Installing Windows 7 an SSD

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A while back, we wrote up a piece on installing Windows to a solid-state drive and the reasons why everyone should at least consider doing it for the speed boost you’ll get from it.

Windows Vista:

Back then, we went through a list of reasons why Windows users might be better off using Windows XP than Windows Vista when it came to installing to an SSD, not least of which the fact that Vista, well apart from the fact that a lot of people just didn’t enjoy using it, wasn’t really built for use with SSDs.

Thanks to the fact that Vista wasn’t really made for use with SSDs, users who did opt to throw an install of it onto an SSD ended up seeing less of a performance boost than they might otherwise have. Moreover, because of the way that Vista uses the disk (which seems always assumed to be a standard hard drive) the OS itself can decrease the lifetime of the drive. It’s not a dramatic difference, but it’s something that most should be aware of.

So, in short, installing Windows Vista to an SSD probably isn’t the best idea.

Windows XP:

Still, Windows XP isn’t exactly best suited to being installed on an SSD itself. While you’ll see a noticeable improvement in performance when you’re running Windows XP from a solid-state drive, you’re going to have some headaches getting it onto the drive in the first place.

With Windows Vista, your install would have been relatively straightforward, but under XP, things are a little dicier. When we ran with an SSD install, we quickly found that XP install CDs don’t boast drivers for SATA drives, which leaves you out in the cold when it comes to SSDs, which are pretty much all SATA.

As a result, your only real option is to install a modified copy of Windows XP. You can do that (with an afternoon worth of headaches) by taking your Windows XP disc, ripping it to an ISO and then downloading some fairly specialised tools and tearing out a few bits and pieces before dropping in drivers made specifically for your own motherboard that will allow you to see a SATA connection.

Then all you have to do is splice the whole thing together and make yourself a new ISO… then burn it to a disc and go through the whole install process, heart in mouth and fingers firmly crossed throughout.

Fortunately, we don’t need to go through all that messing about anymore, thanks to the fact that Windows 7 is out and we need to update this whole piece anyway 😉

Windows 7:

Windows 7 introduces some nicer features to anyone who’d like to use an SSD for their operating system install. Before I go on at all though, Ryan from RMA has asked me to remind anyone who wants to install Windows 7 to an SSD that they should absolutely make sure they’re getting a gen 2 device, since (as is the fear with installing Vista) you’ll otherwise find yourself burning the drive out with repeated writes.

Once you’ve got your SSD, you shouldn’t jump straight to installing Windows 7 on it. Instead, you’d be far better off plugging the drive into an existing machine that’s already running, and using that PC to grab the latest version of the SSD’s firmware.

The firmware update should ensure you’re sorted out with TRIM, which should prevent your SSD from becoming fragmented and helps stop temporary data just piling up on the disc until it’s full… which was a genuine issue with older SSDs.

Once you’ve done all that, you should be good to go with a Windows 7 install as though you were installing it to a normal HDD. Of course, for most that will mean just running a plain install from a disc, but for those of you who want to get the SSD experience even during the install, we’d recommend going for a USB install of Windows 7.

It’s not too hard to set up a USB install of Windows 7, so we won’t go into too much detail about that here, but we will say that installing Windows 7 from a flash-based drive onto an SSD is blisteringly fast.

Installing from a plain old external hard drive will still net you a bit of a bump when it comes to installation time, but it’s not quite as impressive… given that there are moving parts involved and all that.

Recommendations:

For our part, we’ve always recommended that people don’t use the same SSD as both their primary OS and their primary data storage device. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the expense of high-capacity SSDs (with a 1TB SSD setting you back around the €3,000 mark, you can see what we’re getting at).

The other reason is for reliability and ease of use. The fact is that if you pick up an SSD that’s only 128GB, you’ll still have plenty of space to keep your content and your most often accessed games on it, but it just doesn’t make all that much sense to keep your music and movies on the same drive as your OS when they won’t benefit from the same kind of speed bump.

Anyway, our advice to anyone who’s considering picking up a serious update to their home storage arrangement this Christmas (or picking up some stuff to pass on as a gift to a hardware entranced loved one) is that they should go for any combination of the three below. All three would be a delight to receive for those of us in the office, but any two or even one is always a good thing to get 🙂

Samsung SpinPoint F3 1TB – €74.01

Corsair SSD Performance P64 64GB – €179.01

Corsair Flash Voyager 8GB – €18.50

Enjoy all, hopefully there’s been something for those interested in SSDs here that should stop you from running into any trouble with your own installs. If you have any questions, drop us a line in the comments and we’ll try to keep an eye and help out as much as possible 🙂

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One Response to “Installing Windows 7 an SSD”

  1. Fiachra Kenny Says:

    How would the Corsair SSD Extreme X32 hold up just using it for windows 7?

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