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Intel 320 series SSD Install Tips, and "BUG" Review
Written: Nov 8, 2011 (Updated Nov 12, 2011)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
The Bottom Line: My system has been rock solid with this SSD, I'm impressed enough to buy a second one. The "Intel SSD bug" has been fixed with a firmware update.
Review edited 11/13/2011 based on suggestions from Krial & pvreditor
Intel 320 series SSD info:
This SSD conforms to SATA 2 specifications (A maximum of 3 Gigabits per second transfer speed).
The form factor of this SSD is 2.5" x 9.5mm same as a standard laptop hard drive.
Intel extended their limited warranty for the 320 series SSD from 3 years to 5 years.
Items included with the SSD:
A 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch drive bay adapter (to mount this in your desktop machine).
1 Mini CD with Intel's SSD Installation Guide & 5 year limited Warranty documentation.
1 package of screws to mount the drive bay adapter.
1 package of screws to mount the SSD.
1 SATA data cable.
1 4 pin Molex to SATA power adapter.
1 info pamphlet on "Important Web Links" pointing you to the Intel website for the latest free SSD tools and data migration software.
1 Intel "Speed Demon" sticker.
The specs for this SSD from Intel:
A Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 1.2 million hours & 50,000 Power On/Off Cycles (that's almost 137 time a day for 365 days)
A 5 years Minimum Useful Life/Endurance Rating.
"The SSD will have a minimum of five years of useful life under typical client workloads with up to 20 GB of host writes per day."
My experience with these SSDs:
I own 2 of these 320 series 300GB SSDs. One's in my desktop gaming rig (it's been FAST & ROCK SOLID!), purchased from NewEgg in April when they had a 20% off sale, and the one I purchased today from Amazon will go into my laptop.
After installing the SSD in my desktop machine, my Windows Experience Index climbed from a 5.9 to a 7.3, the drive itself received a sub-score of 7.6 but because my older NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 275 and having the Windows 7 Aero shell on, pulled the overall score down.
After installing the SSD in my laptop, my Windows Experience Index climbed from a 5.9 to a 7.1 with Windows 7 Aero shell on, not bad for a laptop.
As for longevity, I don't know. I've been using the one on my main machine for about 7 months now, there has been zero hiccups or glitches. The SSD I installed in my laptop yesterday is absolutely problem free so far...
Disk access performance on the desktop & laptop have really kicked it into high gear, Firefox was always slow to load from a cold start but now, it's noticeably quicker. Older games like Half Life2, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead2, load really fast now, those games were never "disk bound" except for the load times.
Things to be aware of:
Solid State Drive (SDD) and their Hard Disk Drive (HDD) mechanical counterparts, like all things electrical & mechanical made by humans, they have a "infant mortality" rate to them. If they don't fail within a year they are probably good for the next 5+ years.
The performance is "eye opening fast"! My desktop & laptop were pretty fast machine to start with but now I can honestly say they are fast machines.
Boot times have been cut almost in half, application load times are almost instantaneous, virus scan times on the boot drive is crazy fast. There are many reviews of this SSD on the web that have benchmark results, sites like http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Storage/Intel-320-Series-300GB-SSD-Performance-Review and http://www.anandtech.com/show/4244/intel-ssd-320-review just to name a couple of sites that help me make my purchase descision.
Despite the one bug that the updated firmware fixed, Intel's SSD track record is solid, they make reliable SSDs. As mentioned earlier, my first Intel SSD (purchased in April 2011) is the boot drive in my desktop machine, My second Intel SSD (purchased in November 2011) is the boot drive in my laptop, "Put your money where your mouth is" I guess I did just that.
Yes these are expensive drives, if you need the speed increase they are worth it. Just wait for a sale before buying.
Would I purchase this again? Yes.
Would I recommend this to a friend? Yes.
- WARNING: Wall of text to follow are tips about installing the SSD -
Enable the AHCI driver in the BIOS before installing the OS. Do this for a fresh install of Windows, enabling this on an existing install of Windows can be sort of tricky.
Having a second HDD in the machine to store the disk image makes the install of the SSD so much easier, you can also store the disk image on a external USB HDD, or burn the image to several DVDs.
