zapt
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Inspiron 5680, drive configuration questions

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I have a new Inspiron 5680 (i7) with a 1TB mechanical hard drive cached by 16GB of Optane memory (in the lone m.2 slot). My intent is to add two more drives: a 1TB 860 EVO NAND SSD and an older 1.5 TB mechanical drive (for backing up the two other drives). All drives are SATA.

Q1. Any idea why the PC is preconfigured in BIOS for RAID rather than AHCI?

I have no need for RAID, unless it’s required by Optane/RST. Any reason not to switch it to AHCI? Not sure, but I think I read that Samsung SSDs (or the Samsung Magician software) may only work in AHCI mode.

Q2. My original intent was to clone the original 1TB hard drive to the SSD using Samsung’s Data Migration software, make the SSD the boot drive, and leave the Optane paired with the mechanical hard drive to accelerate data and whatever programs are stored there (after reformatting). Now I’m wondering what the best approach is re: overall system speed and my ability to make changes without trashing everything:

  1. Leave the original hard drive paired with Optane as the boot drive, and add the SSD as just an additional speedy drive for programs
  2. SSD as boot drive paired with Optane (seems pointless in terms of effectively using the Optane)
  3. SSD as boot drive, and pair the mechanical drive with Optane as a secondary drive (apparently, this is supported with current version of Optane software)

Before I start experimenting and get in over my head, anyone have suggestions concerning the best approach and the steps required?

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zapt
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Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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In the end, I decided to just experiment and see what worked.

Specifying the Optane-accelerated Drive

I learned that Optane can indeed be paired with any installed drive in this system. Determining whether it can or can’t is simple. Here are (roughly) the steps:

  1. Install the 2nd and/or 3rd drive, initializing if necessary. Leave BIOS set for RAID.
  2. Launch the Intel Rapid Storage Technology application.
  3. On the Manage tab, click the picture of the disk you want to accelerate and ensure that it’s marked as Available in the drive’s description on left side of the page.
  4. On the Intel Optane Memory tab, click Disable to break the link with the currently accelerated drive. After Optane is erased, click the Reboot button.
  5. Run Intel RST again.
  6. Enable Optane and choose the new drive you want to accelerate from the drop-down list. (Optane can only be paired with one drive.)

If you later change your mind about which drive you want to accelerate, disable Optane again, reboot, launch Intel RST again, select the other drive, and enable.

Note: As RoHe specified, BIOS must be set to RAID (or Intel RST) in order for Optane to work. From what I’ve read on Intel’s site, it appears that only the Optane and HDD are paired in a RAID and other drives you install are not. Thus, whether BIOS shows RAID (as configured by Dell) or Intel RST (If you manually install the Optane software), the effect appears to be the same.

Boot Drive: Optane/HDD vs. SSD

Because I knew the orginal 1TB mechanical hard drive wouldn’t be enough storage for games, I added a 2 1/2” Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SATA SSD as the second drive. To make it the boot drive, I cloned the original drive using the free version of Macrium Reflex. Although Samsung provides free software for this task, it does not clone the Dell rescue partitions; Macrium Reflex can. In case things didn’t work out, I wanted to ensure that I’d have copies of them.

After installing Steam and transferring my game library from my old PC to the SSD, I eventually decided to put things back the way they were [Optane+HDD as the boot drive (C) and the Samsung SSD as (D)] by using Macrium Reflex to clone the SSD back to the HDD. Afterwards, in System > Storage settings, I set 😧 (SSD) as the default for program installations and the default everything else (documents, music, videos, photos, etc.) to C: (HDD).

Remember Those Recovery Partitions?

In attempting to restore the SSD to its orginal blank state, I discovered that initializing a disk does not remove any recovery partitions (there were several copied from the Dell drive during the initial cloning). Short of buying a utility, they can only be deleted with the built-in DOS diskpart utility. Instructions can be found in this article.

 

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Mary G
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Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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The backup drive should be external not internal. When the boot drive fails you will not be able to boot the computer and access the backup drive. 

