How to Accelerate Windows 8 with an Upgrade to SSD Technology
We show you how a simple and inexpensive SSD upgrade plus Windows 8 can make any PC feel faster than ever before.
October 26th marks the general release of Windows 8, a day when anyone can get their mitts on the final version of Microsoft’s completely reimagined OS.
Like every new generation of Windows, Microsoft claims its latest iteration will be sleeker, faster, and better than ever before. The verdict is still out on whether Windows 8’s one-size-fits-all computing paradigm truly is better, but anyone who’s used it will agree that Microsoft’s latest iteration of Windows is faster than ever.
Simply taking Microsoft up on its $40 upgrade offer will result in a better performing PC, so now is the time to optimize your current system for Windows 8. Using something like Intel’s latest 335 SSD, we show you how this simple and inexpensive hardware upgrade can make your PC feel two generations newer.
Ready to take PC performance to a whole new level? Let’s go step-by-step.
1. Boot Drive or SSD Cache? The Pros and Cons
Depending on your hardware, there are two ways to add an Intel 335 SSD to a PC, depending on the age and features offered by your motherboard. Anyone not on the latest generation of Intel hardware will only have one option, which is to boot from the 335 SSD. Users with an Intel board equipped with Intel’s SRT technology have the option of using the SSD as a companion to a mechanical drive in the form of a cache.
Loading Windows 8 and applications directly on the 335 SSD as a boot device will yield the best performance over any caching solution. The caveat, of course, is space. SSDs are not currently as spacious as mechanical disks, so some may struggle to squeeze every application they have into the smaller sized models.
Intel’s Smart Response Technology takes a different approach to SSD management. Rather than the user deciding what lives on the SSD, all data lives on a hard drive. SRT simply caches the most frequently accessed files on the SSD. On the plus side, this lets the user forget about things like space constraints. On the negative side, the max cache size is limited to 64GB, and performance can be a mixed bag depending on what the user is doing.
Channelpro advice: go for the larger 180GB or 240GB model and use the SSD as a bootable drive.
2. Install the Intel 335 SSD
Open your case and locate a position to mount your SSD. Newer cases usually have dedicated 2.5” mounts for SSD drives, making it a simple affair. Cases limited to 3.5” and 5.25” bays will need to attach the SSD to an appropriate mounting plate to fit it into a bay.
For the best performance, you’ll want to attach the 335 SSD to an open 6GB/s SATA port if supported on your board. Optical and mechanical drives won’t utilize the additional bandwidth capabilities 6Gbps SATA provides; moving them to 3Gbps ports won’t affect performance in the slightest.
If installing in a notebook, how you replace a mechanical drive with an SSD will vary, but typically involves unscrewing a cover on the bottom or sliding out a tray from the side. Refer to your laptop’s service manual (look online) for detailed instructions.
3. Choose How to Install Windows 8
If you’re setting this up as a boot drive, you can choose to either back up and blow away everything, starting with a fresh copy of Windows 8, or dual boot with Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Advanced users might want to migrate the existing Windows installation to the SSD and upgrade to Windows 8 from there. Doing so can be a bit tricky, so proceed with caution. Also, don’t forget to re-align your SSD after the migration or the performance will suffer.
For those looking to install fresh and not keep Windows 7 around, back up all your files before you begin. Enter the BIOS or EFI interface for the PC and set the boot order for connected drives accordingly.
Boot the PC from the Windows 8 Install CD or USB drive and install Windows 8 to the SSD. Don’t forget to format the mechanical disk during the process.
4. Optimize Windows for the SSD
If you’ve blown everything away and started from scratch, you’re all set. Install drivers, updates, and programs, then restore files from your backup.
If you installed Windows 8 with Windows 7 present, you’ll be prompted to boot into Windows 8 or Windows 7. Choose Windows 8, and proceed to configure Windows 8 and install updates and drivers.
Depending on how much data you have, you may want to consider keeping your personal files on the mechanical drive, reserving the SSD for the OS and applications. There are numerous ways to go about this, ranging from simply copying user files to the hard drive to moving the user directory with symbolic links, to registry changes, and more.
Should you wish to continue with the option to boot either Windows 7 or Windows 8, there are no additional steps required. The new graphical boot manager in Windows 8 provides provides easy access to change the default operating system and other settings.
Desktop junkies and power users can do it the old-fashioned way by enter the msconfig.exe utility and click on the “Boot” tab. Here you can disable the GUI boot screen, change defaults, and more.
5. Getting to Know Your PC All Over Again
Remember how fast your computer felt with Windows 7? Expect to be shocked as you use your PC with Intel’s 335 SSD and Windows 8, which is fully optimized for performance on an SSD.
In fact, don’t be surprised to see your boot times drop to less than 10 seconds with Windows 8, vs 40+ seconds or more using Windows 7 on a mechanical drive. Better yet, every application you install to the SSD will open much faster than before, many almost instantaneously.
It may feel like the processor got swapped out for a faster one. In reality, the processor isn’t any better, but removing the HDD bottleneck does allow it to do work faster, no longer having to waste precious cycles while the mechanical drive looks for and accesses data. Seek times are virtually non-existent with SSDs, and because of this, random and sequential reads are incredibly fast.
Hard to imagine that Intel’s 335 SSD is only the tip of the iceberg in SSD performance. Take a glimpse at their 910 Series PCI Express Enterprise SSD drives to see speed on a whole different level.