Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.

Started Dec 29, 2012 | Questions
madpanther
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Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
Dec 29, 2012

Hi
I'm looking to buy an XPS 8500 with 8GB Ram, 2T Hard Disk and 32GB SSD.
This come preinstalled with Windows 8.
I'd be looking to add an additional 8 or 16GB Ram to this, what type of memory do I need ?
I've read the SSD is used as a cache to the Hard Disk, can I install another 128GB / 256GB SSD as the boot disk and leave the 32GB SSD as the cache to the 2T Hard Disk ?? 
Is a new SSD treated just like a normal hard disk ? Could I install Win 7, Win 8 and Linux for triple booting ?
Could 2 of those OS's be installed onto the Hard Disk ?
Thanks for any help and advice offered.

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Bob Collette
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to madpanther, Dec 29, 2012

While I don't have an XPS 8500, I know that it uses DDR3 memory, which is currently relatively inexpensive.  While an SSD can be used as a sort of disk cache (Intel's Smart Response Technology), which is a way to get a performance improvement by adding a small SSD, you can also add a "full size" SSD and use it in lieu of a hard drive.  That's what I did with my custom built computer.  I recently added an SSD (128GB Samsung 830 series) which I use as my boot drive.

I currently have mine setup for triple boot (XP, Vista x64, Win7 x64), although I may remove XP since I rarely use it anymore.  There are a couple of things that you need to be aware of with an SSD.  First, you want to make sure that the alignment is correct.  The sector offset needs to be an even multiple of 4096.  You can find lots of info on this by Googling "SSD Alignment".  Secondly, you shouldn't defragment an SSD (you reduce the life without adding any benefit).  Lastly, Win7 & Win8 support TRIM, which keeps the SSD running at optimum speed.  I don't know if the distro of Linux you're contemplating using supports that or not.  If not, you should buy a make/model of SSD that has a Linux utility for doing that.

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Richard
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The answer would be Yes to the SSD
In reply to madpanther, Dec 29, 2012

madpanther wrote:

Hi
I'm looking to buy an XPS 8500 with 8GB Ram, 2T Hard Disk and 32GB SSD.
This come preinstalled with Windows 8.
I'd be looking to add an additional 8 or 16GB Ram to this, what type of memory do I need ?
I've read the SSD is used as a cache to the Hard Disk, can I install another 128GB / 256GB SSD as the boot disk and leave the 32GB SSD as the cache to the 2T Hard Disk ??
Is a new SSD treated just like a normal hard disk ? Could I install Win 7, Win 8 and Linux for triple booting ?
Could 2 of those OS's be installed onto the Hard Disk ?
Thanks for any help and advice offered.

Yes, you can add an SSD boot drive and use the 32gb SSD for the cache on the 2tb drive. Remember the 2tb drive is your boot drive and has the boot sector on it to boot the machine, you cannot just format that drive.

The most important step about migrating your current boot to the SSD is you must go into intel RST program, remove acceration first from the 2tb drive, then backup your OS from that drive  with a program like macrium free and restore your image to the new SSD. Once the OS is up and running again, you can then accelerate the 2tb drive again with the 32gb ssd using the RST console.

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abelits
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to madpanther, Dec 29, 2012

madpanther wrote:

Hi
I'm looking to buy an XPS 8500 with 8GB Ram, 2T Hard Disk and 32GB SSD.
This come preinstalled with Windows 8.
I'd be looking to add an additional 8 or 16GB Ram to this, what type of memory do I need ?

DDR3 non-ECC.

I've read the SSD is used as a cache to the Hard Disk, can I install another 128GB / 256GB SSD as the boot disk and leave the 32GB SSD as the cache to the 2T Hard Disk ??

Is a new SSD treated just like a normal hard disk ?

I have no idea how SSD is used as a cache for hard drive on Windows, however additional SSD can always be added to act as an independent hard drive.

Could I install Win 7, Win 8 and Linux for triple booting ?

Yes.

Could 2 of those OS's be installed onto the Hard Disk ?

Yes, however I have no idea if SSD caching will still support the original partition after you shrink it. It may or may not support the second Windows OS, and probably won't work with Linux. Linux will boot from SSD though.

