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Can't Get Windows to Use mSATA for Boot Partition on M4600?

Discussion in 'Dell Latitude, Vostro, and Precision' started by Zzyzxtek, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    I've got an m4600 with a 128GB mSATA SSD and a 750 GB HDD.

    I'm doing a fresh install of Windows 7.

    With both disks wiped (no existing partitions), I select disk 0 (the mSATA SSD) to install Windows on and hit next. It continues happily along, but when it completes I find it created a 100 MB system partition (the boot partition) on disk 1 (the HDD) and installed all the rest of Windows on a partition it created the mSATA SSD. So it's actually booting from the HDD and then loading all the rest of Windows from the mSATA.

    If I try manually creating a partition in the Windows install on disk 0, it creates one partition using all the space. If I create a partition on disk 1, it puts up a dialog about creating additional partitions, and then creates two -- a 100 MB system partition and the other main partition. I want it to do that with disk 0.

    So, Windows is apparently thinking it can't boot from the mSATA SSD. Which is weird because that's the way it was set up from the factory (the mSATA had the boot partition on it as well). But I can't find a way to get that back.

    I've checked to make sure the mSATA device is set to bootable in the BIOS (although let me know if there is a trick to this). When I set the system to only boot from the mSATA, it hangs on boot up. If I set it to boot from the HDD, it boots up fine.

    I thought maybe it needed some additional drivers to recognize the mSATA as a boot device, so I've tried using the drivers during the install from the "Rapid Storage Technology (Pre-OS Install)", but when I do that Windows install now says it can't install on either of the two drives (showing a generic hex code error message), and I have to re-start the install.

    Any ideas or help? I tried talking to Dell tech support, but the person on the phone had no clue and was just walking me through these long, drawn out steps that they were just reading off the screen. I suspect there is some more direct answer to this.

    Many thanks in advance!
     
  2. Weegie

    Weegie Notebook Deity

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    Remove the hard drive and then install as per normal
     
  3. tom_bell07

    tom_bell07 Notebook Consultant

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    I don't think the mSata drive works without a HDD or something (another SSD) in the normal drive location. I tried doing that before with my m4500 and it didn't work.
     
  4. Weegie

    Weegie Notebook Deity

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    Worked with my intel 310 Tom, as long as the bios is set correctly, mSata formatted and set to basic disc, trying to clean install mine with the HDD in it, ended up with a mess like the OP just stated, bit of this here...and a bit that there.
    Soon as you put the hard drive back in after installing windows on the mSata, or any new HDD in the main slot, you have to reset the bios to primary boot from the mSata, because the silly thing defaults back to the HDD again, even if there is no OS on it, thus ending in not being able to find any bootable device
     
  5. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for that report! I just spent the entire afternoon installing all the Dell drivers and utilities per the re-image guide and Windows update, etc. So I was hoping for some confirmation that a clean Win 7 install could be made with the HDD temporarily removed before I backtracked that much. Now that I know it's possible, I probably won't be satisfied until I wipe it all out and try it! :(


     
  6. Bokeh

    Bokeh Notebook Deity

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    You have to move the drive up in the boot sequence. The bios automatically puts the 2.5" drives ahead of it.
     
  7. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Yep, thanks. When I was having the issues, the 2.5" drive was unchecked as bootable -- only the mSATA and DVD were checked as bootable, with the DVD first on the list. I had to make the HDD bootable after Windows put the partition on it (as mentioned above).

    I decided to wipe out the disks and re-install with the HDD removed when I get home this evening, so stay tuned...
     
  8. Dell-Mano_G

    Dell-Mano_G Company Representative

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    If you are having issues installing the OS to the mSATA drive try removing all other HDD's from the system and trying the install again. This will force the OS to install to the mSATA drive and not the HDD's.
     
  9. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Worked like a charm!

    I wiped both disks (I had time, so I truly wiped them with a utility that wrote 0's over the entire disk overnight -- probably not necessary, but I wasn't taking any chances with left over boot sectors or anything). Then I removed the HDD, booted to the Windows CD, it saw the mSATA SSD, I selected it and it went ahead and did the install. Put the HDD back, and it boots fine with just the mSATA enabled for boot and the only device in the boot order (also see note below). Checked it and the 100MB "System Reserved" partition was there on the mSATA along with the primary system partition, leaving the HDD completely untouched for my exclusive use.

    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions!

    Now I'm back to installing all the drivers and system software. Hopefully I'll be back to where I was last night before I burn out tonight.

