SSD: After the Install

what to do right after installing a solid-state drive

© 2012 by KV5R. Rev. August 5, 2012.

First Things First

Once Windows is up and running on the SSD, the first things to do are:

  1. Run MSinfo32.exe, Components, Hardware, Disks (not Drives). Check that the offset of each partition is evenly divisible by 4096. If it is, the alignment is correct. If not, you need to either start over, or use a partition manager to move and re-size the partitions into proper alignment. You can use AOMEI Partition Assistant to move partitions—just make sure to click Advanced and check “Allow partition alignment to optimize performance for SSD” and it will not let you pick mis-aligned numbers. If you installed Windows 7 fresh, it will recognize the SSD and the alignment should be okay, but check it anyway. If you cloned an XP drive without using SSD-aware cloning software, your partition will likely be mis-aligned, as XP (and earlier) started the OS partition right after cylinder 0 of the hard drive, and that location is not evenly divisible by 4096.
  2. Connect your back-up drive and locate the system drivers and install them, rebooting as needed. Note that, on a modern computer running Windows 7, most of this will happen automatically if you’re on-line. But some drivers are best obtained directly from your various hardwares’ OEM sites, to get the freshest versions. Also, while Windows will install basic drivers for things like printers and webcams, you still need to to get the OEM’s full software package to get the full functionality out of the device, and while such hardware comes with a CD, you already know it’s outdated.
  3. Get networking and Internet access working as early as possible in the process, because you will need it right away to install, update, and perhaps re-register certain things. If your DHCP server is running in your modem/router (and it usually is), Windows will grab an internal IP from it right away, and you’ll already be on-line. If you have a network, and you used a networked computer for backing up, you’ll obviously need to get that set up before proceeding.

Re-installing Your Stuff

  1. Reconfigure Windows settings to your liking. Windows out-of-box-experience (OOBE, as they call it) is terrible—it tries so hard to protect itself from you that it’s almost impossible to use. I always turn off all user access control (UAC), stop a bunch of notification balloons, set it to Show All Files, and etc. While doing this usability stuff, let Windown be downloading and installing updates, which will take several hours and require several reboots.
  2. Re-install your applications, starting with your anti-virus software. As you install applications, consider whether you will really need it not, or if it can just wait for later or maybe never. It’s like you’ve taken everything out of your garage, but you don’t really want to put everything back, or soon it will be as messy as before!
  3. Migrate your data files from the backup drive to the proper places in the new installation. If you’re not accustomed to managing such file operations, try this: run two copies of Windows Explorer and set them side-by-side (or, much better, use Total Commander). Set one to your C: drive and the other to your backup drive. Put both in tree and file list (details) mode, and make sure Tools, Folder Options, General, Show All Folders is checked. Now you can just work your way down through the folder trees and drag-drop folders and files from the backup drive to the new system drive. Make sure to hold the Control key when dragging so it does a Copy, not a Move. What to copy? If you don’t know what some folder or file does, you probably should not copy it into the new installation. You certainly should not copy anything to any folders under Windows, Program Files, or Program Files (x86), as these are managed by Windows and your installed applications. Mostly, you will copy things under the Users and ProgramData (what used to be called “All Users” in XP) folders, and they will be obvious to you.
  4. I found that copying most of \users\username\AppData and \ProgramData from the backup to the same locations in the new installation, folder by folder, just before installing each program caused them to find and use all my prior settings and such, just as if I were doing a program re-install to the same drive. I even copied the start menu and pinned items, though I had to delete a few for things I didn’t re-install.
  5. Obtain and run the free ATTO Disk Benchmark and compare your readings with the SSD’s published specifications. If your system has SATA-II instead of III, your performance will be about half. On a good SSD, expect around 560 MB/s on large sequential files with SATA-III, and about 280 MB/s on SATA-II. If yours are way lower, something is wrong! Remember that some SSDs have a large difference between read and write speeds, so make sure you get one with the latest memory and controller chip in it.

Over the next few days and weeks, you will run into things to re-configure, as with any new computer. You should keep your old drive as-is for a while until you’re satisfied that the SSD is reliable—most that fail will do so in the first month or three. Meanwhile, you also should be imaging the entire SSD to another drive on a regular basis (with Acronis or Macrium), just in case.

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