If you have a good partition manager you're comfortable with, you can use it to resize and copy the partitions from the old drives ... but the simplest way for the OS drive is to use the inexpensive Paragon tool:  http://www.paragon-software.com/technologies/components/migrate-OS-to-SSD/

For the data drive, you can simply create a partition, format it, and copy all the data from your current data drive.
I just want to second garycase's idea of using a tool like Paragon (or Acronis).    Using a imaging/cloning tool will save you much work.

i.e

I had a PCIe SSD give me problems.   I needed to send it in to the manufacturer for repair.   Using Acronis i imaged the drive in about 15 minutes,   then removed the drive, installed a blank standard SATA 7200rpm drive.    I applied the image to the blank drive (10 minutes).   After that my OS was exactly like it was on the SSD but now running smoothly on the SATA drive (just slower).

Long story short, you can move an installed and configured OS with these imaging tools in a short amount of time.
Peter ByeRetired

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Commented:
Two fabulous sets of suggestions and examples. Garycase - thanks for your thoughts about the overall value - I will definitely do the upgrade.

Paragon's migration tool looks excellent. Reasonably priced and focused on the problem at hand - migrating to SSDs. I used Acronis in the past for backup/imaging but don't need its flexibility these days so I'll plan to use Paragon.

So to confirm: Paragon's website claims they automatically handle alignment and the uEFI issue (whatever that is...), and that after the image copy all that is needed is to retarget the boot drive in the BIOS. Is it your experience that they are right about this - that it indeed is such a smooth process?

In the current configuration the Windows swap file is in a separate partition on the same physical drive as the OS.I suppose after using Paragon to copy C: I would then:

* create the partition for the swap drive and create the swap file
* boot into the BIOS to change the boot drive
* reboot into the new OS drive with a functioning swap file

garycase - you recommend Intel's 335 line of SSD. I see many model lines on their site. Any particular reason you focused on the 335 line?

Thanks,
Pete
SSD migration was easy using Paragon's tools.

Why not keep your 2x300GB RAID1 as a fast volume for spillover data.  Stuff you don't need on SSD.  Cheaper than a second SSD.

I did find that a RAID1 of SSD is fast if you have multiple users or processes doing read/write.  Installed a terminal server with RAID1 of 2x256GB Crucial M4 SSDs, provisioned at 200GB each.  It was plenty for the OS and the limited applications and locally stored database.  All other data was on another server at ~100MB/sec, still much faster than the old 7200rpm hard drives.

As a member of a RAID volume, there is no way for OS to handle cleanup work.  Crucial M4 and a few others have garbage collection built into the firmware.  With our use patterns, I estimated ~7 years before the drives should be done.  Even if we doubled the users and increased workload, it would be 2.5-3years.
Peter ByeRetired

Author

Commented:
aleghart - very useful ideas and experience notes. This is a single-user workstation with data backup both to an offsite service and to a local external drive so a RAID1 configuration probably is not needed. It is an interesting possibility, though, to leave one of the current WD Velociraptor drives equipped for overflow data. Or at the very least to keep them on hand and install if needed.

I'd like to confirm these two points:

In the current configuration the Windows swap file is in a separate partition on the same physical drive as the OS. So  after using Paragon to copy C: to the new drive would I then:

* create the partition for the swap drive and create the swap file
* boot into the BIOS to change the boot drive
* reboot into the new OS drive with a functioning swap file

garycase - you recommend Intel's 335 line of SSD. I see many model lines on their site. Any particular reason you focused on the 335 line?

Thanks,
Pete
Peter ByeRetired

Author

Commented:
Thanks to all three for your practical suggestions and experience.

In my final post I mentioned two final questions about the sequence I'll use and why Intel's 335 line in particular. Any concluding thoughts about those will be welcomed.

Thanks again - you've helped me decide to move ahead and given great tips on how best to do the upgrade.

Pete

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