For this review, I will discuss my experience with a different type of external SSD drive. The Mushkin Enhanced Atlas FLUX USB 3.0 mSATA III SSD Enclosure Kit (AT-ENCKIT) is about the size of Zippo lighter and weighs 2.4 ounces (not including the mSATA drive that you need to purchase separately). Most people would probably prefer a regular USB Flash type drive than this type of solution. The Atlas costs about $20 and then the needed mSATA drive that fits inside can vary from $35 and up. The primary reason I purchased the Atlas, is due to the fact that I had an mSATA drive that I could not utilize for my latest laptop project. The Intel 310 Series 80GB mSATA Solid State Drive SSDMAEMC080G2C1 is an older drive that I purchased on Amazon and which I installed in the Atlas Flux enclosure.
Mushkin Enhanced Atlas FLUX USB 3.0 mSATA III SSD Enclosure Kit (AT-ENCKIT)
- Controller: AS Media 1053E USB 3.0 Controller
- Attachment: USB Attached SCSI Protocol support
- Casing: Durable aluminum casing
- Supported Drives: Supports 50mm and 25mm mSATA drives
- USB Compatible: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 Compatible
- Transfer Speeds: Supports SATA 1.5 Gb/s
- Plug and Play (PnP) with 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s SSDs
Intel 310 Series 80GB mSATA Solid State Drive (SSDMAEMC080G2C1)
- Capacity 80GB
- Sequential Read – Up to 200 MB/s
- Sequential Write – Up to 70 MB/s
- SATA 3.0 3Gb/S
- Intel Product Page
The installation is quite simple. Mushkin includes a tiny screwdriver, however I recommend using a higher quality Philips #00 screwdriver. I have big hands and it is easier to use a regular full size screwdriver when removing tiny screws as this. Once you remove the panel, the board inside should slide out, and you should now be able to carefully install your mSATA drive. You slide the mSATA drive at a slight angle and then push it down. A snap on clip then holds the drive in place, similar to memory DIMM slots in a laptop. Finally screw back on the panel and you are done.
On Windows 7
I tested the Atlas Flux with my Dell Latitude e5430 laptop. This laptop has three kinds of ports that this drive can connect to. There is a USB 2 port, a USB 3 port, and an eSATAp port (also referred to as an eSATA/USB combo port). The operating system is Windows 7 64-bit. The main issue I had with the drive is that it is not really hot-swappable. Plugging it in the first time, the drive will appear and you are able to format it. But if you unplug the drive and then plug it back in, it will not appear in Windows again. You can restart Windows and then the drive will appear again. The problem was worse on the eSATAp port. The drive would remount over and over on this port. To fix this issue, with the drive visible in Windows, Go to the Start Menu and type DEVICE MANAGER and click on Device Manager in the results. Under Device Manager, under Disk Drives, find the drive and double-click on it. Now click on Policies and select Better Performance and click OK. The Atlas Flux cannot utilize the Quick Removal feature. This means that you must Eject the drive via the systray USB icon or by right-clicking on it and choosing Eject. The drive will now be stable and you may use it without restarting Windows. (more…)
In the previous Setup for Dell Latitude E5430 post, we did most of the legwork to create a boot ready flash drive with all the needed add-on software needed to create a clean image of Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. We now shutdown our machine and insert the flash drive into one of the USB ports on the laptop. If you are using the RecoveryTools 4, the Windows installation will be mostly automated. If you are not using Recovery Tools 4, then you will need to install Windows normally. I will cover both methods.
WINDOWS 7 Begins…
The computer will come up to a text only screen asking you to start from the Windows EMS option. Then a Windows screen will appear asking you to choose a language. The next dialog will ask you to choose which version of Windows 7 you want to install. The choice is Windows 7 Professional. At this point if you are using Recovery Tools 4, the process is automated and you will need to wait for Windows to install itself. If you are not using Recovery Tools, then this is a normal Windows 7 installation and you should install Windows normally and skip to the next section.
The machine will reboot and come up in Windows Audit Mode. The Sysprep dialog box will appear on the screen. Always close this box by using the X in the upper right corner of the dialog. You will need to do this every time you restart the machine. Do not click any options in the Sysprep dialog.
