Charlie S.
1 Copper

Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Purchased an Inspiron 17R Special Edition (7720) this week to replace my beloved old Inspiron 5100 that died last Thursday after nine years of being the best computer I ever owned.  Decided to upgrade the 32GB mSATA chip to a 128GB and use that as the OS drive, reserving the 1TB HDD for storage because running exclusively from the mSATA is much faster than using it as cache for the platter. 

As has been discussed on the dozens of threads (here and elsewhere) that I've read today, the Dell BIOS does not recognize the mSATA as bootable, either from UEFI or legacy.  So, editing out the dead ends I went down, here's what I did to get it to work:

1. Acquire new mSATA drive.  Mine is a Crucial m4 128GB.  (I don't know whether or not the rest of this would work with the default 32GB board, but 32GB is awfully small for a modern OS.)

2. Acquire a Windows 8 install DVD.  (That Dell doesn't include this with the package is the only complaint I have about my purchase.  OS install media should ALWAYS be included with an OEM PC.  A-l-w-a-y-s.) 

3. Flip over the laptop, remove the battery, remove the bottom cover (just 2 screws, well done, Dell).  Now, remove the 1TB HDD (4 screws, but slides out easily) and set it aside.  Then replace the existing 32GB mSATA drive with your new, larger mSATA drive (1 screw).  I have a 128GB, but it should work just as well with a 64GB or 256GB.  Replace the cover and battery.  At this point, both of the regular SATA slots should be empty. 

4. Boot the PC, hitting F2 to go to BIOS.  Insert your Windows 8 (or 7, this should work with Windows 7 as well) DVD.  Go to "Advanced" and set SATA Operations from Intel Smart Response to AHCI.  Go to "Boot", set Secure Boot to Disabled.  Then set Load Legacy Option Run to Enabled. 

5. Move CD/DVD/CD-RW-Drive above Hard Drive under the new Legacy Boot menu.  Push F10 to save and exit.

6. Your PC should now boot from the Windows 8 DVD in the drive (NOTE: you should also be able to do this with a USB stick, provided it's formatted properly).  Follow the on-screen installation process to install Windows 8 to the mSATA drive.  Once installation is complete, you should get left at the Windows desktop.  Shut down the PC.  (NOTE: I tried this with the HDD still inside, but it was Disk 0 and the SSD was Disk 1, and my Windows DVD would only install to Disk 0, so I strongly recommend removing the HDD before you try installing Windows on the mSATA SSD.)

7. Once again, remove the battery and back cover.  Replace the 1TB HDD drive in the primary SATA slot from which you removed it in Step 3.  Replace back cover and battery.

8. Boot the PC from your Windows 8 DVD again.  On the Windows 8 partition setup screen, delete all of the existing partitions (there's like six of them) on Disk 0 (the 1TB HDD).  Install Windows to the newly blank drive.  You should also see, as Disk 1, your mSATA SSD, ignore it for now. 

9. The PC will restart and should leave you at a Windows desktop running off of the HDD.  Go to Computer (just type that into the search option on the "Charms" on the right side of the screen in Windows 8), you'll see three drives, the one you're on, the system recover drive on the mSATA SSD, and the primary partition on the mSATA SSD.  Note the drive letter of the primary partition on the SSD.  Mine was E:\, but yours may be different.  You can verify that it's the right one because of the amount of disk space available. 

10. Download an install EasyBCD:

http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/OS-Enhancements/EasyBCD.shtml

11. Launch EasyBSD.  Click the "Add New Entry" icon.  Set the name to "SSD" or something similar, and set the drive to the primary partition on your SSD.  (Again, mine was E:\.)  Click Add Entry.

12. On the left side of EasyBSD, click Edit Boot Menu.  You should see two entries, one for "Windows 8" or something similar, and one for "SSD" (or whatever you named it in Step 11.)  Delete the one that says "Windows 8" so that the only entry is the one you just created, "SSD" in this example.  Save the settings.

13. Eject the Windows 8 DVD from your PC.

14. Restart.  (If you'd like, you can push F2 to return to the BIOS and set Hard Drive above the CD/DVD/CD-RW-Drive in the Legacy Boot order.) 