1) First get rid of any temp files, empty your browser cache, unused program install files, all unnecessary junk, and empty the Recycle Bin; you don't need to make the drive image any bigger that it has to be, seriously, you want a small image.
If the HDD you are making an image of is larger (in Gigabytes) than the SSD:
a) Move as much data as you can (like music) off to another drive.
b) Go into Disk Management, right click on your C: drive and click on
Shrink Volume, give yourself maybe 2048 Megabytes of wiggle room
and shrink your partition or else the Microsoft Image Recovery tool
will choke and give you a "No recoverable disk" error message.
2) I used Windows 7's Backup & Restore utility to image my boot (C:\) drive and store the image on the 2nd HDD.
3) You'll be prompted to create a "system repair disc", find a blank CD and follow the prompts to burn yourself one and leave the CD in the machine.
4) If your machine is set up to boot from the CD drive then simply reboot, if not, please go into your BIOS and change the boot order to have the CD as the first boot device.
5) Among other things the repair disc should find your backup image of your C:\ drive, if not just point it to where you stored it.
6) My memory is a bit fuzzy, I installed the SSD about 7 months ago, the SSD comes unformatted from Intel and I'm pretty sure that the system repair disc will format the SSD before it loads the image onto it (it has to or else you wouldn't be able to write to the SSD).- EDIT - I just installed the new Intel SSD in my laptop, the system repair disc imaging tool don't care if the new drive is formatted or not, it will do it if the new drive needs it.
7) Remove the system repair disc and reboot, you're almost done.
8) After your machine boots from the SSD (notice the speed) you should go to http://www.intel.com/go/ssdtoolbox and download the latest version of their toolbox and install it. In the "Toolbox" you'll find "Intel SSD Management Tools" under that, you'll find the "System Configuration Tuner", run that tool to configure your system for optimal SSD operation & life, also run the "Intel SSD Optimizer" once a week to prevent slow-down of the SSD.
- EDIT -
9) All of the current Intel 320 series SSDs will have the latest firmware, as of today. 11/08/2011, the latest firmware version is 4PC10362), my new SSD had the latest firmware installed.
TRIM = Garbage Collection or disk cleanup for SSDs, Windows 7 natively supports TRIM, Windows XP will support TRIM via the Intel SSD Optimizer tool in their Toolbox.
Enable the AHCI driver in the BIOS before installing Windows, it's tricky to do after Windows has been installed but it's do-able.
Move your "My Documents" folder to your 2nd HDD if you have one.
In the Intel SSD Toolbox, run the "Intel SSD Optimizer" tool once a week to prevent SSD slow-down.
NEVER use your disk defrag utility on an SSD (doing so will shorten its life).
Info on the "bug" the Intel 320 series SSDs had:
July ~ August 2011 a bug was discovered in Intel's 320 series SSD...
8/17/2011 3:30:00 PM Anand Lal Shimpi, (of anandtech.com fame, yes, THAT Anand) wrote an update titled "Intel SSD 320 Firmware Posted, Addresses Bad Context 13x Error" He reports "Intel announced that it had found the root cause of the power cycle bug that could leave your SSD 320 in a mostly unusable 8MB state..."
"For users unfamiliar with the issue, an Intel SSD 320 Series drive may exhibit a drive capacity of 8MB and an electronic serial # field containing a message of “BAD_CTX 0000013x” caused by an unexpected power loss under specific conditions. Once this error occurs, no data on the SSD can be accessed and the user cannot write to or read from the SSD."
Intel has posted a firmware update for the Intel® SSD 320 Series (firmware 4PC10362) which addresses the Bad Context 13x Error AKA "Power Cycle Bug"
To get the latest firmware please Google this: Intel® SATA Solid-State Drive Firmware Update Tool and choose the link from "downloadcenter.intel.com"
Direct link to that page: http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?agr=Y&DwnldID=18363
There's an Intel video on YouTube on how to update your firmware, it's titled "Intel SSD How To Series - Updating Firmware"
Direct link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpYEIwPXDXk
I hope this helps
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