Friday, July 27, 2012

Solid State Drive (SSD) Migration

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are all the buzz lately and for good reason, they are very, very fast.  Ask anyone who has had to performance tune SQL Server (especially for a Data Warehouse) and I/O is usually the largest area for improvement.  Not always, but usually due to the fact that hardware today is very powerful and not very expensive.  I have used SSDs on SQL Server to house TempDB for an Operational Data Store (ODS) before, and while it was not cheap it was the first time I have seen hardware thrown at a SQL Server problem and it made such a drastic difference right out of the gate.  Well there was that one time when a client had SQL Server installed on a web server with 1 Processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a pair of local slow rpm drives...I guess that doesn't count.

This post isn't about a SQL Server migration to SSDs and the good results, sorry. That is a good idea and it is in the queue.  This is about how I decided to follow the advice that I give to my clients as a consultant and bought an SSD for better performance (for my laptop) and the steps I took to do it in a few hours.

I use VMWare Workstation on my laptop to run a handful of virtual machines. The more I loaded up the VMs with the SQL Server DB Engine, Sharepoint, Powerview, and SSAS the slower it became.  I bucked up and ordered a 512 GB SSD and wow what a difference.  If you are thinking of purchasing an SSD for your laptop or tower, don't think about it, just do it.  My laptop almost boots instantaneously and the VM performance is probably 10-20x better.

The steps below document how I swapped the SATA drive for an SSD on my Dell XPS 15z and also used an imaging software called Macrium Reflect (that is free) to clone the existing drive.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing this, and my wife just smiled at me because she knows I love taking things apart.  My father would be proud to see how organized this is compared to his Sony rack stereo that had a box of "spare" parts left over when I was 12.

Here are the steps, and hope they will help you because I spent some time learning them...then learning them some more.

1. Buy or borrow an external hard drive.  I used a Seagate GoFlex Ultra eSata. eSata is native to almost all machines while USB requires drivers.  I didn't want to deal with drivers so used Luis Figueroa's eSata drive.  He has the best toys, and every piece of software on MSDN for the last 5 years.

2. Install Macrium Reflect Free Edition.  You can purchase an advanced version but the free edition works just fine.

3. Image your existing Hard Drive using Macrium and store the .img file on the external drive.

4. Create a "rescue" CD from Macrium.  You will need a CD-R and a burner.  You can do this from USB as well but there could be driver issues.  I took the safe bet.  The Macrium rescue CD automatically puts the bootable OS Windows PE or Linux rescue program on it configured with the Macrium software to restore your .img file.

5. Go into your BIOS (F2 for dell) and change the boot order to use the CD.

6. Now the fun begins.  Unscrew the cover and remove the cover of your laptop.

7. Find the battery and unplug it. (This step is very important could fry your laptop if not done)

8. Locate the hard disk.

9. Unscrew the supporting bracket.  Keep it around as you are going to have to put the SSD in it.

10. Place the new SSD in the bracket and reverse all the steps until you get the cover back on.

11. Place the CD in the drive and boot from it.  Macrium program instantly comes up in Windows PE and select restore image and browse to it on the external drive.

It does take some time to restore.  I had a 274 GB .img file and it took 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Enjoy your lightning fast laptop or tower now!

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