It's also unclear if there is any point having a smaller SSD as cache when another, larger one is already available, or if you have RAM size comparable with that SSD.

Thanks for any help and advice offered.

I have recently converted my Linux desktop box to boot from SSD. All I had to do was to copy my existing Linux installation (except my giant /home directory) to SSD, change /etc/fstab on it to mount SSD partition as root and original drives (they are in RAID) under some directory, symlink home directory in that location to /home on SSD, and tell GRUB bootloader (installed on all HDs and SSD) to treat RAID and SSD as alternative root directories. This was only necessary because I treat SSD as untested technology with unknown reliability while my RAID provides redundant storage for everything on it, that will survive any potential hardware problem with SSD, however in reality neither of those things eliminate the need for backups, and for someone else it probably will be not justified. You can simply install Linux on a partition on SSD, and dedicate a partition on your hard drive for Linux home directory.

I don't know, what would be the most efficient way to install the second Windows system -- it will work well on the hard drive, but you won't get any benefit from the second SSD, and if you will install it on the second SSD, you will have to plan its partition sizes to fit Windows and Linux. You can share the original Windows partition to keep data files from two Windows systems and Linux, though I really don't know how it will, or won't, work with smaller SSD caching.

I have just checked, and my (very, very large, to be fair) Linux installation taken more than 140G on SSD, without any of my data files that I keep in the home directory. If you need a triple-boot system, you probably can split 256G SSD in half, and install two new systems on it, shrink the original partition on the HD, and create Linux home, and possibly everything-but-base-system partition for Windows on the HD. Alternatively you can install second Windows system on the new partition on HD, and create two partitions on the new SSD -- one for Windows data, one for Linux.

No matter what, with large hard drives and SSD you will need some kind of backup drive -- both may eventually fail, usually with no option to recover data from them.

You will probably need to study details and recommendations about SSD partitioning and configuration for both Windows and Linux, or you will end with poor performance. However the choice of what to place on SSD and what on HD, or how to split limited SSD space into partitions, is up to you.

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Osvaldo Cristo
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SSD for W8
In reply to madpanther, Dec 30, 2012

Lots of questions and some of them difficult to answer.

Anyway I strongly recommend you a bigger SSD. At the current prices I think you can get the best bang to your bucks going to a high performance 120GB unit. Bigger could be more interesting depending of your application.

I mounted my "new" PC some months ago after six years with my previous Dell Precision 490 workstation. I was completely away from the new technologies and its possibilities. Fortunately I found a great place to get most of my answers and educate myself. It was about the W7 and SSD, but there is a new thread on SSD for W8 also:

http://www.overclock.net/t/1240779/seans-windows-8-install-optimization-guide-for-ssds-hdds

It looks a par with the older W7 thread that was great - actually one of the best references on the subject I found in the net.

Best regards,

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chipster2
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to madpanther, Dec 31, 2012

Hi
I'm looking to buy an XPS 8500 with 8GB Ram, 2T Hard Disk and 32GB SSD.
This come preinstalled with Windows 8.
I'd be looking to add an additional 8 or 16GB Ram to this, what type of memory do I need ?
I've read the SSD is used as a cache to the Hard Disk, can I install another 128GB / 256GB SSD as the boot disk and leave the 32GB SSD as the cache to the 2T Hard Disk ??
Is a new SSD treated just like a normal hard disk ? Could I install Win 7, Win 8 and Linux for triple booting ?
Could 2 of those OS's be installed onto the Hard Disk ?
Thanks for any help and advice offered.

Madpanther

I did the same upgrade about 4 months ago and am very happy with the performance now.

In order to get the best performance, you need to be aware that the XPS 8500 has only two ports that are SATA III (6gb/sec), the mSATA port (where your 32 Gb SSD cache will be installed) and port 0 where the hard disk will be attached. You will want your SSD to be on one of those ports. The other ports are SATA II (3gb/sec).

