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Install XP on SSD in Compatibility mode OK?

Tags:
  • SSD
  • Intel
  • Windows XP
  • Storage
Last response: in Storage
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January 13, 2011 3:21:24 PM

I recently installed an Intel X25-M on my Thinkpad T61 laptop. Due to work requirements, I need to have Windows-XP as the OS.

At the time I was a noob and didn’t think it was possible to install XP in AHCI mode. So before installing XP, I set the BIOS SATA controller setting from AHCI to “Compatibility” to avoid the blue screen of death. After completing the XP install, I ran all the updates, loaded current XP drivers, and the changed the BIOS back to AHCI mode. So far no problems.

I was impressed with how much faster the startup and shutdown times improved. Instead of 6-8 minutes with the old spinning drive, I am now up and running in less than a minute! Then I started running some performance utilities: HD Tune, HD Tach, AS SSD, and CrystalDiskMark. The results are far less than what I expected from ALL the benchmarks: 45-50MB/s sequential read speeds. Isn’t this around IDE speeds?! I’m expecting around 150MB/s since the controller is SATA I.

Since then I’ve done a lot of forum reading trying to get the performance to where it should be. I’ve already tried the following:
- Updated all possible drivers.
- Loaded the latest BIOS version
- Ran SSD-Tweek for XP

The only thing I can think of next to try is to reinstall XP in AHCI mode using F6 to install current SATA drivers. However, I’d really like to avoid doing this since it takes me so long to get my working environment right again.

So, I have the following questions:
1) Is it possible to get the expected read/write speeds after installing XP in IDE /Compatibility mode, then switching to AHCI?
2) Am I screwed and need to install everything again in AHCI mode?
3) Am I actually getting expected speeds, but the benchmarking software is somehow at fault for giving incorrect/slow results?
4) Is there something else to try?


Current Specs:
Thinkpad T61
MTM: 7659-C29
CPU: Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo T7300
BIOS:
BIOS version: 7LETC7WW (2.27)
BIOS Date: 04/08/2010
SATA Controller setting: AHCI
Chipset: Intel GM965
Southbridge: Intel 82801HBM (ICH8-M)
Intel(R) ICH8M-E/M SATA AHCI Controller
Driver version: 8.9.2.1002
Driver Date: 8/7/2009 (Downloaded from Lenovo support site)
Intel X25-M:
INTEL SSDSA2M120G2GC
Firmware Version: 2CV102HD (this is the latest as far as I can determine)
OS : Windows XP Professional SP3 [5.1 Build 2600] (x86)

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

More about : install ssd compatibility mode

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a c 316 G Storage
January 14, 2011 12:17:23 AM

Well, a couple of things.

First, take a look around for information on the TRIM command. XP doesn't support it, I don't think that IDE mode supports it, and without it SSDs tend to slow down as they get used. Short, rough version: They don't know which blocks have been freed up after a file is deleted, so they spend a lot of time looking for some free space to write on. A good indicator: hot-spit read speeds and unimpressive write speeds. Reading up on this will give you a better idea of what is going on.

Second, there are utilities around to clean up SSDs in OSes other than Win7. Don't think much of them myself; the best one tells the disk to self-erase, but then your OS is gone. Unless someone can turn you on to a good one, XP and SSD are not a good combo. Everyone, better information would be welcome here.

That answers your question 1, and my version is "no." To number 3, the software is almost certainly right. To number 4, prayer?

Now the fun part - 2 and about half of 1. Early in 2010, after much research and after _excellent_ backups just-in-case, I took the XP system on which I am writing this and converted it to AHCI mode. And it worked!

If you just switch the BIOS to AHCI mode, XP will start to come up and then fail. The disk can be read, but the drivers are all wrong. Re-installing from scratch using F6 is a reliable path, but I had a bucket of fun doing it the wrong way.

First, make disk backups that can be restored to a bootable state even if you fry your OS. Complete images of the partitions. It's good to do complete disk images, but this process will not kill your MBR.

Second, download the AHCI drivers for XP for your chipset. I apologize - I don't have those notes on hand any more, and they are crucial. Even once you have the driver, when you install it it will give you the choice of one of a dozen versions, and if you pick the wrong one your system will not boot - hence the backups. It took me about four tries; the first three failed and were followed by putting the controller back in IDE mode, restoring the backup, and booting up fat and happy.

If you want to try this, do the following, starting with the BIOS set in IDE mode
1) Backup (I already said this) to an external drive that can be booted into the backup utility.
2) Download the AHCI drivers.
3) Install the AHCI driver as a driver updates for the IDE controller that your drive is attached to. Choose the correct one for your chipset when the menu comes up. Again, sorry that I cannot help you there.
4) Shut down the machine.
5) Boot to BIOS and set the drives to AHCI mode. If you don't, I can guarantee that it won't boot to the OS. The AHCI drivers will be trying to read from an IDE-mode controller. I have never found a way to mix these.
6) Boot to the OS. If it works, stop here.
5) If it doesn't work, you picked the wrong version in step 3, or downloaded the wrong driver in step 2. So...
6) Boot to BIOS, reset the controller to IDE, and restore the external backup of your OS partition which you made while it was running on IDE drivers.
7) Either curse my name and forget about this, or return to step 3.