My recent project was the setup for a refurbished Dell Latitude laptop that I purchased online. Latitudes are business oriented laptops that Dell sells and leases to a variety of business customers. Many large enterprise level companies lease their machines and return them to Dell periodically as they upgrade to newer hardware. This means that a few times throughout the year Dell amasses a stock pile of old machines that they then rebuild and sell at significant discount prices. Even better, if you browse discount sites such as DealNews and TechBargains they will detail how to get a discount on top the already low refurbished price. Dell has these discounted sales periodically, at the beginning of the year in January or in the middle of the Summer, such as July. If you are going to buy a refurbished laptop, there are some risks. These laptops are not brand new, they have seen some usage, and so if you want a perfect looking laptop you are not going to find one. Your best bet is a Grade A model, which will be priced a little higher. The other factor is that these machines only come with a very short warranty. Three months or one hundred days type warranty will apply. You can purchase an extended warranty from the Dell Refurbish site at the time of purchase, but note that you will be adding to the total price of the machine. You will want to consider this extended warranty price and what it is worth to you personally. In my case, this was a secondary machine that I am not going to worry too much about, so no extended warranty for me. These are older model machines as well and not the latest and greatest technology. Business laptops are not gaming machines either, so if your main emphasis is gaming, consider looking for an Alienware type models instead of Latitudes. Overall my best advice is to wait for the discount from the DealNews.com and then shop for something that you will like and that will cost you about forty-five percent of a new laptop. Once you get higher than fifty percent, I usually think you might as well save up for a new machine that you really want. Given all this, lets get started on setting up the laptop.
Out Of the Box
Dell took about three to four business days to ship the laptop. The machine is serviced by a third party company named Genco. The machine was packaged well and was very clean. The only accessories were the Dell power adaptor and a printed explanation of the standard warranty for a refurbished machine. Below are the specs for the laptop:
Dell Latitude E5430 Laptop (non-Vpro model)
- 2.7GHz CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 1600×900 HD display
- 320GB Western Digital Hard Drive
There were two types of e5430 models, there is an Intel-Vpro model and then there is the non-Vpro model. This one is the latter. The hard drive inside the laptop was a Western Digital mechanical hard drive and it was dated July 19th, 2013. The laptop like the hard drive is from the the same year as well, in other words I bought a three year old laptop.
The installed operating system is Windows 7 Professional (32-bit). There were no installation disks for Windows included, as the hard drive includes a recovery image.
There is nothing wrong with the laptop at this point and it is perfectly usable out of the box. However, I love hardware upgrades and so I couldn’t help myself from adding some things. The best possible upgrade is an SSD hard drive. SSD drives are now much more affordable, and so you can take your pick from a variety of SSD drives out on the market right now. My personal preference is Crucial/Micron and Samsung, but I have purchased other brands such as PNY if they were at a good price. For this project I did purchase the Crucial MX300 750GB – CT750MX300SSD1. I did consider the 525GB model as well, but unfortunately it was out of stock at the time. This SSD drive is a 7mm height drive and a spacer is included so that it fits as a 9.5mm drive. I did utilize the spacer when I switched out the drives.
Next was the memory. In current terms 4GB is not nearly adequate, so I opted for maxing out the memory. Most people might consider upgrading to 8GB memory (2 x 4GB DDR3 modules), since this is a very cheap upgrade to make. The e5430 does in fact support 2 x 8GB modules, for a total of 16GB memory! The easy way to purchase memory for this machine is to visit Crucial and buy direct from them. They will guarantee that the memory will work and are only slightly more expensive than buying from online stores like Newegg.com.
Both the hard drive swap and the memory upgrades are very easy to do. You will need a philips #0 screwdriver and for the lower memory module, I found a plastic spudger handy for pushing down the memory SIMM into place.
Note before doing any hardware upgrades, consider downloading all the required software in the following Software Installation section first if you do not have another Windows machine that you can use to download stated software. Look through Device Manager in Windows and note the type of hardware you have, such as the Network Card, Wi-fi Card, etc. My particular laptop did not have a finger print sensor or Bluetooth. In the Software Installation part we will need to download multiple software, so it is best to use a second machine or read this entire post before doing any software steps.
WARNING! I take no responsibility for any use of software or any losses of software or hardware functions. If you do not know how to use DISKPART or any other tool in this post, then perhaps this project is not for you.
Part 1: Win7_Pro_SP1_English_COEM_x64.iso
Now that we have our e5430 laptop upgraded, the big problem is Windows. The image on the original hard drive is Windows 7 Pro 32-bit and not 64-bit. Even if I took the original software image from the drive, it would not recognize my new memory. My goal is to setup this laptop with Windows 7 Pro, the 64-bit version. The machine fully supports 64-bit Windows, so the problem is just the media. The laptop has an OEM license for Windows 7, and so I do not need to purchase Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, I just need to get the installation media.