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zapt
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Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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That drive is not intended to ever be a boot drive or a clone of it. I intend to only do selective backups of what little data I can’t afford to lose. Even if the system fails completely, I can pop it out, slap it into an external enclosure, and recover whatever data I like. I’m leaving it as an internal because I assume backups will be faster than over USB, I have a drive bay available for it, and I can reduce unwanted desk clutter.

Perhaps I’ll reconsider, though, and have it do full backups of the boot drive rather just selected data from the two main drives.

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RoHe
6 Thallium

Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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@zapt wrote:

I have a new Inspiron 5680 (i7) with a 1TB mechanical hard drive cached by 16GB of Optane memory (in the lone m.2 slot). My intent is to add two more drives: a 1TB 860 EVO NAND SSD and an older 1.5 TB mechanical drive (for backing up the two other drives). All drives are SATA.

Q1. Any idea why the PC is preconfigured in BIOS for RAID rather than AHCI?

I have no need for RAID, unless it’s required by Optane/RST. Any reason not to switch it to AHCI? Not sure, but I think I read that Samsung SSDs (or the Samsung Magician software) may only work in AHCI mode.

Q2. My original intent was to clone the original 1TB hard drive to the SSD using Samsung’s Data Migration software, make the SSD the boot drive, and leave the Optane paired with the mechanical hard drive to accelerate data and whatever programs are stored there (after reformatting). Now I’m wondering what the best approach is re: overall system speed and my ability to make changes without trashing everything:

  1. Leave the original hard drive paired with Optane as the boot drive, and add the SSD as just an additional speedy drive for programs
  2. SSD as boot drive paired with Optane (seems pointless in terms of effectively using the Optane)
  3. SSD as boot drive, and pair the mechanical drive with Optane as a secondary drive (apparently, this is supported with current version of Optane software)

Before I start experimenting and get in over my head, anyone have suggestions concerning the best approach and the steps required?


If you switch to AHCI, you're (a) likely going to have to reinstall Windows and (b) you'll lose use of Optane with the HDD.

While Optane can be paired with an SSD, it's unlikely to have any performance advantages. Optane gives best performance improvements with a HDD.

While latest Optane software may support using it with a secondary HDD, do we  know the Dell motherboard and BIOS will support a secondary HDD with Optane?

 

Ron

   Forum Member since 2004
   I am not a Dell employee

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zapt
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Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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“While latest Optane software may support using it with a secondary HDD, do we know the Dell motherboard and BIOS will support a secondary HDD with Optane?”

I’m not sure. The installed Intel RST software seems to suggest that it will, but I haven’t gotten to the point of trying it. Perhaps the safest, simplest thing to do is take option #1: adding the SSD as just another drive rather than the boot drive and leaving BIOS set for RAID?

================

NOTE: Normally, these are the types of questions I assumed Dell Support would be able to answer, but—having just gotten off the phone with 4 different agents in the Philippines and India—they informed me that they can only assist with hardware problems and have no training that would help answer my questions... including why BIOS is set to RAID, let alone what the motherboard and optane are capable of doing or how they work together. Last time I called them, they couldn’t even tell me what specific motherboard is in my new computer.

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RoHe
6 Thallium

Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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I told you, BIOS is set to RAID for Optane support. It serves as a cache for Windows and holds files that the OS may need quickly. Optane relies on the RAID controller to manage what's stored and retrieved from Optane memory.

Have you read this Intel doc?

Secondary/Data SATA Drive Acceleration with Intel Optane Memory, quote:

"...Intel Optane memory-enabled motherboard with the Intel RST Pre-OS UEFI Driver version 16.x or later. Consult your motherboard vendor for the proper system BIOS version for this support.

So unless Dell issues a BIOS update to handle this or somebody has already gotten the current BIOS to work with Optane and a secondary HDD in this exact PC model, you may be outta luck...

Dell Support is there to help fix PC problems, mostly under warranty. They're not there to answer "Can I do this?" or "Will this aftermarket upgrade work?" That's not their function.

