Setting Up New Machine With Intel Smart Response Technology and Rapid Start Technology

IRST config

Okay I have found another issue that I hope I can help everyone else with should they have the same issue. If you just want the solution and want to skip the story click here..

 

VIDEO SOON

Ahhh A New Laptop

At work we got in these beautiful new Dell XPS 14 Laptops, Dell has finally started to make some nice machines when they came out with the XPS line-up. We have had a lot of people in house comment that they thought it was a Mac Book Pro or Mack Book Air. These new XPS 14 laptops come with a new technology built on board called “Intel Responsiveness Technology” or IRT for short. The point of this technology is to make your system faster by using a small independent mSATA Solid State Drive or a slice of a larger SATA SSD. There are 3 different technologies that apply here:

 

  1. Intel Smart Response Technology (ISRT) РSmart Response is a feature that uses both a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) and a solid state drive (SSD) of greater than 32GB together. It dynamically monitors file, data, and application use, and stores frequently used content on a special partition on the SSD device for faster access. It provides SSD-like read/write performance for the files used most frequently, while providing lower overall storage cost by sorting and storing less frequently accessed content on the larger-sized traditional HDD.
  2. Intel Rapid Start Technology (IRST)–¬†Rapid Start is a feature that provides power savings similar to Windows hibernate state, while improving resume time vs. hibernate by ~2x. Rapid Start may be combined with Smart Response on some systems to enhance overall system performance while also reducing power consumption when not in use.
  3. Intel Smart Connect Technology (ISCT)¬†–¬†Smart Connect is a feature that periodically wakes the system from the Windows sleep state to refresh email or social networking applications. When the system is equipped with specific wireless devices, it can detect the presence of known networks while asleep, waking only when connectivity is available (this feature is called Net Detect). When properly equipped with specific wireless devices, Smart Connect can also provide quick internet connection readiness by keeping wireless devices active in a low-power mode during sleep (this feature is called Quick Connect). Smart Connect may be combined with Rapid Start on some systems to help reduce power consumption while still keeping email and other application data current.

 

Nice reference table of what’s possible depending on your drive:

Disk Type Smart Connect Rapid Start Smart Response
HDD only Not supported Not supported Not supported
HDD + SSD Not supported Supported Supported
HDD + mSATA Not supported Supported Supported
SSD only Supported Supported Not supported (Note: SSD performance achieved without Smart Response)
mSATA only Supported Supported Not supported (Note: SSD performance achieved without Smart Response)
Hybrid Drive Not supported Not supported Not supported (Note: Hybrid Drive is similar in performance to Smart Response)

 

Now this all sounds great right? It’s like a Hybrid drive and it will speed up my system! You are correct this is exactly what it does…. when it’s setup and running correctly! I say this because there seems to be a lot of issues and confusion getting this technology to work. If you need to reinstall your OS, or you need to replace the SSD that holds the special partition for this to work, or if you need to replace the hard drive that is being accelerated it seems to break everything. For me this has resulted in blue screens of death and just random crashes. It seems that once ISRT is setup it does not like it when you change anything to do with the configuration.¬†I found this out the hard way…

 

The Problem

When we received these XPS 14 laptops from Dell, their factory image was just a single C Drive with a recovery partition. If you have read my other posts I like to separate User data and OS data by moving the Users folder to the D drive this simplifies backups for us.  The problem with the Dell image is that there is no D drive and it did not come with media to re-install Windows. The XPS 14 only comes with software that allows you to create a rescue flash drive that is an exact copy of the current image.  To be honest using the Dell stock images are really good. There is not much bloat ware you just need to removed a few piece of software. I decided to just modify the Dell image and work with what I had. The XPS I received came with a 500 GB HDD, to get the desired space for D I needed to re-sized the C drive down to 75 GB and than partition the remaining space for the D drive. This was a simple process using Windows Disk Manager. After I rebooted and logged into my desktop Intel Rapid Start Technology program threw up an error

Your system does not appear to have Intel Rapid Start Technology enabled.

I knew from my limited knowledge of Rapid Start that it must be enable in BIOS so rebooted the machine to look and I did confirm that the option for Rapid Start Technology was greyed out and there was no way to enable it. Very strange all I did was resize my OS drive. Maybe the software had issues after resizing the partition? I tried to re-install the Intel Rapid Start software but got then error

 This computer does not meet the minimum requirements for installing the software.