Here is where nothing is ever easy. Windows 7 ISO images are no longer easily attainable directly on the Internet. There is a long story about this, but I will skip that and simply state that from a Windows machine with IE 11, you can do the following:
First go to Heidoc.net and learn about what you will want to download. In this case a Windows 7 64-bit OEM ISO image. Next download and run his Microsoft Windows Download Tool. This will allow you to download a clean ISO image of Windows 7 64-bit, the exact file name being: Win7_Pro_SP1_English_COEM_x64.iso
Part 2: Flash Drive Setup
Once downloaded, you will need an 8GB or 16GB USB Flash Drive. This will be used as the installation source.
Insert the flash drive and note what drive letter it shows as.
Type CMD in the StartMenu Search and right-click and choose Run as administrator. Use DISKPART to setup the flash drive. Note that for the SELECT DISK command you will need to substitute # for the exact number that the flash drive comes up. Choose wisely, if you are not careful you may destroy your other disks on that computer!
SELECT DISK #
CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY
SELECT PARTION 1
FORMAT QUICK FS=FAT32
With the flash drive setup, the next step is to copy the ISO onto the flash drive. There are multiple ways of doing this. For this step I placed the ISO file in its own folder and then used WinRAR to extract the contents. I then copy and paste into the flash drive root directory.
The Latitude e5430 supports UEFI, which is the replacement for the old BIOS system that most computers have used for multiple decades. We want to take advantage of EFI booting later, so we need to have the flash drive boot with EFI. This requires a different boot file to be in a specific location on the flash drive. The ISO does not have this as default for Windows 7.
From a Windows 64-bit machine that you are already using, there should already be the file file you need.
Look for bootmgfw.efi under C:\Windows\Boot\EFI and copy it to the flash drive here:
The file then must be renamed from bootmgfw.efi to BOOTX64.EFI in order to work.
You now have a flash drive that you can boot from in EFI mode.
If you need further details on the flash drive steps see Creating Windows UEFI Boot-Stick in Windows.
More helpful links:
Part 3: Windows Setup With Factory Recovery Partition
What I do like about OEM computers is that they come setup with a hidden partition to reimage your machine in case you want to reset Windows back to a zero ground state. However what everyone does not like about this: is that the OEM image is usually filled with crapware that no one wants and it is not a clean setup of Windows. But how about if you could setup your own? In this section we will cover how to do this. If this is too complicated feel free to skip to the next section.
RecoveryTools 4 uses Microsoft tools to setup an OEM image and recovery tools for a new install of Windows. This software is free, but it is complicated process if you are not coherent with software setups.
- Download RecoveryTools 4.05
- Place the self extracting file into a separate folder and doule-click on it.
- Download the the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) for Windows 7
- Place the AIK ISO file in its own folder and then use WinRAR to extract the files to the same directory
- Next install the AIK Tools
With the AIK Tools installed, we follow the directions from RecoveryTools for Windows 7. From the Windows 7 AIK, you will need the following files:
- IMAGEX.EXE (32 and 64 bits version)
- OSCDIMG.EXE (32 bits version)
If you installed AIK, these files will be located here:
- C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\amd64 (for 64-bit)
- C:\Program Files\Windows AIK\Tools\x86 (for 32-bt)
Copy IMAGEX.EXE (32 bits version) to the RecoveryTools 4 folder path:
- \Windows 7\Windows 7 Recovery Tools\ImageX\32bits
Copy IMAGEX.EXE (64 bits version) to the RecoveryTools 4 folder path:
- \Windows 7\Windows 7 Recovery Tools\ImageX\64bits
Copy OSCDIMG.EXE (32 bits version) to the RecoveryTools 4 folder path:
- \Windows 7\Windows 7 Recovery Tools\OscdImg
Next we want to copy the entire RecoveryTools 4 folder to the root of the flash drive we setup earlier. There are two more files we need.
Under RecoveryTools 4\Windows 7\AutoUnattend\GPT\ there is an AutoUnattend.xml file, copy this to the root of the Flash Drive.
Under RecoveryTools 4\Add-On\ there is an Ei.Cfg file. This file must replace the current file that is under the SOURCES folder on the root of the Flash Drive.
