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Cosmo_
Blue Screen Again
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-14-2013
Location: United States
Views: 22,881
Message 1 of 20

Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

Installing a Samsung SSD on my 3 year old ThinkPad W510 was easy. Getting Windows 7 set up took me days.

 

Here are some lessons learned so you can do it faster.

 

 

  • Backup

Lenovo Rescue & Recovery will back up files to a USB 3.0 disk but it took 10+ hours and it put several files and folders at the top level. Can it back up multiple disks (HDD and SSD)? Probably not.

 

  • Backup

Windows 7 Backup & Restore doesn’t have those problems backing up data files but when trying to save a disk image to an external drive that’s > 2 TB (with 4K blocks), it runs for a while then fails. The generic error message and event log are not helpful, costing hours of debugging.

 

  • SSD “frozen”

Some web sites say that an SSD will perform better if you fully erase it before installing the OS, but when I tried to do this, the Samsung Magician software said the SSD was “frozen.” Apparently this is a confusing way to say it’s locked from erasure. Magician’s workaround recommendations didn’t help. Magician’s PDF guide has alternate workaround recommendations (like turning of AHCI mode in BIOS) but I didn’t find them soon enough.

 

  • Clone the HDD or install fresh?

Restoring Lenovo’s factory disk image onto the SSD (instead of cloning the HDD) fixed accumulated problems but it took several days of work and problem solving. (The HDD’s hidden SYSTEM_DRV partition was full. Did that cause some of the problems?)

 

  • How to over-provision the SSD

“Over-provisioning” boosts an SSD’s sustained write performance by allocating temporary space. The Samsung Magician program will set this up -- but not on a drive with the Lenovo_Recovery “Q:” partition. Moving and resizing C: and Q: with GParted Live didn’t solve this. Instead it made me start all over restoring the factory disk image and the Windows Updates and Lenovo Updates. The solution (thanks, Samsung’s phone tech support!) is to use GParted or Windows Disk Management to shrink the C: partition. All it needs is some unallocated space between partitions anywhere on the SSD. (Samsung recommends 10%.) You don’t have to do anything to allocate that space to the purpose.

 

  • Partition alignment

For speed, you want the partitions aligned on a 4096 byte boundary. GParted will align them on a MiB boundary, which is more than adequate.

 

  • Windows restore points

The Windows installer is supposed to make system restore points but I found it started out with a broken configuration. So open System Properties, the System Protection tab, and check the “available drives” for any drives labelled “... (Missing)”. Turn off “system protection” (restore points) for the “missing” drives, then turn it on for the real C:.

 

  • Faster updates

After restoring Lenovo’s factory disk image, you must iterate installing Windows Updates and Lenovo Updates over and over until there aren’t any more to install. Fortunately this is faster on an SSD than an HDD. Save more time by having only one user account and no password so Windows reboot won’t stop for login. Also watch the taskbar for license dialogs that open up behind other windows but require your clicks to proceed.

 

  • Watch for stuck updates

Lenovo Update quietly gets stuck updating Intel WiFi & WiMax software. The fix is to download those installers from lenovo.com, run them, get an error message that it can’t install over the existing software, uninstall the WiFi & WiMax software, then run the installers again.

 

  • Restore from backup, or not?

At key points, I made system disk image backups of the SSD to the old HDD and tried restoring from a backup after the failed repartitioning experiment. But Windows Backup and Restore won’t restore a system image after booting from the destination drive’s recovery partition nor from the source drive’s recovery partition. Since my backup was on the HDD in the Ultradrive bay, I couldn’t boot from the Rescue & Recovery CD. The workaround was to make a bootable System Repair disk on a 512 MB USB key. Windows Backup and Restore then failed with another meaningless error, “The parameter is incorrect. Code: 0x80070057.” Apparently you have to remove the USB key right before starting the system restore operation but that yielded the error, "No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found." I’m not sure if that’s a symptom of removing the USB key or yet another problem with Windows Backup and Restore. Maybe it can’t restore to resized partitions? Windows Backup and Restore failed and burned hours of my time.

 

  • Fix the annoying request on bootup?

After you install Windows, all its updates, and Samsung Magician, you can use Magician to adjust system settings for SSD performance. Then you’ll find that Magician needs permission to “make changes to this computer” on every boot. Samsung tech support explained that you can then remove Magician from the startup list via msconfig.

