How to add SSD mSATA mini-card cache on Dell XPS One 2710

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How to add SSD mSATA mini-card cache on Dell XPS One 2710

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I have a recently-new Dell XPS One 2710, which came without the 32GB SSD cache. So my mSATA mini-card slot on the motherboard is open. Now I want to add a 64GB mSATA SSD mini card to cache my existing 2TB HDD. The physical installation of the SSD mini-card looks pretty straightforward. My question is, once I physically install the SSD mini-card, what steps are required to make it operate as HDD cache? (Any change to BIOS setup? i.e. AHCI to RAID? Run and configure the Intel RST application included on my Control Panel? Etc. What is the order of this process? I do NOT plan to configure the SSD as the boot drive, but for HDD caching only. Any problems or issues?

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  • REEFROAMER, let me know how your upgrade goes as I am plan to add a crucial 128 GB SSD to my XPS 27 once it arrives next week. Also I am curious if I can upgrade the Intel HD4000 graphics...


  • I am also interested in adding a SSD cache to the Windows 8 XPS One that I just ordered (hasn't arrived yet).

    Please post what you have found out and done.

    George

  • I just added an mSATA SSD for hard drive caching on my Dell XPS One 2710 without re-installing Windows 7. The SSD cache is set to accelerate my single HDD (C:drive w/Win 7). I did a lot of online research before I started, and this worked for me. Your mileage may vary. I always first create a restore point, back up critical data and have a system recovery disc or USB drive on hand before making any changes like this.

    My system arrived from Dell as ordered with 8GB of RAM and a 2TB hard drive with Win 7 Home Premium pre-installed. Intel Rapid Storage Technology program was also pre-installed and accessible in the Control Panel, even though no SSD was installed at the factory. After receiving the system, I upgraded the memory to 16MB and installed all Win 7 updates along with MS Security Essentials and updates.

    Adding the SSD cache was a bit more complicated than simply snapping an mSATA SSD into the system board mini-card slot, but not very difficult. The biggest obstacle was to change the SATA mode in BIOS from ACHI to RAID mode without having to re-install Win 7. On systems like mine with a single HDD (containing the OS), the default Win 7 installation disables a few registry items that are required to use RAID in SATA mode. These registry items must be enabled before the system BIOS settings for SATA mode can be successfully changed from AHCI to RAID as required for SSD caching. My research found that if the SATA mode in BIOS is switched from AHCI to RAID without changing the registry, Windows will not be able to load.

    Fortunately, I found an easy fix for this in the Microsoft support Knowledge Base, Article 922976. This article has a “Fix It” button (MS Fix it 50470) which will make the needed registry changes automatically in just a few seconds. (Running the Fix It enables the registry items required to change from AHCI to RAID). I did not change the BIOS setting to RAID until these changes were made. The “Fix It” registry changes was, I believe, the single most critical step in successfully installing the SSD caching without re-installing Windows from scratch.

    Once I ran the Fix It, I rebooted and everything worked. I shut down and disconnected the power cord,.

    Now, I followed Dell’s instructions in the XPS One 2710 Owner’s Manual to install my mSATA mini-card SSD device. I installed a 64GB Crucial mSATA mini-card in the mSATA mini-card slot on the XPS One 2710 system board (as shown in the Owner’s manual). I did need to get two tiny screws from a local computer repair shop to secure the mini-card to the locking posts on the system board. Dell nor Crucial supplied them. Then I replaced the system board shield and back cover and plugged in the power cord.

    Immediately after powering the system on, during the POST when the big Blue Dell logo is on the screen before Windows begins to load, I pressed the F2 key to enter the system BIOS setup. Navigated to the Advanced tab and selected Onboard Device configuration, then selected SATA Mode. I changed it from AHCI to RAID. Save and Exit. The Intel Option ROM configuration screen briefly appeared and then Windows booted. Everything worked.

    Next step was to go to Control Panel and launch the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) program, which recognized my mSATA SSD as a RAID drive. On the screen was an “Accelerate” button. I clicked it and then setup the SSD RAID drive to accelerate my 2TB HDD system drive. (There are several articles about how to do it, but it’s pretty transparent.) The Intel RST limits caching to 64GB, so no matter how spacious the mSATA SSD is, only 64GB will be available for caching/acceleration.

