Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500

Started Oct 21, 2012 | Discussions
Gimble
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Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500
Oct 21, 2012

I have just ordered a Dell XPS 8500 with a 1TB HDD and I plan on adding a 256Gb mSata SSD.

I want to use the SSD as my boot drive and for all software installation and the existing HDD for media. However, I am unsure as to the best way to set this up so would be really grateful for any help.

I have previously replaced a mechanical 500Gb HDD with a 256Gb SSD in my Dell XPS 15 laptop. That was very straight forward. I connected up the SSD to the laptop using a USB to SATA cable. Then I used Macrium Reflect to clone the HDD (i was using less than 200Gb) to the SSD. I   took the HDD out of the laptop and replaced it with the SSD and started up. Windows required a reboot but nothing else. The whole process was extremely simple.

Do I simply do the same with the new desktop - with the following changes:

(1) Connect the new SSD via the mSata port on the motherboard rather than externally via USB. As I understand it when you connect an SSD to the mSata port on the Dell it treats it as a cache disk rather than as an extra disk - what do I have to do to make the new SSD visible as a new disk?

(2) After I have cloned the existing HDD to the SSD I will have to change the boot sequence to make the SSD first - how do I do that on the 8500?

Or do I have to go through some other process to reinstall windows on the new SSD. Note that the Dell does not come with a Windows 7 installation CD. (But I may have an old Windows 7 upgrade disk around somewhere.)

fuego6
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Re: Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500
In reply to Gimble, Oct 21, 2012

There is another thread on here with all the informaiton you seek.. but yes - you attach the msata directly to the MB and use it as you describe.  Very straightforward though I believe you need to buy some screws from ebay as the machine obviously doesn't provide them from Dell nor do they come with the drive...

Here is the post that explains all... enjoy!

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50065445

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Gimble
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Re: Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500
In reply to fuego6, Oct 21, 2012

Thanks fuego6 - that is exactly what I needed.

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gscotten
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Re: Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500
In reply to Gimble, Oct 21, 2012

I just did this exactly like you said. Dell 8500, mSata SSD, Macrium Reflect. After cloning the system drive to the mSata SSD, I shut down, unplugged the original disk and booted up on the mSata. Then I shut down and replugged the original disk and it booted off the mSata drive and gave a new drive letter to the original drive. I might not have had to go through that, but I felt better knowing I could boot off the mSata before fiddling with anything. I left that drive in for a while before reformatting/partitioning it JIC, but it wasn't necessary.

System works great and is quite fast. My (very) old system took 16 seconds to open CS3. My new one is about a second.

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George

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Jim Cockfield
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See instructions for XPS 8500 in early post
In reply to Gimble, Oct 22, 2012

This post I made a week ago has instructions for and installing an mSATA model with the XPS 8500 (I'm assuming you're just going with one of the Crucial m4 Series mSATA SSDs, which is your best bet for an XPS 8500, since you don't waste a drive bay that way).   You'll also need two 2x3mm screws to secure it.  This post has all of the steps needed:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50065445

Basically, you can use a recovery DVD (or USB Flash Drive) and install Windows on the SSD that way.  See that post for steps needed, which also includes some links to vendors that have the needed screws to secure it.

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JimC
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Gimble
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Re: See instructions for XPS 8500 in early post
In reply to Jim Cockfield, Oct 22, 2012

Thanks to Jim Cockfield and gscotten.

Are there advantages or disadvantages to the two different approaches (cloning with Macrium Reflect or reinstalling using a recovery disk) of setting up the SSD?

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Jim Cockfield
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Re: See instructions for XPS 8500 in early post
In reply to Gimble, Oct 22, 2012

Gimble wrote:

Thanks to Jim Cockfield and gscotten.

Are there advantages or disadvantages to the two different approaches (cloning with Macrium Reflect or reinstalling using a recovery disk) of setting up the SSD?

Personally, I'd avoid the clone method, since Win 7 tends to setup some things differently with a new install when it detects an SSD being used (optimizing partition alignment for the SSD, making sure TRIM is enabled, etc.).

Personally, I'd use the method I linked to in my previous post as as first choice, as the recovery disk you create is basically performing a fresh install of Win 7 to the SSD, only it includes any drivers needed for the install the way the Dell recovery disks work (basically, you're getting a Win 7 install disk optimized for your Dell model including drivers it needs).

Or, as a second choice, I'd use a standard Win 7 install disk (which you can download at no charge form digital river).   See this post ( made earlier today for links to the .iso files you can use to create a standard Win 7 install DVD (then, just use the license key you'll find on the Certificate of Authenticity sticker on the XPS 8500 and plug it in to register it):

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50113535

Personally, I'd only use a product like Macrum or similar disk cloning software as a last resort, since a clean install of Win 7 sets some things differently to optimize performance for an SSD when one is detected, versus cloning a hard disk drive install to an SSD instead using Acronis, Macrum Reflect or similar solutions).   Now, given that most hard drive installs already have sector alignments that would work OK with an SSD, you may be able to do it without any negative consequences, provided you make sure TRIM is enabled, etc.  You'll find some posts around on this subject.

But, personally if I were wanting to install Windows to an SSD I'd still avoid a hard disk clone using software like Macrum Reflect or similar if you can do a clean install so that Windows is automatically optmized for an instead (using either a Recovery Disk that includes needed drivers that you can easily create from the Dell XPS 8500 menus, or via a standard Win 7 install disk instead).   Otherwise, you get the same thing that was on the original hard drive when cloning one, without the SSD specific optimization.

