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..
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 lineup. 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 Rapid Storage Technology” or IRST for short. The point of this technology is to make your system faster by using a small Solid State Hard Drive (SSD) or a piece of a SSD. There are 2 different technologies that apply here:
- Intel Smart Response Technology – Smart Response uses a SSD to accelerate a spinning hard drive to speed up the access of data by pre-fetching and caching your most used data. Intel claims a 40 percent faster boot time for Windows 8 using ISRT!
- Intel Rapid Start Technology – Rapid Start is in my opinion a replacement for sleep on your system. It allows your system to enter sleep much faster then turning your system on or off but the amount of power used is none just like in hibernation. It uses a part of a SSD to store and keep track of whats in memory which enable a fast transition to and from sleep. Intel talks about a 4 second wait time to transition to and from sleep with zero power consumption. Rapid Start also allows the computer to wake up periodically for very short periods of time to allow syncing programs like Outlook, DropBox, Twitter, Facebook to update their information so that when you do wake the computer it is all up to date with no waiting for it to sync.
Now this all sounds great right? It’s like a Hybrid drive and will speed my system! You are correct it will speed up your system…. 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 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 this technology. It seems that once IRST is setup it does not like it when you change anything to do with the SSD or HDD. I found this out the hard way…
When we received these 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 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. It 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 stock Dell image was not bad after you removed a few piece of software so I decided to just modify it and work with what I had. The XPS I received came with a 500 GB HDD so i needed to re-sized the C drive down to 75 GB and then partition t remaining space for te D drive. After I rebooted I noticed that the Intel Rapid Start Technology program thew an error that it was disabled. I rebooted and looked in the EFI (BIOS) and seen that the option for Rapid Start Technology was grayed out and there was no way to enable it. I tried to re-install the Intel Rapid Start software but got the error
This computer does not meet the minimum requirements for installing the software.
After 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 EFI so the option was grayed out, and I could not re-install the software because the setting in EFI was disable. All I needed to to do is just create this partition again and all the problems above it should go away.
Throw Another Wench 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 EFI settings would change anything. I just kept getting the same errors. I even tried to use the Dell USB image to bring the system back to a factory image but the problem still existed. So it looked like I was going to need to return the computer or fix the issue. 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 laptop that I would need to return it to Dell.
A Spark in the Dark
I did find a post that mentioned that re-sizing your OS partition would fix this problem. There were many post under this post 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. I felt like I was an expert in something that would not work!
After almost giving up and sending back every Dell XPS 14 we had in house telling them that they are not business friendly I decided to play around a little more because I can figure out most things and I didnt 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 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 and low and behold it worked. I now could 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 again. 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 after 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 Stat partition which allowed it to be enabled in EFI 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 over 7 different XPS 14 machines we had in house. I have placed the exact steps I take to fix the issue now or more or less how I setup a new machine which is the same steps as setting it up again.
When using Rapid Start and Smart Response there is an exact order that you must follow as installing Smart Response it can destroy all the partitions on the SSD.
Preparing the SSD
Lets make sure the SSD is exactly as we want it
- Make sure your EFO or BIOS is set to “Intel Rapid Response Technology” as the SATA/Disk Operation mode
- If you dont already have the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software installed then you will need to download “SetupRST.exe” software from Intel’s website
- Chose the SetupRST.exe download, the other files are drives used when you cannot see your drives when installing Windows.
- Install and run the software, you will have to reboot after the install.
- Next we need to check to make sure our SSD is not configured at all in Intel Rapid Storage Technology
- Open Intel Rapid Storage Technology 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.
- You will receive an dialog about resetting the cache to available. Just say yes to the dialog.
- Once we know the SSD is clean of any Intel partitions we need to re-initialize it.
- open a command prompt and run “diskpart”
- type “list disk”
- 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)
- You will want to select the disk by its disk number that is to the left.
- type “select disk 1″ (for my case it’s disk 1 for you it could be a different number)
- you should get a response that “Disk 1 is now the selected disk”
- 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 ure you have the right disk selected because the next step will wipe the device!!
- If you are sure you have the correct disk selected type “clean”
- You should receive a message that “DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.”
- What this did was make sure the that SSD is set to uninitialized and no partitions exist on it.
- You can close diskpart window
- Open Disk Management to initialize the disk. Press Windows Key + X and chose “Disk Management” from the context list. Or you can open it from Control Panel > Administrative Tools
- 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.
- Make sure you select MRB (Master Boot Record) as the style of partition and click okay.
- You should now see your entire drive list in Disk Manager
Setting up Smart Response
- You will need to be in Disk Manager and you will need to right click on the very last partition on the HDD (Not the SSD but the HDD) and chose “Shrink Volume…” from the menu
- You can shrink the volume by any size from what I have read but I normally do it by 1 GB. I change the 4th number in from the right by 1 number, you should see the box that says “Total size after shrink in MB” says 1000 or close to it.
- Seclect “Shrink”
- Once you have shrunk the partition you can Right click on it again and chose “Extend Volume”.
- You will then use all the space up to extend it to the end of the drive again.
- You can then run the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software and go to the “Accelerate” section
- click “Enable Acceleration”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Open a command prompt and run “Diskpart”
- 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.
- Select the disk by typing “select disk 1″ for me it’s disk 1 for you it could be a different number
- Verify that you have selected the correct disk by typing “list disk” and you will see an “*” beside the disk you have selected
- Now we are going to create the partition type “create partition primary size=8192″
- You should see a success message “DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition”
- We need to now set the ID of the partition “set id=84 override”
- 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.
- Once you are done you can reboot your computer for the EFI or BIOS to see the new partition.
- 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.
- Download and install the Rapid Start Software from Intel’s site
- You should receive no error now when installing
- 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!
© Caspan 2013