Well the rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper. Most people would just quit at this point and restore to a previous image. For me this was just another challenge. With that very informative error I had to look up on the internet and do a bit of reading to figure out why I got this error. I found out that Rapid Start is expecting a very particular partition with a certain ID. For some reason this partition was not being seen by the BIOS so that is why the option was greyed out. I also could not re-install the software because the setting in BIOS was disable. What it sounded like was all I needed to to do is re-create this partition and then I could enable it in BIOS again and install the software.

 

Throw Another Wrench in the Cogs

This is where I really started to run into issues, most of the Intel documentation that I read only talked about Rapid Start but not in conjunction with Smart Response, I did read that it was possible (I also knew it was because my laptop came with both working) but could not find a document the explained how to setup both. No matter what I did to setup this Rapid Start partition I could not get it to work so I figure that maybe I should start with Smart Response.

Back to the internet to learn about Smart Response. I found out that I had software installed called “Intel Rapid Storage Manager”. The software showed me information about my SSD and how it was configured to support Smart Response. I could see that there was a 22 GB and a 8GB ¬†partition on the SSD. It also showed that the acceleration of the disk was broken. I tried to disable acceleration and enable acceleration but got the error

 

An error occurred and the selected disk or volume could not be accelerated. Please restart your computer, and then try the operation again.

 

I rebooted my computer and then ran the tool again, when I looked this tool had created a 18.6 GB partition on the SSD and it was all setup other then the acceleration needed to be enable on the HDD. So I selected my 500 GB drive and said accelerate only to get a different error

An unknown error occurred while an operation was in progress. The operation could not be completed.

I kept going in circles trying one thing then trying another. Seeing if different BIOS settings would change anything. I just kept getting the same errors. At this point I even tried to use the Dell USB image to bring the system back to a factory image but the problem still existed. I even called Dell to ask about this issues and got the response “This is a factory only setup, you must return it and we will ship you a new one” That really scared me to think every time I had an issues with the Rapid Start that I would need to return it to Dell.¬†So it really looked like I would need to return the computer or fix the issue.

 

A Spark in the Dark

After some more digging on the internet I did find a post that mentioned that re-sizing your OS partition would fix this problem. There were many posts under suggestion saying “thank you it worked!” I was very hopeful, I opened Disk Manager and shrunk my C drive down by 1 GB but and tried again…. still the same issue, damn… I give up!!! I even started to use a fresh install of Windows 8 using a removable USB DVD drive and media I bought from Dell for the computer after this issue started to see if a fresh install would fix it. I kept looking on the internet for more information. I read every Intel document on it. By the end I felt like I was an expert in something that just would not work!

After almost giving up and sending back every Dell XPS 14 we had in house, telling Dell that they are not business friendly, I decided to play around a little more because I can figure out most things and I didn’t want to be defeated. Instead of doing my typical C drive D drive setup I thought “Lets take a variable out of this equation”. ¬†I re-installed Windows with just a C drive across the entire HDD. Once I re-installed, I tried setting up the Smart Response again with no luck but decided to try the¬†method of re-sizing the drive. What the heck!! it worked!!!! I could now enable acceleration of my drive, I did some playing around and no matter what I did I could not break it from working again, I could destroy the Acceleration settings and set them up again, I could re-size, create new partitions, it would not break. I was on the right path now!!! I did a setup of Windows 8 again but this time made a D partition during the setup and then tried to re-size the C drive, but this time it did not work. After doing some testing I realized that it is not the C drive that you need to re-size but the drive that it touching the end of the disk which in this case was my D drive. I was now able to replicate and fix this issue each time. I am still not sure what re-sizing does to the drive but it must change a bit somewhere that allows the software to do its work. I was then able to create my Rapid Start partition which allowed it to be enabled in BIOS and then I could install the software.. SUCCESS! I decided to post this because I know a lot of other people might want to know the steps I took to fix this on 7 different XPS 14 machines we had in house. I have placed the exact steps I take to fix the issue now.

The Solution

When using Rapid Start and Smart Response there is an exact order that you must follow because installing Smart Response can destroy all the partitions on the SSD.