Dell motherboards are custom designed for Dell. So I don't know what "specifics" you expect from Tech Support. It has a Dell part number and is made exclusively for Dell by some contract manufacturer. It's not some off-the-shelf board they stuffed into a Dell case...

 

Ron

   Forum Member since 2004
   I am not a Dell employee

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zapt
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Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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Actually, I had read that doc, but since I have zero information on the specific motherboard, I asked the only people who conceivably would have information on it: Dell Support. I didn’t want to ask either of those questions here, but I’d already exhausted web searches to find answers. You were the only one who could definitively answer that RAID was required because of the optane, and I thank you for doing so.

As for what one should expect from PC support, I think they should at least be able to state what specific hardware is installed and how it’s configured at the factory. I assumed this is why they bother keeping a service tag. And given that many of the components are manufactured “exclusively for Dell,” who other than Dell should be able to answer questions about them? At the very least, they should have been able to answer the question concerning why the system is shipped in RAID mode or they should consider upgrading their online documentation to address issues such as upgrading your computer. Older Dell documentation talked about more than just replacing existing components.

I was a technical support director (software) for five years, and I was expected to know virtually everything about our products. And when I didn’t know, there were people I could ask. So apparently times have changed, and I can now skip the step of checking with the company who manufactured and configured the computer. Good to know and will save me some time.

I guess I’ve been spoiled by free, virtually unlimited support from another popular computer vendor. I seldom call with easily answered hardware, installed software, or OS questions, but when the person I ask doesn’t know an answer, they kick it up to the next support tier rather than giving up or suggesting that for a fee they can look into it. This may now represent typical PC support, but it is not universal.

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zapt
1 Nickel

Re: InspIron 5680 drive configuration

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In the end, I decided to just experiment and see what worked.

Specifying the Optane-accelerated Drive

I learned that Optane can indeed be paired with any installed drive in this system. Determining whether it can or can’t is simple. Here are (roughly) the steps:

  1. Install the 2nd and/or 3rd drive, initializing if necessary. Leave BIOS set for RAID.
  2. Launch the Intel Rapid Storage Technology application.
  3. On the Manage tab, click the picture of the disk you want to accelerate and ensure that it’s marked as Available in the drive’s description on left side of the page.
  4. On the Intel Optane Memory tab, click Disable to break the link with the currently accelerated drive. After Optane is erased, click the Reboot button.
  5. Run Intel RST again.
  6. Enable Optane and choose the new drive you want to accelerate from the drop-down list. (Optane can only be paired with one drive.)

If you later change your mind about which drive you want to accelerate, disable Optane again, reboot, launch Intel RST again, select the other drive, and enable.

Note: As RoHe specified, BIOS must be set to RAID (or Intel RST) in order for Optane to work. From what I’ve read on Intel’s site, it appears that only the Optane and HDD are paired in a RAID and other drives you install are not. Thus, whether BIOS shows RAID (as configured by Dell) or Intel RST (If you manually install the Optane software), the effect appears to be the same.

Boot Drive: Optane/HDD vs. SSD

Because I knew the orginal 1TB mechanical hard drive wouldn’t be enough storage for games, I added a 2 1/2” Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SATA SSD as the second drive. To make it the boot drive, I cloned the original drive using the free version of Macrium Reflex. Although Samsung provides free software for this task, it does not clone the Dell rescue partitions; Macrium Reflex can. In case things didn’t work out, I wanted to ensure that I’d have copies of them.

After installing Steam and transferring my game library from my old PC to the SSD, I eventually decided to put things back the way they were [Optane+HDD as the boot drive (C) and the Samsung SSD as (D)] by using Macrium Reflex to clone the SSD back to the HDD. Afterwards, in System > Storage settings, I set 😧 (SSD) as the default for program installations and the default everything else (documents, music, videos, photos, etc.) to C: (HDD).

Remember Those Recovery Partitions?

In attempting to restore the SSD to its orginal blank state, I discovered that initializing a disk does not remove any recovery partitions (there were several copied from the Dell drive during the initial cloning). Short of buying a utility, they can only be deleted with the built-in DOS diskpart utility. Instructions can be found in this article.

 

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