I had a blast doing it, and a great sense of accomplishment when I got everything running AHCI. I did this to hot-plug SATA drives. But you will still have the issue that TRIM isn't supported until Windows 7. So you should find a maintenance utility that will keep your SSD happy in XP - post another question looking for this.

But I think that you would be better off going to Windows 7 if you want the SSD to knock your socks off. This machine is multi-boot (2 XP, Win 7, DOS) and I run my XP and DOS from my Velociraptor, not my SSD.

Final note - some SSDs may be good enough at "garbage collection" that their performance will recover if you leave the machine on and idle for a couple of hours a day, but I can't name models. Good luck.
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January 21, 2011 6:31:19 PM

Thanks, WyomingKnot, for the only response I've had so far. I appreciate the answers and detailed instructions.

Looks like I'll need to reinstall XP in AHCI mode. Seems really strange that despite the poor benchmark results, the bootup and shutdown times are dramatically faster.

As far as TRIM support goes, Intel provides an SSD Toolbox which includes an "Optimizer". Not sure if that involves TRIM or not.

I've also been reading about how partition "alignment" can affect SSD performance, but it sounds like that is more for RAID setups. I'm assuming you haven't needed to tinker with the alignment stuff at all.

Thanks again!




WyomingKnott said:
Well, a couple of things.

First, take a look around for information on the TRIM command. XP doesn't support it, I don't think that IDE mode supports it, and without it SSDs tend to slow down as they get used. Short, rough version: They don't know which blocks have been freed up after a file is deleted, so they spend a lot of time looking for some free space to write on. A good indicator: hot-spit read speeds and unimpressive write speeds. Reading up on this will give you a better idea of what is going on.

Second, there are utilities around to clean up SSDs in OSes other than Win7. Don't think much of them myself; the best one tells the disk to self-erase, but then your OS is gone. Unless someone can turn you on to a good one, XP and SSD are not a good combo. Everyone, better information would be welcome here.

That answers your question 1, and my version is "no." To number 3, the software is almost certainly right. To number 4, prayer?

Now the fun part - 2 and about half of 1. Early in 2010, after much research and after _excellent_ backups just-in-case, I took the XP system on which I am writing this and converted it to AHCI mode. And it worked!

If you just switch the BIOS to AHCI mode, XP will start to come up and then fail. The disk can be read, but the drivers are all wrong. Re-installing from scratch using F6 is a reliable path, but I had a bucket of fun doing it the wrong way.

First, make disk backups that can be restored to a bootable state even if you fry your OS. Complete images of the partitions. It's good to do complete disk images, but this process will not kill your MBR.

Second, download the AHCI drivers for XP for your chipset. I apologize - I don't have those notes on hand any more, and they are crucial. Even once you have the driver, when you install it it will give you the choice of one of a dozen versions, and if you pick the wrong one your system will not boot - hence the backups. It took me about four tries; the first three failed and were followed by putting the controller back in IDE mode, restoring the backup, and booting up fat and happy.

If you want to try this, do the following, starting with the BIOS set in IDE mode
1) Backup (I already said this) to an external drive that can be booted into the backup utility.
2) Download the AHCI drivers.
3) Install the AHCI driver as a driver updates for the IDE controller that your drive is attached to. Choose the correct one for your chipset when the menu comes up. Again, sorry that I cannot help you there.
4) Shut down the machine.
5) Boot to BIOS and set the drives to AHCI mode. If you don't, I can guarantee that it won't boot to the OS. The AHCI drivers will be trying to read from an IDE-mode controller. I have never found a way to mix these.
6) Boot to the OS. If it works, stop here.
5) If it doesn't work, you picked the wrong version in step 3, or downloaded the wrong driver in step 2. So...
6) Boot to BIOS, reset the controller to IDE, and restore the external backup of your OS partition which you made while it was running on IDE drivers.
7) Either curse my name and forget about this, or return to step 3.

I had a blast doing it, and a great sense of accomplishment when I got everything running AHCI. I did this to hot-plug SATA drives. But you will still have the issue that TRIM isn't supported until Windows 7. So you should find a maintenance utility that will keep your SSD happy in XP - post another question looking for this.

But I think that you would be better off going to Windows 7 if you want the SSD to knock your socks off. This machine is multi-boot (2 XP, Win 7, DOS) and I run my XP and DOS from my Velociraptor, not my SSD.

Final note - some SSDs may be good enough at "garbage collection" that their performance will recover if you leave the machine on and idle for a couple of hours a day, but I can't name models. Good luck.

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January 28, 2011 2:27:26 AM

Best answer selected by pieman7.
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a c 316 G Storage
January 28, 2011 12:18:31 PM

pieman7:

Actually, you _do_ have to worry about alignment. While I can't tell you anything about how to set it up, and I'm not even sure if I'm right, XP installation breaks alignment and basically doubles the amount of writes that are done inside the SSD.

I'm basically a lazy person, so I'm not going to do research for this post, but if you _do_ find out how to align for XP and how to use the toolkit to keep an SSD running XP healthy, please drop my a PM (click on the little envelope by my posts to go to private messages) and let me know. I would love to put my XP on an SSD.

Does the Intel toolkit work with non-Intel SSDs?
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