Preparing the SSD
Lets make sure the SSD is exactly as we want it

  1. Make sure your BIOS is set to “Intel Rapid Response Technology” as the SATA/Disk Operation mode
  2. If you don’t already have the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software installed then you will need to download “SetupRST.exe” software from Intel’s website¬†chose the latest drive in the search should be 12.9 or higher.
  3. Chose the SetupRST.exe download.
  4. Install and run the software, you will have to reboot after the install.
  5. Next we need to check to make sure our SSD is not configured at all in Intel Rapid Storage Manager software
  6. Open the Intel Rapid Storage Manager software and go to the acceleration section and make sure you reset the SSD to available. You should see your entire SSD listed in the diagram on the right top with no partitions. Note, you might not have to do this, the option will only be there if you had a configuration from before.
  7. You will receive an dialog about resetting the cache to available. Just say yes.
  8. Once we know the SSD is clean of any Intel partitions we need to re-initialize it.
  9. Open a command prompt and type “diskpart”
  10. Type “list disk”
  11. Look at the list of disks one of them will be your SSD (You can tell by looking at the size, for me its 32 GB)
  12. You will want to select the disk by its disk number that is to the left.
  13. Type “select disk 1” (for my case it’s disk 1 for you it could be a different number)
  14. You should get a response that “Disk 1 is now the selected disk”
  15. To verify you have the right disk type “list disk” and you should see a “*” in the left margin beside your SSD to show it is the one that is selected. Make sure you do this to makes sure you have the right disk selected because the next step will wipe the device!!
  16. If you are sure you have the correct disk selected type “clean”
  17. You should receive a message that “DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.”
  18. What this did was make sure the that SSD is set to uninitialized and no partitions exist on it.
  19. You can close DiskPart window
  20. Open Disk Management to initialize the disk. You can open it from Control Panel > Administrative Tools
  21. You should get a popup stating that you need to initialize the disk first before you can use it. If not you can right click on the label for the disk it and chose Initialize Disk.
  22. Make sure you select MBR (Master Boot Record) as the style of partition and click okay.
  23. You should now see your SSD listed in Disk Manager

 

Setting up Smart Response

  1. In Disk Manager right click on the very last partition on the HDD (Not the SSD but the HDD) and chose “Shrink Volume…” from the menu
  2. You can shrink the volume by any size from what I have read but I normally do it by 1 GB.
  3. Seclect “Shrink”
  4. Once you have shrunk the partition you can Right click on it again and chose “Extend Volume”.
  5. You will then use all the space up to extend it to the end of the drive again.
  6. You can then run¬†the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software and go to the “Accelerate” section
  7. click “Enable Acceleration”
  8. In the dialog that comes up it will ask how big you want your Caching memory to be. For me I have a 32 GB SSD and 8 GB of memory so I need 8 GB for my Rapid Start partition so just subtract that from the total size of the SSD to find out how big you can make your Memory Cache. So in my case I made a  custom 21.8 GB partition. Worse case you get it wrong you can come back and play with the numbers to make it right.
  9. I chose maximized mode as I want the best speed form my machine! Make sure you read the warning for your to make sure this is the setting for you! This option is a your choice.
  10. You should then see that your disk is accelerated and everything is marked as working and in good health in the software.

 

Setting up Rapid Start

Now that the Smart Response is up and running we can create our Rapid Start Partition. Intel recommends making this partition the same size or more as the amount of memory that is installed in your computer.  They recommend just making a 8192 GB partition as this will always work for all configurations but you can play to see what works best for you!

  1. Open a command prompt and run “Diskpart”
  2. Type “list disk” you should see a list of disks. Note that your SSD will now show up as a smaller disk as the step before has created a partition for memory cache. Remember the Disk Number that is listed beside it.
  3. Select the disk by typing “select disk 1” for me it’s disk 1 for you it could be a different number
  4. Verify that you have selected the correct disk by typing “list disk” and you will see an “*” beside the disk you have selected
  5. Now we are going to create the partition type “create partition primary size=8192”
  6. You should see a success message “DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition”
  7. We need to now set the ID of the disk “set id=84 override”
  8. Again you should see a message that ¬†it succeeded, if you get an error “The specified type is not in the correct format.” then this is because when you initialized the disk you did not set it to MBR you set it to “GPT” you will have to go back to the beginning and follow each set and make sure you set it to a MBR when you initialize the SSD.
  9. Once you are done you can reboot your computer for the EFI or BIOS to see the new partition.
  10. You can enter your setup to see that Intel Rapid Start is now enabled. Once you have verified this you can go back into Windows.
  11. Download and install the Rapid Start Software from Intel’s site
  12. You should receive no error now when installing
  13. You are finished!!!!!

 

I would please ask anyone for feedback if this does not work for you or if it does! I found this solution work in every case for me across all the machines we had with this issue. I can get most machines to a point where I cannot break it again! I don’t know why but I will accept the outcome!

 

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