 

  • Optimizations

Recomputing the “Windows Experience Index” might make the OS recognize the boot drive as an SSD and disable defrag for it. This didn’t work for me, so be sure to unschedule defrag. Also use msconfig to remove Digital Line Detect from the startup list and turn on “No GUI boot” (no Windows splash screen). Also use power plans Advanced Settings to never turn off the “hard disk.”

 

  • ThinkPad

Thumbs up. Easy to replace the HDD with an SSD and move the HDD into an Ultradrive caddy. Sturdy. Easy to work on. Well documented. Hardware that I didn't want to replace.

 

  • Microsoft Windows 7

Thumbs down. Buggy, fragile, over complicated, inadequate error messages, painstaking to install, difficult and time consuming to administer, poorly documented, accumulates gunk over time that causes problems, failed backup software, even a fresh install has scary event log errors.

 

  • Lenovo forums & support pages

Very helpful. Sometimes it's good to use Use Google to search them e.g. https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Alenovo.com+"over+provision"

 

  • Samsung 840 EVO SSD

Fine hardware. Some confusions around the Magician software. Great phone tech support. Web support doesn’t work.

 

 

  • References and more info

How To Geek, Lifehacker, Lifehacker, SSD Review, Newegg, Newegg, Anandtech, Storage Review.

 

grndnl
SCSI Port
Posts: 70
Registered: ‎04-10-2013
Location: United States
Views: 22,839
Message 2 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

Thank you so much for this! Very interesting to someone looking to do this later in the year.

Brad
Punch Card
Posts: 38
Registered: ‎12-01-2007
Location: Long Island, New York
Views: 22,816
Message 3 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

Nice.

Once the environment is the way you want make an image of your drive. If you ever need to do this again restoring that image will take minutes.

Search drive imaging software. Acronis works for me.

Brad

SSDee
Token Ring
Posts: 283
Registered: ‎05-13-2012
Location: United States
Views: 22,794
Message 4 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

I agree with Brad. I used Acronis to migrate my existing hard drive to an mSATA SSD in 1/2 hour on my W520.

 

That's right, I had Windows 7 running from the existing system image just that fast.

Cosmo_
Blue Screen Again
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-14-2013
Location: United States
Views: 22,758
Message 5 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

Good point. Maybe I should try Acronis.

 

My "Windows Backup and Recover" backups don't provide confidence after all those problems.

 

To tell if (either tool's) backups will work requires testing it on a spare drive.

Retired SuperMod
Retired SuperMod
Posts: 9,293
Registered: ‎11-27-2007
Location: SK
Views: 22,754
Message 6 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

I'm another who will confess to being an Acronis fan, been using it for years without problem and gave up using spare drives ages ago, but I do agree doing so is to be highly recommended.

 

You'll also find several articles on cloning in the forum knowledgebase, just click on the "Learn" tab at the top of the forum and search away.

Andy  

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mjdl
Token Ring
Posts: 161
Registered: ‎06-10-2009
Location: Toronto, Canada
Views: 22,681
Message 7 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

Thanks for the summary of problems and work-arounds in migrating the system disk to an SSD.

 

Here's my war story, for what it's worth:

 

I purchased a Samsung EVO 1TB SSD a couple of weeks ago to rejuvenate/speed up my ThinkPad W500, which is a machine with an Intel Core 2Duo processor--now out of its 5 year extended warranty, but still a solid machine with several more years of life in it. While an expensive purchase, the SSD has been totally worth it: true, the SATA II interface on the W500 does hold it back from maximum SSD performance, but the speed-up is just amazing even with that limitation. In fact, many things seem to be CPU performance constrained now, the disk has to wait for the CPU to finish whatever it has to do before dealing with more I/O. I don't use the Samsung "Rapid" RAM cacheing utility, because it does require a certain amount of CPU cycles that are better used elsewhere on a CPU-constrained machine. ( I did try it, and it speeds I/O as advertised.)

 

Really, a SSD is a worthwhile though expensive upgrade!!!

 

I put the SSD in an Ultrabay SATA tray to duplicate the existing disk.

 

The Samsung software to duplicate your system drive always crashed in "restore.dll" when almost reaching the completion point, and the resulting SSD did not boot. I reinstalled the old disk, ran Samsung Magician which flagged the SSD as frozen. Oddly enough, following the power removal procedure to unfreeze it by briefly ejecting the SATA tray did not work, so I created the recommended SSD reset/wipe utility bootable CD, reinstalled the SSD in the system disk sled, and followed the utility's prompts to reset the SSD once the utility booted off the CD.

