Installing Windows on an SSD

I recently ordered a solid state hard drive from Amazon. They were doing a daily sale of a 128GB Samsung drive for $70. My co-worker told me about it and I went ahead and bought the drive, not even sure if my computer could support such a thing. I figured that the drive was already on backorder and that if I discovered a problem I could just cancel my order before it shipped. It was a good choice because Amazon apparently ended the sale early.

When the drive finally arrived I realized it had come without cables and it didn’t look like my computer came with extra power or SATA plugs. I used Monoprice to order them cheaply. The little booklet that came with my drive also recommended I get a real enclosure for the drive, since it was a 2.5” drive and I only had 3.5” bays available. I ordered that from Newegg. (Monoprice didn’t sell the enclosures and the cables were more expensive from NewEgg)

The cables arrived yesterday, so I started on my adventure. I don’t have the enclosure yet, but I figured since the SSD has no moving parts, it should be fine on its own for a few days. When I booted up Windows  everything seemed to be fine. I remembered to right-click My Computer and select ‘manage’ in order to actually see and partition the drive. This burned me once in the past. I bought an external HDD for my laptop (that only came with 60GB in total…how painful!) and I couldn’t get it to work. I was expecting it to be recognized as easily as a USB drive. We ended up taking the drive back as defective. The second drive came with better instructions, and I realized my mistake. I left a 30 GB partition for Linux, since I plan to install that on my SSD a little bit later.

In the mean time, I realized I needed install media for Windows 7. I’ve gotten used to installing my operating system from flash drives, and I heard I could do the same for Windows. One problem was that I didn’t have a install CD. My HP computer didn’t come with one, just a hardware tool to create a recovery DVD. I didn’t explore that route because I didn’t have any blank DVDs or CDs (and it couldn’t tell if I could restore the recovery disk to a different hard drive). After searching around, I found that there is a legitimate source for the Windows 7 ISOs, and my license key was still stuck to the side of my computer. I downloaded one, and tried to use Microsoft’s tool to create the USB installer, but it didn’t work. It didn’t recognize my ISO as a valid ISO. I followed alternative instructions to create the bootable drive, and things seemed to work from there.

When I went to actually install Windows on my drive, I ran into problems. It reported a missing driver at the start of the install. This had me stuck for several hours. It turned out the ISO I had downloaded was short about a gigabyte because my download had been interrupted  The Microsoft USB tool was rejecting my ISO because it wasn’t all there, and the installer was even more upset. I used a download manager to try to protect against a paused install and finally got the entire ISO. After I did that it was easy to install the operating system.

I noticed some odd things when I restarted. At boot time, my computer would ask me which Windows 7 to boot into, the one on my old drive or my new driver. I was able to disable that using MSCONFIG. This happened because my old drive was still connected when I did the install. This also meant that the Master Boot Record was on the old drive. I couldn’t boot into my SSD without having the old drive plugged in, because that was how my computer knew how to find the new Windows install.

To fix this, I popped in my USB installer (which had to be recreated, because I had already wiped it to put a Linux Mint installer on there), and tried the various repair functions, with the other hard drive unplugged. Eventually the recovery options realized that the MBR needed to be recreated. I tried some command line tools to fix the MBR, but they didn’t appear to work. The automatic repair startup option was what did the trick.

I had done something similar in the past. When I got that external hard drive, I created a small partition for Linux. This was a mistake because the master boot record was configured to find GRUB on the external hard drive. If my external hard drive wasn’t present, I couldn’t boot my computer. I was able to fix this by using my Windows install disk and wiping out GRUB.

I made a few mistakes that caused most of my problems. I didn’t verify the ISO download was correct before trying to install. And I should have unplugged my old drive when I installed Windows on my SSD. But I understand why my problems were caused, and I was able to fix and address them in part because of experiences I have had in the past.

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