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  • Posts: 18
  • Registered: ‎11-15-2017
  • Location: United States of America
  • Views: 391
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M55 Dual Boot Tips

2019-02-11, 16:31 PM

Posting here as my experience might help others to continue to get value from their Lenovo M55 hardware investment.

Even though Lenovo has placed the M55 on its end-of-life systems support list, (https://download.lenovo.com/eol/index.html), some of us are still getting great value from the machine.  I was able to reconfigure my M55 tower to run Win XP and Win 7 in a dual boot configuration using solid state drives, and others can do the same.

Motivation.  Why do this?  Well, if you are like me, (a) you have vastly more investment in the software than you do the hardware, (b) the old software performs useful business tasks, and you would prefer not to repurchase the same tools for no tangible business benefit, (c) you cannot easily port all of that old software to a fresh OS install because you don’t have all the product keys and/or original disks, (d) the malware and browser software providers are now finally forcing you off Win XP as they only support that OS in a degraded mode, and (e) you want to improve the performance/user experience from the hardware.

Some notes and tips from my experience:

1.  The bottleneck.  The performance bottleneck on the M55 is the HDD boot drive, not the CPU.  If you clone your magnetic HDD onto an SSD, the performance improvement is so great that you will think you had purchased a new machine.

2.  Plan ahead.  Open it up your machine, look around, and observe the constraints.  The key constraints are the number of 3.5” drive bay positions and the number of SATA cables supported by the motherboard.  For the M55 tower, there are 4 drive bays and 4 SATA cable ports on the motherboard.  If you are working with one of the smaller form factors, you may have more constraints, and that will affect your plan.

3.  Obtain parts.  I purchased the following parts:
-- The second OS.  Boxed, genuine, full retail Win 7 Home was about $65 on Ebay at this writing; Win 7 Pro was running ~$115 on Ebay.  (Microsoft will not sell you Win 7 directly anymore).
-- Cloning software.  I happened to have an old version of Acronis Disk Director, but there are other makers of cloning software (e.g., Macrium Reflect).  And, yes, my old version of Acronis Disk Director installed on Win XP a decade ago worked just fine.
-- Two SSDs.  There may well be a way to get the dual boot setup onto two partitions of one SSD, but I could not make that work on the M55.  After all the struggle I went through, I would just suggest using two SSDs, one for each OS on the M55.  I used a WDBlue 500GB SSD ($70 at Newegg) and a Seagate Barracuda 500GB SSD ($85 @ Newegg).  Prices vary for SSDs, so shop around.
-- Two 3.5 to 2.5 drive mounts; I used the Rosewill ‘RDRD-11003 2.5” SSD/HDD Mounting Kit for 3/5” Drive Bay w/60mm Fan’ ($13 at Newegg x 2 = $26) because it incorporated a fan into the mount.  SSDs don’t generate a lot of heat, but imho, more fans are better.  The M55 has always had weak thermal performance, but this flaw is easily corrected with extra fans.  If your machine is short of hard drive bays, look for a 3.5” bracket that will support two, 2.5” drives and forgo the fan.
-- More molex cabling to power the fans.  I used the Rosewill ‘RCW-300 8” Power Splitter Multi-Color Cable’ ($2 at Newegg)
-- More SATA power cabling to power the drives.  I used the Wavertec ‘1:2 15 pin SAA Power Cable Splitter 1 Male to 2 Female with Clip Inter Lock Computer Internal Cable’ ($5 at Newegg).   
-- (optional) Replacement SATA data cables ($1 at Newegg x 4 = $4).  After 13 years of use, I had one SATA cable fail as I was working on this project.  This project requires one to hook and unhook drives that you may not have touched in years.  If you get error messages along the way saying the OS cannot find the drive it is looking for, suspect the SATA cable.  The MTBF for SATA data cables is not infinity, and given the price it is not crazy to just replace them all with new.

4.  Prep.
The phrase is ‘garbage in; garbage out’, so before doing any cloning, you need to do the drive maintenance that you have been putting off; namely:
-- Run the defragmenter.  In Win XP it is  under ‘Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Computer Management’ and then Disk Defragmenter is one of the picks on the left navigation panel).
-- Run chkdsk with the /r parameter to attempt to repair the errors that have crept in to the file system.  Here is a nice write up:

-- Run SpinRite ($89) to find and mark the bad sectors on your HDD before you clone it.  Steve Gibson explains the issue here


5.  Go back and complete the prep.
Sigh.  No one wants to do the prep work.  Yes, it takes hours.  Yes, you really should watch that Steve Gibson video.

6.  The cloning procedure.
Read and follow the directions that come with whatever cloning software you are using.  

7.  After cloning:
-- Re-purpose your old HDD drive as a storage drive.  My 12 year old 7200 rpm Seagate Barracuda HDD that used to be the boot drive now provides service as a storage drive.  Thank you Lenovo for including that quality drive 12 years ago with my build.  And, thank you Steve Gibson and SpinRite for ensuring fine performance from this drive all these years.
-- Install EasyBCD from Neosmart Technologies (https://neosmart.net/EasyBCD/) (free with registration for non commercial users) to allow you to inspect and edit the boot menu.
-- While you are at it, download and install the excellent Speccy application from Piriform (www.ccleaner.com/speccy) to inspect the details of your build.

8.  Performance
These figures are for my Lenovo M55 tower with Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 @ 2.13 Ghz:
Cold Boot times:
    Win XP:  2 minutes
    Win 7 Home:  1 minute
    CPU:    27 - 46 degrees Celsius (usually at the lower end of that range)
    SSD1:   26 - 30 degrees Celsius
    SSD2:  28 - 35 degrees Celsius
    HDD:   35 - 37 degrees Celsius

9.  Drawbacks
Microsoft has announced that the end of official support for Win 7 will be January 14, 2020.
Some of us will choose to run Win 7 anyway.  Molon Labe.

10.  The Future - Swim at your own risk.
This article from PCWorld suggests that Win 10 is not going to be an answer for older processors:
https://www.pcworld.com/article/3209705/windows/confirmed-windows-10-will-cut-off-devices-with-older-cpus.html .  Perhaps Win 10 would run now on my Core2Duo processor (I have not tested it).  However, I think you have to plan that at some point there will be an mandatory update that bricks the OS.   The key phrase from the article:  “Any hardware device that falls out of the manufacturer’s support cycle may be ineligible for future Windows 10 updates.”

Also note that Intel has disavowed the entire Conroe processor family.  
The Conroe family processors are pretty far down the “Legacy Intel Core Processors” list:  https://ark.intel.com/products/series/79666/Legacy-Intel-Core-Processors

So, eventually, the future for my M55 tower (and, perhaps, yours) is Linux.   

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