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Gimble
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Re: See instructions for XPS 8500 in early post
In reply to Jim Cockfield, Oct 24, 2012

Thanks Jim

After setting up the first SSD on an XPS 15 laptop using a clone from Macrium Reflect I thought it would be interesting to check if any settings had been changed to account for use of an SSD ratehr than a mechanical HDD.

I was suprised to see that TRIM was automatically enabled and that the BIOS setting had changed to AHCI. I have read somewhere that Windows makes changes to its own settings after installing a new SSD once you run the Windows Experience Index.

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Jim Cockfield
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Re: See instructions for XPS 8500 in early post
In reply to Gimble, Oct 24, 2012

Interesting.

I suspect that most PC Manufacturers and going to have the BIOS set to AHCI to begin with using a modern hard drive (because AHCI mode is more efficient and modern hard drive controllers and drives support it).   But, other settings may not be.

Digging further, it looks like you're right (running Windows Experience Index automatically sets everything for the SSD, including disabling defrag scheduling for it) from what I can see of forum threads about using WEI.

So, I guess as long as you run WEI after installing an SSD using disk cloning software to move the contents from another drive, Windows handles the settings for you.   Thanks for pointing that out.

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chipster2
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Re: Adding a 256Gb SSD to a Dell XPS 8500
In reply to Gimble, Oct 24, 2012

If anyone is interested, Crucial is having a one-day sale of their 256Gb mSATA SSD for 179.99.

Here is a link:

http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?imodule=CT256M4SSD2&cpe=insiderUSOct2012

Chip

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'I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when looked at in the right way, did not become still more complicated.'

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Jim Cockfield
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That's not an mSATA drive
In reply to chipster2, Oct 24, 2012

chipster2 wrote:

If anyone is interested, Crucial is having a one-day sale of their 256Gb mSATA SSD for 179.99.

Here is a link:

http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?imodule=CT256M4SSD2&cpe=insiderUSOct2012

Chip

That link is to a 2.5" Drive model, not to a link to one of the mSATA drives that you could plug into an mSATA slot on a model like the XPS 8500 (or other PCs and Laptops that can use an mSATA drive to save a drive bay and SATA connection).

Here's the mSATA version of Crucial's 256MB M4 SSD, which is showing $206.99 right this minute, unless you know of a link that has it at a sale price instead:

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=C2AF88A0A5CA730

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JimC
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chipster2
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Re: That's not an mSATA drive
In reply to Jim Cockfield, Oct 24, 2012

Jim Cockfield wrote:

chipster2 wrote:

If anyone is interested, Crucial is having a one-day sale of their 256Gb mSATA SSD for 179.99.

Here is a link:

http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?imodule=CT256M4SSD2&cpe=insiderUSOct2012

Chip

That link is to a 2.5" Drive model, not to a link to one of the mSATA drives that you could plug into an mSATA slot on a model like the XPS 8500 (or other PCs and Laptops that can use an mSATA drive to save a drive bay and SATA connection).

Here's the mSATA version of Crucial's 256MB M4 SSD, which is showing $206.99 right this minute, unless you know of a link that has it at a sale price instead:

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=C2AF88A0A5CA730

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JimC
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Jim,

You're right. I misread the specs.

Chip

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'I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when looked at in the right way, did not become still more complicated.'

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teseg
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SSD into XPS 8500 two drive system without a hitch
In reply to chipster2, Jun 16, 2013

I bought an AMD system recently and (soon after the purchase) was convinced (actually by some DPR postings) adding SSD was the way to go, so ordered a 256GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD. When I installed, it performed at 1/2 the advertised speed. I then found out AMDs tend to have this issue... despite advertising SATA3 ports, they perform at SATA2 levels with SSDs. Luckily I identified this deficiency on the 15th day after my computer purchase, which was the last day I could return this system to the Big Box store - no questions asked.

So I went to return the (budget) system and they asked I take a look for something else. With low expectations, to my surprise they had a heavily discounted XPS 8500 Open Box on the shelf with a 2T drive / I7 chip that was just slightly more than the budget AMD system I was returning. I picked it up, knowing I had the SSD sitting at home. The result is amazing!

  • As of today, the Samsung 840 Pro (256GB+) SSDs are about the quickest, most reliable in the market
  • It comes with 2 software applications: a clone software and an SSD optimizer software
  • Make sure after installing clone software you update to latest version before cloning!
  • After cloning, detach HDD, and move the SSD SATA connection to SATA Port 0 and start up system with just the SSD
  • After that works, connect the HHD and start again and use Quick Format to wipe that disk (get there by right clicking the file folder)
  • With the newest Samsung clone version, cloning is quick and a breeze
  • Optimizing with Magician is also very effective, allowing my system to eclipse Samsung's recommended benchmarks
  • It does not come with a Desktop HD caddy (to accommodate a 2.5" drive in a 3.5" port) nor a SATA cable, as an FYI

Benefits:

  • Extremely quick
  • Extremely quiet

Set up and work flow:

  • All applications and OS on SSD... but there is still plenty of room that this is where I download my working files from my camera
  • After I am done working the files in a folder, I cut and paste that folder from the SSD to the HHD where it is now archived if I ever need to retrieve
  • In Library, you can right click Photo or Picture file and add where it points to so the HDD photos will show there as well

The system is amazing.. the only shortfall is it came with only 8GB or RAM, so I have 32GB RAM on order, so for under $1K I should have quite a system. And it was quite easy to set up.

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