I had installed and configured Windows 7 on a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E430. It worked well, but it was terribly slow at startup.
I didn’t think that mattered much, but as I used the laptop more, I saw that it was not like a desktop: it was constantly being started up and hibernated or otherwise shut down, and with each startup I was sitting and waiting, sometimes for minutes on end. Once I saw how much faster startup could be when booting Windows 7 from a solid state drive (SSD), I decided to install one on the ThinkPad.
But there was a problem: the E430 had only one drive bay. I was in the process of souping that up, too, to a 7200 RPM 1TB drive. But I couldn’t afford to make that a 1TB SSD: at present, with tax, those cost nearly $500. I would need a traditional hard drive (HDD) for storage. If I was going to have an SSD at all, it would have to be a mini-SATA (mSATA) drive.
I bought a MyDigitalSSD Bullet Proof 4 mSATA drive. Its label promised 256GB. The Amazon ad labeled it as “256GB (240GB).” Once installed, sure enough, Windows 7 Disk Management reported that its capacity was 223.57GB. Good thing I wasn’t a mathematician; I might have had the mistaken notion that numbers matter.
It was easy enough to install the mSATA drive into the ThinkPad. It went into its own separate compartment, back by the battery — not the main compartment where the RAM sticks and the HDD were. One screw to open that compartment, and then one screw (already present on the motherboard) to install it. Like laptop RAM sticks, it went into its socket at a 45-degree angle (not flat), and then I pushed it down onto the screwpost and inserted the screw.
Now came the hard part. What I should have done — what I did eventually do — was to remove the HDD, so that my troubleshooting and tinkering would not accidentally delete or screw up any of its partitions or data. It was easier to be certain of which drive my utilities were referring to, when there was only one drive in the system.
I had already used the free version of Macrium Reflect to make an image of the previous Windows 7 installation that I had been using in the ThinkPad. Now, with the mSATA drive temporarily plugged into another computer, I used Macrium to restore that previous image. I could have used some other drive imaging software instead. In this process, I discovered that, unlike my purchased copy of Acronis True Image, Macrium (at least in this version) did not allow me to exclude specified files (e.g., pagefile.sys, hiberfil.sys). So the image took much longer to make and to restore, and was much larger than it really needed to be.
As I say, I restored that Windows image to the mSATA drive. I had used the free versions of MiniTool Partition Wizard and EaseUS Partition Master to make the necessary partitions. MiniTool, I found, was currently better at manipulating partitions without having to reboot; EaseUS was better at cleaning up some unallocated space that MiniTool wasn’t merging into an existing partition as ordered.
On the mSATA drive, I didn’t need the full 223GB for the Windows installation. Instead, I made a 140GB partition for Windows and used the remaining 83GB for data. Although Windows had a nasty habit of swelling, adding more files here and there, it still seemed that (with the aid of occasional drive cleaning measures) the 140GB partition would continue to accommodate Windows, plus paging and hibernation files, for some time to come.
As I say, I could have tried to do this image restoration with the mSATA plugged into the ThinkPad, rather than inserting it into another computer. But that might not have worked well in this case. When I did install the mSATA into the ThinkPad, I ran into problems. Windows wouldn’t boot.
At first, I thought this might just be a problem with the partition — it wasn’t active, or something. Usually, that kind of problem could be fixed by booting with my multiboot YUMI drive, selecting the Windows 7 system repair CD, and using its Repair option. (I think I could also have used the Windows 7 CD, selecting Repair rather than Installation. As I recalled, those were a bit slower to load, and eventually CDs being used would get scratched. There was also a way to create a Windows rescue CD; that was, I think, how I had wound up with the Win7 rescue ISO that I loaded onto that YUMI drive.)
This time, unfortunately, that repair procedure wasn’t working. I was getting “Boot error” messages. Eventually, I concluded that it was best to boot USB drives containing just one program, created with something like Universal USB Installer, or else use a multiboot DVD intead of a multiboot USB drive.
Another part of the problem, as it turned out, was the BIOS. It had been a long time since I had last updated the BIOS. I didn’t write down the BIOS version I was using, but I believe it was something around version 1.50. I saw that Lenovo was now up to version 2.55. I downloaded that new version and the accompanying installer and followed their BIOS update instructions, making sure that the battery was fully charged and the power cable was well connected before proceeding. Updating took only a few minutes, but those were minutes when I didn’t want any interruptions. Interrupting a BIOS update could cost me a motherboard. After finishing the BIOS flash, the instructions had me shut down and start the machine a couple of times. They also had me start with certain factory default settings in the BIOS setup.
The BIOS update made one immediately visible difference. I had gone into the BIOS settings (F1 at bootup) and had changed a setting, so as to see diagnostic messages during bootup. With that change, I was able to see what drives the system was recognizing. Before, it had not been saying anything about the mSATA. Now it was stating that it saw an mSATA drive at bootup. That drive also appeared, now, in the list of drives shown within the BIOS settings.
Windows still wasn’t booting, but now all I needed was another run of a working YUMI USB drive with the Windows 7 repair CD option. Once that was done, Windows did boot from the mSATA drive. I rebooted, hit F1 to enter the BIOS setup, and customized various settings to suit my preferences.
Back in Windows, I had to run Disk Management (diskmgmt.msc) and reassign some drive letters, so that my various partitions would function as desired. I also ran Control Panel > Windows Update, to see if the addition of the mSATA would necessitate any other software updates. In the process, I rediscovered Lenovo’s Control Panel entry for drivers and software, and tried that. There didn’t seem to be any updates specifically related to the mSATA, but that Lenovo utility presented a dozen assorted hardware updates, so I went ahead with those. I decided this was easier than going through the large number of driver entries on Lenovo’s drivers and software page. Many of those were of recent date. (Kudos to Lenovo for supporting its hardware!) Hopefully the control panel entry had already figured out which of those many new updates were actually relevant and important for my ThinkPad, because at this point I wasn’t inclined to go through them all. Doing so had been a real project, last time around.
I went to all this trouble for a reason. I was hoping that the ThinkPad would perform better, especially but not only at startup. My Windows Experience Index (WEI) records (see Control Panel > Performance Information and Tools) indicated that the ThinkPad’s previous subscores (with 8GB RAM) were 6.7 for the processor, 7.3 for RAM, 5.8 for graphics, 6.2 for gaming graphics, and 5.9 for primary disk data transfer rate. Upon refreshing the WEI at this point, the only changes were 5.9 for graphics and a screaming 7.7 (maximum 7.9) for the primary disk.
But never mind the theoretical improvements. How about startup? I had not timed how long it took to start up under the old arrangement, with Windows booting from the HDD, but I knew it took a long time. I rebooted now, after doing these updates. From the time I entered my password until the system finished loading a bunch of startup programs (a total of 25 icons in my system tray, plus three home tabs in Internet Explorer, Explorer++, and TrueCrypt) was about 45 seconds. Still a long way from instantaneous, but much faster than before. There was also a much snappier, responsive feel to the system in general.