    An interesting side note: With the HDD removed, the BIOS no longer showed the mSATA as a bootable device. It was not possible to enable it or set it in the boot order when it was the only installed disk. Only when I put the HDD back in did it show in the list, and could I mark it as bootable and add it to the boot order. There must be something about having the primary disk installed that enables the mSATA disk?
     
  10. Giarc392

    Giarc392 Newbie

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    Hi. I am having the same problem with my M4500. I've done what you describe, but with different behavior. Here is what I have done:

    1) Installed mSATA Intel 310 80GB
    2) Set BIOS to boot from CD/DVD and mSATA
    3) Set BIOS SATA to AHCI
    4) Booted from install DVD
    5) Used DISKPART CLEAN ALL on existing HDD (disc 0 HDD, disc 1 SSD)
    6) Shutdown and removed HDD, leaving only the SSD
    7) Booted from install DVD
    8) Installed WIN7 to SSD with 100MB System Reserve on SSD
    9) Installed necessary drivers and other Dell schwag
    10) Shutdown and installed HDD
    11) Set BIOS to boot from CD/DVD and mSATA
    12) No Dice on Win7 booting
    13) Tried Startup Repair >3 times per other forum recommendations
    14) Still no luck

    I can boot into Win7 by selecting the mSATA as the boot option from F12 menu. I cannot boot otherwise. I figure the issue is that the SSD was Disk 0 when Win7 was installed w/o the HDD. The SSD becomes Disk 1 with the HDD installed and at Disk 0. I haven't tried setting the BIOS to boot CD/DVD, mSata, and internal HDD (I just saw this posting). I haven't yet tried bootrec /fixmbr or /fixboot.

    What is your boot order in the BIOS? Is your SATA configured for AHCI or RAID? According to "diskpart list disk", is the HDD disk 0 and SSD disk 1, or vice-versa?

    Anybody else have a M4500 with a similar and working configuration? Can you provide BIOS settings and "diskpart list disk" results, including location of system reserve?

    Thanks in advance for your help and advice.
     
  11. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Your procedure sounds just like what I did, except that I actually did a full wipe (wrote all 0's) to both disks. This required them to also be re-initialized, not just partitioned and formatted. I believe I also marked all devices except the DVD as not bootable before I installed. And I put the HDD back before I installed all the Dell drivers or anything beyond the Windows 7 install. I have no idea if any of that matters.

    My BIOS boot sequence has only the MiniCard SSD enabled, and so it's the only thing in the list. Boot list option is Legacy. If I want to boot from the DVD, I hit F12 (I don't want to pick up an unexpected bootable CD).

    SATA is AHCI.

    diskpart list disk shows the HDD as disk 0 and the mSATA as disk 1, just like you. As does the Disk Management tool (no surprise there).

    And perhaps the BIOS in the M4600 is different, so what I did may not work for an M4500?


     
  12. Giarc392

    Giarc392 Newbie

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    I got it working perfectly yesterday by setting the HDD partition to active and assigning it a drive letter in DISKPART. I then ran bootrec /fixmbr, bootrec /fixboot, and bootrec /rebuildbcd. The recovery tools then found my OS installation and created a new MBR on the HDD not SSD.

    All was happy... Until encrypting both disks using PGP WDE. PGP WDE ignored the MBR settings and tries to boot the HDD, not the SSD. I can boot again by selecting the mSATA from F12 menu.

    I think all of my problems stem from the mSATA SSD not being DISK 0. Why does the BIOS let the OS even attempt to boot from DISK 0 when it is not listed as an allowable boot device? I don't have this problem with other machines where the W7 is not on the DISK 0. Confusing.
     
  13. Giarc392

    Giarc392 Newbie

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    Ok. This is odd.

    I became impatient (my best trait) and decided to run the Windows recovery disk and attempt to use bootrec /fixmbr, /fixboot, and /reuildbcd to fix this. The first two "passed", the third failed. I tried booting again, and no dice. So I booted in W7 using F12 to select the mSATA SSD. My HDD format was now corrupt. I reformatted it and started encryption again. I rebooted before the encryption was complete and again failed to boot. Really long story shorter...

    I then decided to remove everything from the boot list EXCEPT the mSATA. Now it boots to the mSATA, I can enter my passcode in BOOTGUARD, and it boots to Windows just fine. Now we'll see if all is good in 3 hours when the HDD is done being encrypted. (PGP might still think the HDD is the boot drive...)
     
  14. GJM_77

    GJM_77 Notebook Guru

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    Hi... some questions
    1) is 128Gb for mSata ok to install win7, office, video programs etc ? so you have the 2nd HD for data ?

