Sunday, July 01, 2012

Finally an SSD

In the last two weeks I enjoyed two BSODs on my ThinkPad T500 with Windows XP. Each took me about 15min to recover, i.e. from reboot to getting back into our corporate VPN and Thunderbird and Firefox running again. And guess what, I did not really have the time for this...

So I decided time was ripe for a solid state drive (SSD). Although XP does not optimally support SSDs (e.g. no TRIM), there is still a huge improvement.

So I bought a Corsair Series 3 Force 120GB for only 100 EUR...
and a cheep USB/SATA external enclosure, so I can connect both the old hard disk and the new SSD at the same time.
Also, since I'd have a spare 160GB hard disk after the swap, a USB box for this would serve me well.

Well, day #1: the enclosure I got for 9.90 EUR, the Fantec Alu-2503 with USB 3.0, was a crap. I tested it on two different computers with two different drives, but it would only show up as a USB device for about 10 seconds, and then only the bridge itself, but never the drive. Regardless what I did. I gave up then.

Day #2: Bought 9.23 EUR Revoltec enclosure with only USB 2.0 and this worked fine.
I kept the harddisk on the internal SATA port and the SSD on the USB.
With my Acronis DiskDirector I copied my XP partition from the hard disk to the SSD, copied the MBR and then ... tried to boot from the SSD.... failure.
Moved the SSD to the native SATA port, still nothing.

Problem was, I could not find my XP recovery/install CDs... So I had to work with my Win7 DVD which has a different boot mechanism and MBR... etc etc...
So I was fighting various BSODs, NTDETECT, BOOT.INI BOOTMGR and NTLDR error messages.
Swapping the SSD and HD on USB and internal every 20minutes ...

To cut a long story short: On Day #3 with a lot of partitioning tools (diskpart.exe, ...) and the help of the Ultimate Boot CD, I found the problem to be in the partition order with the service partition on the SSD... I manually edited BOOT.INI and voilà it finally worked.

And wow, this is amazingly fast. XP now boots to being fully usable in below 2 minutes instead of about 10. The CPU goes to 100% for about 30secs when everything starts up at once, and with an SSD services and applications really start up all at once.
Thunderbird, Firefox, Chrome, OpenOffice... they all start instantly.

To quote a friend: "SSD FTW".

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