    After setting up the Intel RST for acceleration, I rebooted. The Intel Option ROM configuration screen pops up briefly immediately after POST before Windows loads, but I ignore it. If it did not present at this point, I’m not sure how one would ever make changes to RAID drive configurations if needed. But it doesn't seem any changes are needed for this installation, and the disk caching seems to be working perfectly and without incident. The new mSATA caching SSD does not appear in My Computer because it is simply a cache for the HDD (which continues to appear). The only place I see the SSD status is in the Intel RST application in Control Panel.

    I understand that the Intel RST caching "learns" over time which items to keep in the cache, based on individual usage, and that performance improves as this learning process continues. So far, I am pleased with the performance improvements I am seeing.

  • Thank you very much Roamer for an excellent write up.  I'm sure that your time and effort in detailing the procedure will make the installation smooth for many people.

    I have a XPS One 27 with Windows 8 on order, and will be attempting these upgrades (RAM & SSD) when it arrives.  I'll report my success (or failure) here in this post.

    Again, THANKS!!!!

    George

  • Reefroamer, I think your post must be one of those sticky information on Dell's website how to install&configure mSATA drives.

    I don't have this laptop and not planning to do such a upgrade, but came across this article and was interesting how you explained the steps.

    well done and thanks for your time

    Ahmad

  • Thanks all. This is the best discussion I have found so far. I did it backwards. On my 2710 I put a 128MB SSD mSATA card in first and did the research second. Bad move. RST does not recognize my card. I only want to use it for caching like I used a USB drive before on and old hp upgrade to Win7 and now surplused. Anyway, I may have just wasted $100 since I am not willing to go back to RAID0 like my old hp was set to. My new Dell XPS One 2710 BIOS is set to AHCI but most posts and the BIOS screen warn not to change this. Can I have RST discover and use this as cache? The RST re-scan only shows C: and OOD. Win8 storage manager also only shows this. The PC does not "see" the mSATA. Or is RAID0 as described in Reefroamer's most excellent post, albeit Win7. Thanks for any help or advice...

  • Great information here! I need to know if this "Microsoft support Knowledge Base Article 922976 fix" is applicable for my XPS One 27 that came pre-installed with Windows 8, as I too am trying to add a 64gb msata ssd. Trying to run the ssd as a cache drive in raid configuration, hopefully, without having to re-install the operating system. So basically, does the Windows 8 variation of the XPS One 27 need the "Microsoft support Knowledge Base Article 922976 fix" before proceeding with the prior outlined instructions? Thanks for the assistance!

  • The Dell XPS One 2710 only supports the 32GB mSATA SSD. I learned this the hard way. My 128GB bricked the PC. The 32GB hums great! 64GB will not work either. Also, in the BIOS ensure that the HDD is *always* set to RAID. BIOS flash and other things can re-instantiates the BIOS defaults which is not RAID so you have to change it back to RAID each time if you add a 32GB mSATA SSD. The PC is bricked until you change the BIOS setting after which everything works great each time. I hope this helps...

  • Thank you for the advise, as I was considering the larger 64-128GB mSATA SSD. I will stick with the 32GB. Did you have to run the Microsoft support Knowledge Base Article 922976 fix before installing? If so, I'm wondering if it is necessary for Windows 8 for proper functionality?

  • I did not but your mileage may vary... The Intel Rapid Storage Technology seems to manage it fine on its own. KB922976 appears to apply only to Windows 7 and not Windows 8. I hope this helps...

  • This definitely helps!! Thank you for your input.

  • For windows 8 you need to see KB2751461

  • I went into see kb2751461 but I don't see where this will do what 922976 will do . What are you trying to say??

  • KB2751461 shows how to change the SATA from AHCI to RAID in the BIOS without it getting into the Boot /noboot loop.  Basically, you boot normally with AHCI, then run the bcdedit command to set safeboot, then change to RAID in the BIOS and boot into safe mode, then use bcdedit to clear the safeboot command.  Worked for me on a different motherboard.

  • I had no problem adding a 64gb Crucial msata SSD.

     

    Also, Windows 8 was a joke to set up.

    • Install the drive
    • change to RAID in the BIOS
    • go to the Intel RST app in control and push Accelerate

     

    Done