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How to get your programs working with your SSD from your HDD

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March 5, 2012 11:35:14 AM

Let me start by saying that I just installed a new 128 crucial SSD and did a clean install of win 7 onto it. I went in and did a windows update. I then hooked up my old HDD. I know I cannot access programs that I have on my HDD and that I will have to install them all again, but I need a little help. I only want my OS and World of Warcraft on my SSD and everything else on my HDD. Should I reformat my HDD and use my restore disc from Alienware to load all programs to my HDD?

Also, I read that I should save all installs to the HDD and run them from there so the programs don't get installed on the SDD. So does that mean my Mcafee should be installed on my HDD, not my SSD? I am so confused with all this new techy stuff.

I even have some programs that come with the hardware that didn't get installed on the SSD when the drivers were updated. I went to Dells site to get them all and saved most of them to the HDD and installed them there, but it feels like I am missing alot of stuff.

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a c 289 G Storage
March 5, 2012 12:03:19 PM

Let's see. The simplest question first: The only reason to download a program to your HDD is that otherwise the distribution would be taking up space on your SSD. Where you store the installation package has nothing to do with where the app will be installed.

I'm going to give a long answer, because I think I see a basic idea missing. Please forgive me if I am wrong. "Downloading" a program is like copying the installation DVD, if you have it, to your drive. It has no effect on how things run, or from where. It's just storage.

When you install a program, you unpack the installation package from the previous step, copy the unpacked files to a "program directory," and make entries in the start menu and (usually) the registry that tell Windows where that program's program directory is and other information needed to run it. At this point, the installation package is irrelevant to running the application. Although it's a good idea to keep it around, in case you have to do a rebuild later.

So far, so good. When you install a program, by default it is installed into a directory under "C:\Program Files" (did the C colon backslash get turned into a smiley?). This puts it on your SSD. When the program runs, it will be loaded from this directory, not from the installation package that you downloaded to your HDD, or that was on your DVD.

The short way to remember this is the difference between where you install them "from" and where you install them "to."

The great advantage of having programs installed on the SSD is that they load much faster than programs installed on an HDD. Loading a program takes an awful lot of random reads, and SSDs excel at random IO. So Windows installed on an SSD will boot faster, programs installed on an SSD will start up faster, and game levels installed on an SSD will load faster.

Finally, some people have so many games to install, or such large ones, that not all of the program directories will fit on the SSD. In this case, you have to pick some programs, either very large ones or ones that you don't care if they load slowly, and install them so that their program directories are on the HDD. Once this is done, when you run them they will load (slowly) from the HDD. There are two ways to do this, depending on how nicely the installation package behaves, but I don't want to go into them here.

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McCaffee will be running often, in the background, protecting your machine. It would make sense to me to do the default install with it, which will install it to the SSD. Remember, it doesn't matter where you download the package to; that should probably be on the HDD to save precious SSD space. But the program directory should be on the SSD so that this program can load quickly. It will be put there by default.

If you find that you will need more space to install all of your programs than 128 GB, then you have to plan in advance and pick a few large programs to install on the HDD. You will have to change the installation directory during the installation process, which is a different topic. My advice: If your programs will fit in 100 GB or less, install them all onto the HDD. Make sure that all of your data storage, like My Documents, is on the HDD.

Finally, let me point out that if you reformat the HDD you will wipe out everything on it. Do you have documents, pictures, game saves, or other files on that drive that you want to keep?
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March 5, 2012 12:34:08 PM

OK I get what your saying. I was just confused as to what to do when booting from the SSD. When I boot from the HDD I have all the Apps that came with the computer loading up, but with the SSD not all the apps are there. I went to the Dell site and put my service tag in to get what I am mising, but not all are there. I have been going back and forth to write down what I am missing.

So when I download a program I just save it to the HDD and run it on the SDD? I am already using 85GB out of the 128GB on my SDD and all I have installed is Win7, WoW, Vent, and Mcafee.
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a c 289 G Storage
March 5, 2012 2:25:05 PM

Hablin said:
So when I download a program I just save it to the HDD and run it on the SDD?

You skipped a step there. You download the program to the HDD, and then what you have is an installation package.
Then (the missing step) you install the program to the SSD.
Then the OS will run the program from the SSD.
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March 5, 2012 2:42:14 PM

Thanks for the explanation. So if I've just got an HDD as a data drive, with no OS on it, I can still run programs from it? And, can I still have a shortcut on my desktop (from the SSD with Win7 on it)? And when I click that short cut it invokes the program from the HDD I installed it on?
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March 5, 2012 2:49:40 PM

Best answer selected by Hablin.
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March 5, 2012 2:50:41 PM

I get it now, Thanks alot. Its just a long process of finding all the programs I have on the old drive to get on this drive.
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March 5, 2012 2:56:40 PM

catatafish said:
Thanks for the explanation. So if I've just got an HDD as a data drive, with no OS on it, I can still run programs from it? And, can I still have a shortcut on my desktop (from the SSD with Win7 on it)? And when I click that short cut it invokes the program from the HDD I installed it on?


Yes you can still install programs on the HDD and run them from there. To access them the desktop shortcut method works fine, though I am sure there is a way to have it show up in the start menu as well. (How to do that, I am not sure.) So you can put that large game that you barely play on the HDD, and run it from there.

Another thing of note, if you use Steam for gaming, look into something called "Steam Mover." It allows you to install steam games onto either the SSD or HDD (it actually installs on he main steam drive, make it the SSD, then copies it to the HDD, if you want, and updates some registry settings to trick steam into knowing where it is.) It can save you a bunch of space on your SSD if you want to keep steam games installed, but don't have the room on your SSD. I know I don't, since my steam folder is about 220GB.
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