 

I then used "Macrium Reflect" (Free Edition) to clone the system disk (in the usual place) to the SSD placed in the SATA tray. This finally did create a bootable SSD, althought the pre-desktop Rescue and Restore environment could no longer find the Q partition, even though it was present.

 

What I really wanted to do, however, was to create an entirely new system on the new SSD, and then make the usual system restore DVDs, and finally reinstall all the software and personal files I was actually using (too much cruft on the old one). So I used the Samsung bootable CD to reset/erase the SSD once more, and used the official Lenovo Windows 7 x64 Ultimate system generation DVDs to set up the Windows 7 system + Q partition.

 

This process went through its multiple reboots very quickly, and the resulting system then entered the usual OOBE successfully, booting into a fresh factory configuration, but with one bizzare failure: the Q partition had been created but remained empty, while the pre-desktop did function. But never mind: I updated the Lenovo system software to the latest versions and let Microsoft Update also it's thing (Windows 7 x64 SP1 plus all current updates), and then made a Lenovo RnR backup onto DVDs. That's what I'll use to restore the "factory" configuration if I ever need to, even if it is missing the contents of the Q partition.

 

I deleted the Q partition and shrunk the C: partition to create the recommended 10% of unallocated space on the SSD anyway.

Cosmo_
Blue Screen Again
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-14-2013
Location: United States
Views: 22,650
Message 8 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD


@mjdl wrote:

 

...  I updated the Lenovo system software to the latest versions and let Microsoft Update also it's thing (Windows 7 x64 SP1 plus all current updates), and then made a Lenovo RnR backup onto DVDs. That's what I'll use to restore the "factory" configuration if I ever need to, even if it is missing the contents of the Q partition.



Does making a Lenovo Rescue & Recovery backup onto DVDs actually snapshot the drive's current contents? Does it write the original factory image? Or does it depend?

 

I thought it writes the original factory image, but maybe that's just what I snapshotted.

mjdl
Token Ring
Posts: 161
Registered: ‎06-10-2009
Location: Toronto, Canada
Views: 22,616
Message 9 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

I may have confused you: Lenovo provides two tools, 1) one makes DVDs that restore the original out-of-the-box factory image of the entire disk (i.e. System partition, C: + Q: partitions) and 2) Backup and Restore, which is the Lenovo user backup tool that does conventional full disk backups, i.e. with all user customizations, added programs and files. Since my system-generation-to-SSD saga hadn't created the the Q: partition correctly, my only alternative was to create a full up-t-date disk backup with the second Backup and Restore tool that include all the Windows + Lenovo updates, but didn't include extra programs and my user files. This fitted on 5 DVDs, which I will use if ever I reinstall the entire operating system.

 

Once you get above 100-150 GB of backup volume (I'm at 450 GB right now), the Lenovo Backup and Restore is very slow, so I use the much quicker Windows built-in Backup and Restore program to backup incrementally a system image and all files.

biznatch
802.11n
Posts: 308
Registered: ‎03-30-2011
Location: CA
Views: 22,590
Message 10 of 20

Re: Lessons learned replacing ThinkPad HDD with an SSD

I used a Samsung SSD for a few months between an Intel and now a Crucial.  The Magician software was very annoying and just feels unpolished or unfinished.  In particular, the issue of over provisionsing is not explained well and it's not clear if it's even necessary; no other SSD's I've used required the user to do anything in this regards.  The difficulties and confusion with Magician were enough that I'd be hesitant to buy another Samsung SSD.  Having said that, Crucial doesn't provide any software with their SSD's so maybe you don't need any, Windows 7 can probably take care of whatever needs to be taken care of.  Intel SSD's come with the Intel SSD Toolbox software and I found it to be a good, easy to use, and reliable program.  If cost wasn't an issue I'd probably always get Intel SSD's.

 

I'm on my 5th main drive since I got this laptop (I like to upgrade drives).  Original HDD that came with the laptop --> bigger HDD --> SSD --> bigger SSD --> mSATA SSD.  Every time I have cloned my OS partition using Clonezilla and transferred my files just by copying them.  To clone or copy I usually put the target drive in an external USB enclosure.  When I switched from HDD to SSD I used Gparted to align the partitions, re-ran the WEI, and made sure defrag was off.  Besides these things, each transition between drives has been very smooth.  So even though I'm on my 5th OS drive and my laptop is over 2 years old I'm technically still using the original Windows install from Lenovo, plus/minus all the usual changes you'd make while using your computer for 2 years.

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