15. Your PC should now boot directly to the Windows 8 install on your mSATA SSD drive.  To verify this, go back to Computer, you should see three drives, your OS C:\ drive with 100GB or so free (on a 128 GB drive), a "System Reserved" drive (on the HDD at 350MB), and the much larger primary partition (also on the HDD).  You can go to Control Panel | System and Security | Administrative Tools | Computer Management | Disk Management and delete the primary partition on the HDD.  (Always best to leave System Reserved alone, especially since it's a paltry 350MB.)  Once the primary partition is removed, you can use the rest of that roomy 1TB drive for whatever you like. 

That's it.  You now have a single copy of Windows running on your mSATA drive which your PC will boot automatically and the main HDD for storage. 

SUMMARY: Yes, this process involves installing Windows twice, first on the mSATA drive and then again on the HDD.  But since the Dell BIOS won't show the mSATA drive in the boot order, you need the boot partition on the HDD to tell the computer to boot from the mSATA SSD.  With EasyBSD it's just a few clicks to tell the boot record on the HDD (which does appear in the BIOS boot options) to boot from the mSATA SSD (which does not appear in the BIOS boot options). 

NOTE: I do not know that this is an optimal procedure, for speed, security or anything else.  I do know that it will work.  If you want a clean, no bloatware install of Windows 8 running off of the mSATA drive on this model laptop, the above should do that for you. 

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acemanx
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Yea Im so happy it worked, I put in a 128GB Plextor M5M in the msata, blazzing fast it hits 500 but since Sata II is capped, my SSD is maxed out in HDTach, then in bay 1 I have a new HGST Hitachi 1tb travelstar sata-iii 7200 rpm drive i got for 69.99, and in bay 2 the original 5400 rpm drive, I will probably be selling that one and putting in another HGST, these are fast and super energy efficient. Then I went ahead and got 16gb  (8gbx2) of patriot signature ddr 1600 memory. Its the 3d version too with the blu ray player, at the end the stats are sick

i7 3630QM Quad Core

17" 1920x1080 3D with TruLife Screen

16GB DDR3 RAM

Nvidia GT 650M Video Card

1xmsata 128gb

2xsata III 1TB Hard Drives

I mean damn, 2tb, 16gb ram, and it can play most games high graphics? and you can watch 3d blu ray movies and play 3d games? im rocking it, hell yea Dell rules! got a great deal on this laptop too

jnbazin
1 Copper

RE: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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This worked for me using BIOS rev A16.  

I had both drives installed with no OS on either,

booted through a GParted Live CD,

formatted each drive,

restarted by exiting GParted,

then booted through Win8 CD and installed the OS only on the mSATA drive

The only issue I had was when completing the final step, the Win8 install utility detected an existing MBR on by mSATA drive. So, I had to delete the partition through the Win8 install utility, and let it reformat a partition from unallocated space.  But, it booted right up after that, will the OS only on the mSATA SSD.  I tried many other times to install the OS to the mSATA before attempting this method, so I can confirm a traditional install will still not work right with BIOS A16.  Thanks for tip, rockfreak.

JN

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33 Replies
DRRLN
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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I too have purchased a mSATA drive to do this, and straight install of W7 on the mSATA doesn't let the device boot (not without the W7 install DVD present).  It boots fine from the mSATA when the w7 install DVD is present.  So it looks like I'm missing the boot loader.  Can't get the system BIOS to recognize the mSATA drive to be able to boot from it - so the system can't access the bootloader on the mSATA drive.  

BIOS settings are as you describe above.  

So I guess what you're doing with the double install of windows (on the mSATA and HDD) and then using EasyBCD, is re-pointing the bootloader on the HDD system partition (the small hidden one) to point to the mSATA install.  So you've set-up a bootloader on the HDD system partition, which can be configured as bootable in the BIOS, and then re-directed the actual boot to the mSATA drive.

Looks like I'm going to need to by a new HDD too!  Looks like your the only person who has managed to get this system to actually reliably work using a mSATA as the boot drive.

I'll let you know who it goes.

