mSATA SSD Install XPS 8500 for gaming

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mSATA SSD Install XPS 8500 for gaming

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Thanks to  Skip,  I used his thread as a guide,  as I wanted to do exactly what he did, use the SSD for game files only.  

http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/desktop/f/3514/p/19469374/20197770.aspx#20197770

I left my BIOS SATA mode as AHCI, and there were a few quirks along the way so I took some pictures of my install with some comments. 

I also have some comments on how I would approach setting up the SSD with an OS at the end of the post.

The install:

The mSATA slot on motherboard was under the dual slot GTX 660 that is in the machine at the moment so I had to remove the graphics card.  With the OEM AMD 7570 or similar, I would think the mSATA slot is exposed.

If you have to remove the graphics card, it’s easy on the XPS 8500

Remove bracket on back panel  that holds PCI-e cards in place by removing single screw and lift up on bracket to slide off

Remove graphics card by pressing on white lever under the card to release it

 

The SSD I am using is the Crucial mSATA 256GB SSD.  Part number on Crucial is CT3256232.  On retail channels the part number is CT256M4SSD3.  I confirmed via Crucial that they are the same SSD.

Installing the mSATA is very simple, slide the card into the slot, it can only fit one way

Use the 2 M2x3mm screws.   ( My SSD didn’t come with any so I salvaged them off on an old floppy drive I found in my parts junk box, otherwise it would have been a side trip to Fry’s )

I reinstalled my graphics card, rechecked my SATA cable and power connections and DONE!

 

The machine will recognize the SSD  with the BIOS SATA mode still set unchanged as AHCI, and once you boot up to Windows, you have to assign a drive letter for it to show up in My Computer.  It will label it “Local Disk” if you don’t name it.  I called mine “Crucial mSATA SSD”.  Once it shows up in My Computer, you can right click on it to set up a new simple volume partition and format it.

If it doesn’t show up in My Computer or you skip the step to assign a letter to the drive like I did, go to Control Panel>Computer Management>Administrative Tools>Storage>Disk Management, or right click on Computer in the Start Menu and selecting Manage then go to Storage>Disk Management.  Once you see this window, right click on the drive and assign a letter  to the drive and set up the partition as a simple volume and then format it.

At some point, it will ask you if you want to enable READY BOOST on the SSD and that is only if you want to use it as a cache drive.   If you want to use all the space for files and OS don’t enable it.   I didn’t as in my case, I am putting my games on it only, and will likely use it for my OS at some point in time.

If you enable ReadyBoost by mistake, right click on the drive and under Properties, there is a tab called ReadyBoost where you can disable it.

Once the SSD drive is physically installed correctly and recognized by Windows and appears in My Computer you might want to do three things before installing files or an OS:

1)      Check the firmware by going to Control Panels>Intel  Rapid Share Technology .   Firmware revision when I received the SSD was 000F.   I went to Crucial’s site and under Support  the new firmware file should be there in the SSD area.  Download it, once you run the file, it looks for the SSD, restarts the machine and upgrades the firmware for you. 

2)     SSD’s use slightly different partition alignments than regular hard drives if you want optimal performance.   The XPS 8500 is set up to partition the SSD correctly to make sure the partition is aligned for optimal speed .  To double check that the partition is set up correctly, go the the start menu and type in a search for “msinfo32”.   Once you run msinfo32, find the SSD there,  look at the Partition Starting Offset, which is the bottom line.   Divide that number by 4096 and if you get a whole number, the partition is correctly aligned.  (In my case 1,048,576/4096=256)

 3)   If you have Disk Defragmenter turned on (and I think it is by default in Windows 7),  make sure the SSD is not set up to be defragmented and has been excluded from defragment list as Windows 7 will automatically defragment newly installed disks..   What I’ve read says that it shortens the life of the SSD if it’s done.   If the install went right, Windows should recognize the drive as being an SSD and not have it on the list to be defragmented.    Check under the Start Menu>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Defragmenter.  Or go to the start menu and type dfrgui and press enter.

Click on Configure Schedule above

Click on Select disks.. above

As long as the SSD doesn't show up on the schedule, you are okay!   

You can turn off the schedule at that second window above by unchecking "Run on a schedule".

