I’ve been itching a while to get a SSD for my boot drive. I recently scored an Intel X25-M off of Ebay for cheap ($150 under retail). I received the box in the mail and was amazed by size: it was hardly bigger than a box of matches. Upon opening the box: you get the drive, two packs of screws, a 2.5 to 3.5 adaptor and a mini cd. Unfortunately, it does not come with a SATA cable or power converters (molex to SATA power, if needed), so make sure to order those with your drive.
Installation was relatively painless. I planned to setup a dual boot with Windows 7 on a 140GB partition and Windows XP at the end of the drive at 10GB. I did not have my XP disc at hand, so I decided to install Windows 7 first. Booting and general tasks seemed quicker and more responsive. After running the Windows Experience Index, the drive was rated 7.5/7.9 for performance!
I ran a trial copy of HD Tune Pro and it comes out at 151MB/sec read with max read of 205MB/sec. I decided to compare it to the traditional platter drive (Seagate ST3250410AS, 250GB). The read was 73MB/sec with a max read of 87MB/sec. My other SATA drive (Seagate ST3500630AS, 500GB) fared worse at 63MB/sec with a max read of 66MB/sec. Unfortunately, HD Tune Pro wanted me to wipe all the data off my disks to test them for write performance which I didn’t feel like doing.
I loaded XP, which wiped out the boot loader of Windows 7. I re-booted the PC with the Windows 7 disc, went into WinRE and ran Startup Repair. This put back the Windows 7 boot loader, but it did not add the XP NTLDR to the BCD loader?! I’ve done this many times with past Microsoft operating systems…from Windows 98 to 2000 and 2000 to XP. I went hunting for a third party utility to do my booting and found EasyBCD. Actually, EasyBCD just interacts with the Windows 7 bootloader to make it easier to use. I loaded the program, said “Add Entry”, I’m using “Windows XP” and that was it. It found my XP installation and added it to the BCD loader.
The next task was loading the Intel SSD Toolbox so I could maintain and optimize my new SSD. Unfortunately, after loading the program, when I went to click on the C: drive, it would just refresh the whole listing of disks. I thought that this perhaps was a Windows 7 x64 issue, so I booted into my XP installation and installed the toolbox there as well. This time the drive turned from black to blue, but when clicking on the drive, it told me the optimizing tools where disabled for the drive.
Off to Google I went, typing in “Asus Striker II Extreme + SSD + TRIM“. After reading a bunch of postings, the conclusions are these: nForce chipsets don’t support AHCI, only ATA and the native nForce drivers don’t support TRIM! It seems only native Intel drivers or the built-in Microsoft ones can take advantage of TRIM. Windows 7 might be setup for TRIM, but if the storage drivers don’t understand the command, it’s pointless. I booted back into Windows XP and per the instructions I found, I changed the driver “NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA Controller” to “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller”. I rebooted and joy: the toolbox worked!
I booted back into Windows 7 and tried this, but it already appeared the drivers were already set to “Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller”. I ran Procmon from Sysinternals and under the result tab I was getting “INVALID DEVICE REQUEST” messages. I went back to the Device Manager, knowing that the drivers must be hiding somewhere and sure enough, they were buried under the category “Storage Controller” instead of “IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers”. I went back to the toolbox after changing the drivers and…SUCCESS! I re-ran Procmon and now instead of “INVALID DEVICE REQUEST”, I was getting “SUCCESS” back.
My days of getting a motherboard with a non-Intel chipset are over with. Sorry Asus: there’s no excuse on this one. Hello AHCI, goodbye ATA!
– Soli Deo Gloria