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DRRLN
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Works like a dream!  Thanks!  Had to get a new HDD for the primary "boot" drive, and had to re-install afresh on the mSATA drive (as previous work had cause the install to be non-bootable). - But on my way now.  Thanks!

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acemanx
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Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Hey bro,  took like 5 hours trying to get this done and your way was the only successful way,  one question,  can I now delete the 2nd Windows in the 2nd drive now that the boot is configured properly?

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Charlie S.
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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" can I now delete the 2nd Windows in the 2nd drive now that the boot is configured properly? "

I did.  But I didn't just delete the files, I deleted the entire partition.  In Step 15, I went to Disk Management, and just nuked the whole thing except for the 350 MB "System Reserved" thing.  The entire Windows copy on the HDD is gone.  So my Disk Management screen looks like this:

Disk 0 - 931.51GB - This is the 1TB HDD, it has two partitions:

- System Reserved (350 MB NTFS)

- My "Media" partition designated S:, which is 931.17GB

Disk 1 - 119.24 GB - This is the 128GM mSATA, it also has two partitions:

- System Reserved (350MB NTFS)

- My C: drive, which is 118.9GB, has the OS, and is labeled Boot, Page File, Crash Dump, Primary Partition

The boot sector on the HDD is what tells the BIOS to boot from the mSATA, there's no need for that second copy of Windows once you get it set.  After I deleted the partition with Windows on the HDD, I reformatted the rest of the open space to be my S: drive.  I probably could've also deleted the System Reserved thing too, but why take the chance?  

Glad it worked for you.  It was a real pain to figure out, but mine's been running great for months now.  I put my music on the mSATA, so the only time it has to actually use the HDD is if I'm watching video.  If I'm doing anything else I get ridiculous battery life.  God bless solid state drives.  

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acemanx
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Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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ok so just right click the hard drive and select format and i should be ok?

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acemanx
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Yea Im so happy it worked, I put in a 128GB Plextor M5M in the msata, blazzing fast it hits 500 but since Sata II is capped, my SSD is maxed out in HDTach, then in bay 1 I have a new HGST Hitachi 1tb travelstar sata-iii 7200 rpm drive i got for 69.99, and in bay 2 the original 5400 rpm drive, I will probably be selling that one and putting in another HGST, these are fast and super energy efficient. Then I went ahead and got 16gb  (8gbx2) of patriot signature ddr 1600 memory. Its the 3d version too with the blu ray player, at the end the stats are sick

i7 3630QM Quad Core

17" 1920x1080 3D with TruLife Screen

16GB DDR3 RAM

Nvidia GT 650M Video Card

1xmsata 128gb

2xsata III 1TB Hard Drives

I mean damn, 2tb, 16gb ram, and it can play most games high graphics? and you can watch 3d blu ray movies and play 3d games? im rocking it, hell yea Dell rules! got a great deal on this laptop too

rockfreak1011
1 Copper

Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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You don't have to do all that.

I also purchased a 128GB MSATA.

1. I called Dell, got the Win8 install disk and drivers disk delivered.

Yes this is possible.  The only thing is you lose the companion applications or free-ware that Dell provided. However Norton and Cyberlink are available via download with your device serial.

2. downloaded Gparted, burned to disk

3. Backed up everying

4. installed new 128 Gb MSata

5. inserted Gparted and booted

6. formated both the existing HDD and new MSATA

7. installed windows with Dell provided win8 disk to my new MSATA

8. Works like a charm.

9. I believe I had to also format my HDD again in Windows so Windows could recognize it, but I don't remember now.

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DRRLN
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Re: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Correct for Win8, but I think this is not the case if you wish to do this using Win7 as you need to use legacy boot options. 

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mikem1989
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RE: Inspiron (7720) Boot from mSATA Instructions

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Hi. thanks for the post. It helped me alot. Just one thing, since I followed these steps when the laptop is on battery only it won't boot up. It gets to the windows symbol and just turns off 😕 but the the charger plugged in everything goes as normal and runs sweet as a nut. I can even remove the charger once the laptop has booted. Any ideas what the problem is here? Its a pain in the backside having to plug it into the wall just to get it to turn on!
I've no idea what the problem is.... Any help would be greatly appreciated! 

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