Part 4: Add-ons for Flash Drive
In order to save time, it is best to go ahead and create a DELL folder on the flash drive and add some more add-ons that you will need later on. I will cover these under the Updating Windows section. For now here is the list of recommended installers:
Dell Specific Updates for a Latitude e5430 Laptop:
- Intel Chipset Drivers: Chipset_Driver_CPNKY_WN32_18.104.22.1689_A00
- Intel Management Engine 9: Chipset_Driver_GJVHD_WN_22.214.171.1240_A02
- Intel USB 3: Chipset_Driver_THK45_WN_126.96.36.199_A05
- Intel 4000 Graphics Driver: Video_Driver_DCG08_WN32_10.18.10.4425_A18
- HD Audio: 3330_Audio_Driver_C6HVR_WN_1.0.6491.0_A08
- Ethernet Network Card: Broadcom 57xx Network_Driver_PGHX7_WN32_17.0.2_A00 (maybe different depending on your machine)
- Wireless Network Card: Dell 1530 Network_Driver_5RHDN_WN_188.8.131.52_A02 (maybe different depending on your machine)
- Conexant D330 Modem: CONEXANT_D330-HDA-MDC_JF0K3_A01_SETUP_ZPE, CONEXANT_MULTI-DEVICE_A03_R207060
- Memory Card Reader: Chipset_Driver_D7TG2_WN_3.0.07.44_A04
- Freefall Sensor: Chipset_Driver_V6681_WN_4.10.0046_A06
- Dell Multi-touch Touchpad: Input_Driver_YXX3D_WN32_10.1207.101.109_A03
One more installer will be needed. We are going to install a specific version of Intel Rapid Technology drivers. These are not on the Dell site. The reason for this is that this specific set of drivers work best for this laptop. These are the Intel Rapid Technology E Drivers version 184.108.40.2060. To read more about this topic you can read this Win-Raid.com post. You can download the drivers from Intel or from Win-Raid.com: Intel RSTe Drivers.
Part 5: F2 & BIOS Setup
Take note of what version of Dell BIOS your machine has. If it is not the latest, I recommend you download the latest BIOS (in my case the non-vPro version) and upgrade your BIOS first before continuing.
At this point we have gathered all our software on our flash drive and are ready to almost install Windows 7. We must however make some changes to the e5430’s Setup.
- Restart the laptop and press F2 to enter the BIOS Setup.
- Under General – Boot Sequence: change to UEFI
- Under System Configuration – SATA Operation: change to AHCI
- Apply Changes and Exit
Part 6: Hard Drive Setup
This step is optional and only needed if you want to wipe the hard drive. It is included here, in case you need to redo the setup of Windows. To manually wipe a hard drive and convert it to GPT:
Turn off the PC, and put in the Windows installation DVD or USB key.
Boot the PC to the DVD or USB key in UEFI mode. For more info, see Boot to UEFI Mode or Legacy BIOS mode.
From inside Windows Setup, press Shift+F10 to open a command prompt window.
Open the diskpart tool:
Identify the drive to reformat:
Select the drive, and reformat it:
select disk #
Close the command prompt window.
Continue the Windows Setup installation.
We are now ready to start installing Windows! Continue reading Setup for Dell Latitude E5430 – Part 2.
Here is something that I came upon recently in regards to Windows Server 2012 and performance issues. My home server runs Windows 2012 Server Essentials and the operating system is installed onto a Samsung 830 SSD. Performance was becoming a problem of lately. There were noticeable lag in opening up drives in Windows Explorer and other slight delays that I thought were related to the SSD drive. SSD drives can become slower as they near capacity. Even if you delete a lot of large files to free up space, the trim feature still needs time to run and free up space. This means that if you have an SSD at 85% capacity and you delete files to bring it down to 50%, the SSD still has 85% allocated until the trim feature has a few hours of uninterrupted time to run.
After further investigation, I found that trying to open Control Panel – Hardware – Devices and Printers would not even display at all. Next I looked at Device Manager to see if there were any issues there. I did not see any problems with items listed in Device Manager. However after clicking on View – Show Hidden Devices, I found thousands of entries for Storage Volume Shadow Copies and the same for Storage Volumes. There were also a large number of USB devices that I had used in the past. The Windows registry stores all these previous entries and over time, never removes them. I uninstalled the old USB devices, but for the shadow copies and storage volumes, I found that this problem is most likely due to normal usage of Remote Desktop and other Windows services. To remove them manually would take a very long time.
Microsoft has a utility for this issue. Microsoft DevNodeClean can be run on Windows Server 2003 and newer operating systems. In fact, you will need to most likely run this utility weekly if the issue persists. To run the command, use an elevated CMD Prompt and type:
After restarting the server, this resolved the performance issues and I could open up Devices and Printers again.