    2) is there on the market any mSata more than 128Gb ?

    3) can you add as 2nd HD an SSD ?

    Thx
     
  15. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    1. I have a 128 GB mSATA (ends up with 119 GB usable C drive capacity). I have Windows 7 Ultimate (including both the 100 MB system reserved partition, and the primary C drive partition), Office 2010 Professional with everything installed on the disk, as well as a bunch of other apps (QuickBooks, graphics tools, audio editing and mixing tools, etc.) on the mSATA as well. I still have 48.8 GB free, so lots of room for more stuff. I have a 750 GB HDD as the main SATA drive (you must have a main drive -- you can't just have the mSATA), but I got that because I need to store a lot of high bit rate lossless audio for editing). 119 GB is actually a good amount of space for programs, even these days, especially if you use the main SATA drive for data storage.

    2. 128 GB is the largest I know of. I have the MyDigitalSSD 128 GB from here: MyDigitalSSD 128GB 50mm Bulletproof mSATA SSD | My Digital Discount Works great, specs are good, seems totally compatible with the M4600. Someone on the M4600 Owner's Lounge thread mentioned another brand of 128 GB drive, but it was about $100 more.

    3. Like I said, if you have the mSATA, I believe you still *must* have a SATA drive. Oddly, I could boot the machine from the Windows install CD with only the mSATA installed, and install to it as the (only) boot drive, but the BIOS would not let me set the mSATA as the boot drive without the SATA drive also installed. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but the BIOS seems to be set up to require the main SATA drive to always be present. The Dell system configurator seems to require it as well.

    To answer your question, though, yes the SATA drive can be either an SSD or HDD, so you could have 2 SSDs (the mSATA and the SATA) and still have the DVD/CD in the secondary bay.

    Hope that helps...
     
  16. GJM_77

    GJM_77 Notebook Guru

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  17. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Well, it looks like it's fundamentally the right kind of drive as far as the specs are concerned -- mSATA, PCI-e pins, 1.8 inch (50mm) size, etc.

    However, in the M4600, the mSATA drive has to fit into the card slot. The Kingston drive seems to be packaged in that metal case, which does not look like it will fit into the slot. Look at the difference with the MyDigitalData drive at MyDigitalSSD 128GB 50mm Bulletproof mSATA SSD | My Digital Discount -- see how the MyDigitalData is a bare card with no case around it, so it snaps into the card slot?

    I wonder if the Kingston has the same form factor card inside that metal case?

    Is anyone actually selling (and shipping) the Kingston 256 GB yet?
     
  18. WaNaWe900

    WaNaWe900 Notebook Consultant

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    ..seems that similar issues with M6600 :eek:
     
  19. Zzyzxtek

    Zzyzxtek Notebook Enthusiast

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    Well, just keep in mind it's not really an "issue." If you want to get an M4600 or M6600 without an mSATA SSD as the boot drive, and then install your own mSATA as a boot drive, just make sure you wipe the other drive (prolly image or back it up first to be safe, then delete all partitions on it) and remove it, install the mSATA, boot from the Windows DVD, then install Windows onto the mSATA so it makes it the only boot drive (with both the 100 MB system partition and the C: partition), make the mSATA the (only) boot drive in the BIOS setup, and then finally put the other drive back in and format & partition it as a data only drive. There are a few other details in the prior messages in this thread, but that's the gist of it. It all works as it should, it just requires a little care to do it all in the right order so Windows doesn't get confused (since the M4600 BIOS treats the main drive as disk 0 and the mSATA as disk 1 Windows will install the system partition onto the main SATA drive instead of the mSATA if it sees both when installing).

    My complaint now is that I upgraded my mSATA SSD from the 128 GB MyDigitalSSD mentioned above, to the new 256 GB MyDigitalSSD Smart Series (Sandforce SATA III). The upgrade went perfectly (used Acronis utilities to clone the old drive), and it works great. But the mSATA slot in the M4600 (I suspect the M6600 as well) is only SATA II, so I only get half the transfer rate the drive is capable of. Oh well, I needed the extra capacity, and I guess I have the SATA III for my next laptop when the time comes.
     
  20. WaNaWe900

    WaNaWe900 Notebook Consultant

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    Yeap that's the way... also what you means by " data only drive " :confused: so far only can format to MBR and became Primary Partition... :eek: & same goes bought the mSATA III to run in SATA II @ Disk Post 2 cause Primary Bay @ Disk Post 0 & Secondary Bay @ Disk Post 1... :D
     

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