So at this point it should be installed correctly with the SSD in AHCI mode, partition aligned, and not set for defragmenting............

I then copied all my game files to the SSD off my C drive to a folder called Games, backed them all up onto another device, then deleted the game folders off their original location on my 1TB  C: boot drive.    I reset all my shortcuts and once you launch the games off the SSD the registry values will be rewritten and you are good to go.

 

****If I were to do an OS install, I already know the SSD was installed properly and  running with current firmware in my present install of Windows and I would then do a clean install using a Windows 7 or 8.   My plan would be to use the SSD as the OS drive and my current 1TB hard drive for storage.

Since I know it’s working properly,  I would unplug all the drives, so just the SSD was installed.   Since I don't plan on installing a RAID array or setting this SSD up as a cache drive, with the SATA mode still set as AHCI (not as RAID) in the BIOS, I would insert the Windows Disk, boot off the CD via the keyboard and let the installer take care of the rest in setting it up as the boot drive and installing the OS files, etc.   Once I have the OS running at the desktop, have the programs I want installed,  the next step would be setting up the old 1TB drive as a storage drive. I would shut the machine down and reattach the old 1TB drive and other drives, and make sure the SSD is set as the boot drive in the BIOS.  

Once the other drives appear in My Computer,  l plan on doing a backup of the files I need off the original 1TB hard drive onto another device (I would likely have done this step before I started this OS install process), then reformat the original 1TB drive to empty.   Then copy all my video, photo and music files from my backup onto the original 1TB hard drive now being used as the storage drive. 

 At least that’s the plan……don’t want to hassle with cloning the original hard drive, a clean install is easy and likely better if you've had your machine a while.   Just ask Dell for an Windows installer disk if you don’t have one, it should have all the drivers on it.    The only decision I need to make ahead of time would be if I want the BIOS Boot Mode set to Legacy or UEFI before I do the OS installation.  I need to look into that…….

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  • This was very useful - especially thankful for the part where you described where you found the needed screws. I had an old floppy drive, looked, and sure enough, problem solved.

    Thanks for taking the time to post this.

    Greg

  • is msata slot sata 3 6gb/s?

  •  

     

    Yes, the mSATA slot is SATA 3 protocol. There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding this port as it is not clearly written in any of the support manuals. Here is why it is not clear. There are 2 SATA 3 protocol ports and 3 SATA 2 protocol ports. Looking at the conventional SATA data ports you only count 4 ports. The manual clearly states one of the SATA ports has two logical numbers that are 1 AND ~ OR 5. Since the Intel controller by default will support only two SATA 3 protocol ports, those ports on this motherboard are port 0 and mSATA.

    If you are not confused yet, read on.

     

    The blue SATA 0 data port on the XPS 8500 motherboard is SATA 3 protocol compliant. The white color port SATA port number 1 is a switching port. If the mSATA port is not used, it will become SATA 3 protocol compliant. If the mSATA port is used, the white port becomes SATA 2 protocol compliant and becomes SATA port number 5, so therefore it should be the last port used in your configuration.

     

    Examples:

    One SATA 3 protocol compliant hard disk or SSD installed... Use the blue port for 6Gb/s

    Two SATA 3 protocol, one HDD and one SSD, use the blue port and white port for SATA 3 protocol 6Gb/s

    One SATA 3 protocol mSATA and one HDD or SSD SATA 3 protocol drives, use the blue port for the second SATA 3 protocol drive. (The white data port 1 now becomes SATA 2 protocol compliant and changes port number from 1 to 5. ) This happens because both SATA 3 protocol can serve only two ports.

     

    I hope this clears up some of the confusion about SATA 3 protocol, and port numbering ubiquity.

     

     

     

  • Good explanation! lol @ "If you are not confused yet, read on."

  • hi, how did u install the gtx 660 graphics card, I have a xps 8700 and I tried to install the exact same gpu u did evga gtx 660 I get a series of beeps, im quite an amateur so please give me a step by step instructions.

    tthank u

  • Restart your computer and then press F2 when you see the Dell logo to enter the system bios.  Under the Boot Menu you will need to turn UEFI Secure Boot to off or disable.  This will allow the video card to be recognized.  

    You can also check with EVGA to see if they have a newer bios for the video card that supports the secure boot option under Windows 8.