Apple has a long history with computer networking, from AppleTalk to today’s Internet connected world. However, it is Windows networking that still causes all kinds of headaches for Mac OS X users. It seems that with every release of Mac OS X, Apple seems to have recurring issues with Windows shares. Some of Apple’s defenders will state that Apple adopts industry standards as is, and it is Microsoft and others who publish specs, but don’t actually follow them, so when Apple does follow the specs, it seems to just end up breaking things. SMB is the networking protocol that Microsoft uses for Windows networking. It is what allows Windows network file shares to work across the network. With the latest versions of Mac OS X, Apple abandoned the open source SAMBA package that most Linux distros use to connect to Windows, and wrote their own SMB2 software. This makes Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks connect faster and better to Windows servers. Well that is when it works!
SMB Connections Fail
There is one Windows 2012 Essentials server with multiple shares. There are two Macs on the local network. One iMac is connected over Wireless N and one MacBook Pro is using a wired ethernet 1Gb connection. When using the Connect to Server… option the iMac connects fine and has no issues. The MacBook Pro opens the share and then never displays any files, it just spins in the lower left hand corner of the window that opens. Both computers are running Mac OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks.
Connecting via CIFS instead of SMB seems to work for the MacBook, but it is slower.
The solution ended up modifying the Windows 2012 Essentials server. There are two registry keys that need to be added in order to fix the problem for the MacBook.
Under this Registry Key:
Add these DWORD values:
- Smb2CreditsMin – make this 768
- Smb2CreditsMax – make this 16384
Once you made the changes restart the Windows Server and then the Macintosh clients. It should now fix the problem.
Microsoft provides the following information on these registry keys:
The defaults are 512 and 8192, respectively. These parameters allow the server to throttle client operation concurrency dynamically within the specified boundaries. Some clients might achieve increased throughput with higher concurrency limits, for example, copying files over high-bandwidth, high-latency links.
After working in Information Technology for several years, you come to a certain understanding about the balance between work and personal time. For many people starting out in IT, the temptation to dedicate yourself 24/7 to work is hard to resist. There always seems to be a pending disaster or a deadline that must be met. With some experience you eventually learn that the world is always coming to an end. It has been that way since the beginning of time itself. Dedicating yourself fully to work is not going to change that! Once you figure out for yourself, where and when to draw the line and give yourself some time back, you end up tackling another dilemma, which I call the “Fix My PC” dilemma. When you are computer proficient, it is not just work that wants your skills, it is also friends and family. You end up being asked many times to fix people’s laptops or desktops. Since you are a nice guy, you have a hard time turning these people down, especially when they are your friends and family. However, just like work, you need to set some limits, since this is still taking away from your personal time.
Rule 1: It’s Not Always Free
It is a bad idea to let people think your skills have no value. In my case, I charge a modest fee to look at people’s computer problems outside of work. My time is valuable to me, and so charging a fee makes me feel better and I can invest the money back into my technology interests. It always amazes me when people balk at me charging them. It must be that they do not recognize the value of my work or they simply want something for free.
Rule 2: I’m Doing You A Favor
If you agree to look at someone’s computer, make sure that they understand you are doing them a favor. They have to make it convenient for you. The last thing you want to do is agree to something and then find out you have to drive to someone’s house at an inconvenient time for you.
Rule 3: Identify and Diagnose Their Problem
There are very few times that I have been asked to look at Macintosh. Almost always the computer is a Windows machine. After spending years working with Windows, there are multiple tweaks, fixes, and customizations that can be done to make Windows machines work better. You could dedicate multiple days to just tweaking Windows. Remember, you do not have the time and energy to fix every problem, just concentrate on the problem that they asked you to look at. Most often people tend to not communicate well, and so I have had many people tell me that they wanted their computer to run faster and then find out that they really wanted something else entirely. Once you find out what it is they want you to fix, tell them how it can be fixed and let them decide what they want to do. Many times you find that there is a component failure and there really is nothing for you to fix; they will have to spend money on replacing the component or buying a new computer.
Rule 4: Know When To Walk Away
Do not spend you time installing Windows Updates, running malware or anti-virus checks! These chores are something the user needs to do. If you can avoid these time consuming tasks do so. Where ever possible configure these things to run on their own; Microsoft and other software vendors provide schedule features in most of their software. If you cannot schedule these tasks, educate the user to do them on their own.
These days I devote most of my time to building my own computers, instead of fixing other people’s stuff. Every now and then I will do someone a favor and fix their Windows problem, but I resign myself to not having to fix every problem. Life is too short to spend countless hours in front of a keyboard.