What I did was order the XPS 8500 with 8 GB of memory and no cache SSD. Then I went to Crucial.com and ordered another 8 Gb of memory and a 256 Gb mSATA SSD. I used the Dell Datasafe utility to backup the hard drive then disconnected the original hard drive and restored to the SSD. I wa up and running in about an hour but I did all of this using Windows 7 Pro. Based on the experience of jamesdak here http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50527017 I think that I would order the Recovery Disk with the system and plan to disconnect the original hard drive then do a new install  on the mSATA SSD and not use the Dell Datasafe backup to reinstall the OS. Once the system is up and running, you can reconnect the hard drive and format it.

You need to be aware that Crucial doesn't ship the two tiny m2 X 3mm screws that you will need to install the mSATA drive I found them at http://www.laptopscrews.com/.

What I would do is order the XPS 8500 without the 32 Gb cache SSD since there will be no benefit to using a cache SSD if the OS and programs are already installed on a boot SSD.

Here is another link that you may find useful.  http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50065445

Chip

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jamesdak
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to chipster2, Dec 31, 2012

chipster2 wrote:

Hi
I'm looking to buy an XPS 8500 with 8GB Ram, 2T Hard Disk and 32GB SSD.
This come preinstalled with Windows 8.
I'd be looking to add an additional 8 or 16GB Ram to this, what type of memory do I need ?
I've read the SSD is used as a cache to the Hard Disk, can I install another 128GB / 256GB SSD as the boot disk and leave the 32GB SSD as the cache to the 2T Hard Disk ??
Is a new SSD treated just like a normal hard disk ? Could I install Win 7, Win 8 and Linux for triple booting ?
Could 2 of those OS's be installed onto the Hard Disk ?
Thanks for any help and advice offered.

Madpanther

I did the same upgrade about 4 months ago and am very happy with the performance now.

In order to get the best performance, you need to be aware that the XPS 8500 has only two ports that are SATA III (6gb/sec), the mSATA port (where your 32 Gb SSD cache will be installed) and port 0 where the hard disk will be attached. You will want your SSD to be on one of those ports. The other ports are SATA II (3gb/sec).

What I did was order the XPS 8500 with 8 GB of memory and no cache SSD. Then I went to Crucial.com and ordered another 8 Gb of memory and a 256 Gb mSATA SSD. I used the Dell Datasafe utility to backup the hard drive then disconnected the original hard drive and restored to the SSD. I wa up and running in about an hour but I did all of this using Windows 7 Pro. Based on the experience of jamesdak here http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50527017 I think that I would order the Recovery Disk with the system and plan to disconnect the original hard drive then do a new install on the mSATA SSD and not use the Dell Datasafe backup to reinstall the OS. Once the system is up and running, you can reconnect the hard drive and format it.

You need to be aware that Crucial doesn't ship the two tiny m2 X 3mm screws that you will need to install the mSATA drive I found them at http://www.laptopscrews.com/.

What I would do is order the XPS 8500 without the 32 Gb cache SSD since there will be no benefit to using a cache SSD if the OS and programs are already installed on a boot SSD.

Here is another link that you may find useful. http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50065445

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.'

Yep, I still have not gotten the software from DELL so I cannot chime in on how I resolved my SSD /Windows 8 install.  But for certain on my machine there are problems with trying to just use the built in Dell program to create the recovery media.   So be careful what you do, there appears to be several key differences now with Windows 8, even how boot up works, safe mode, etc...

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madpanther
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to jamesdak, Jan 10, 2013

Thanks for the replies.

I'm waiting for the recovery disks from Dell, once they arrive I'll look to trying this

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jamesdak
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to madpanther, Jan 11, 2013

Hey, the software disks did arrive and I used them to load Windows directly to the SSD with no problems.  It's all up and running fine now.

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madpanther
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Re: Adding an SSD to a Dell XPS 8500.
In reply to jamesdak, 5 months ago

I never did get around to putting an SSD in my PC.

But I plan to in the few weeks, I've got the disks from Dell so I'll disconnect the main HD and do a fresh install onto the new ssd.

The PC I got has the 32gb ssd so I need to decide if I keep that or not.

Maybe better getting rid of that and buying a 256gb mATA ssd.

Any thoughts on that ?

Thanks

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