Experiences With Windows 7 & SSD

This week I took delivery of a 40GB Solid State Drive (SSD) an a copy of Windows 7 Professional to give a boost to my quad core box. Windows XP has had a good run and it is getting to the point where an OS upgrade is needed to get the best out of the underlying hardware. The system has 8GB RAM but the 32bit nature of XP meant that only 4GB of memory could be addressed. In addition Windows 7 supports newer versions of DirectX. There are games on the horizon which I plan on getting which will require a newer graphics card which will use the newer DirectX. So that is the reason for the upgrade, now onto the installation itself.

I had the option to upgrade my XP install but since it has been in use for a few years now it had alot of rubbish on it. So I opted for a completely clean install. The SSD was installed and set to AHCI in the bios. Putting the installation DVD in the drive on boot and the process begins.

This was the first Windows installation I’ve done which has gone from start to finish without the need for any extra driver discs needing to be loaded. I was presented with a desktop at the correct resolution with all connected monitors detected and all the hardware aside from the sound card detected and setup. Well done Microsoft, its about time.

Thats the good bit, now for the bad. The formatted capacity of the SSD was around 37.5GB so I expected plenty of room for the OS and programs; I was wrong. I discovered that i had around 9GB of free space, this was a shock. A complete Linux installation with lots of software can fit into 10GB easily. So the task of discovering where all the space had gone began. The first big chunk of space was taken up by the pagefile. Due to the pagefile seeming to be slightly bigger than the amount of RAM there was 8GB of space. Moving the pagefile to a partiton on another drive solved this issue. Disabling the hibernation feature also saved another 6GB or so. I ended up with about 24GB of free space on the drive. A big chunk of the used space is taken up by the Winsxs folder, the purpose of which I have yet to fully determine for its 6.5GB size. This greedy nature of Windows is something that Microsoft should address, just because hard drives are bigger these days doesn’t mean Windows should use it.

So now I have some space back on my SSD it is time to move on the the next lot of problems. I use the Synergy software to share my keyboard and mouse between machines. This has served me well for years and I had very few problems with it until Windows 7 is involved. As soon as the UAC dialog box pops up on screen I can’t click on it as the mouse is frozen out. Luckily I have a hardware KVM switch but this isn’t the convenient option and there is some lag in the switchover. Turning off UAC has solved most of the keyboard and mouse share issues at the moment and everything is usable. There are still things to get used to but it could be worse.

Worse then happened, BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Not once but twice, data being lost in the process. The fault after some searching appears to be the SSD firmware. The Corsair F40 drive decides on occasion to give up being a drive and turns into a lifeless box. Soft rebooting the system the bios had trouble detecing the drive again. Only a hard power reset would allow the drive to boot again. After the second failure I lost all faith in the current SSD technology and moved Win7 back to a spinning drive. Since then all has been stable on the Windows side, just a bit slower on bootup.

So to sum up, Windows 7 is ok but could be alot better and SSD drives are going to be avoided by me in the near future until the technology becomes more reliable.