Frequently Asked Questions Regarding NVMe Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding NVMe Solid State Drives (SSDs)





This article provides the information on "New technology (NVMe, Skylake etc.) and their interaction during the installation of Windows on systems that have the Intel Skylake Chipset


Table of Contents


New technologies.

Many of the exciting new hardware technologies included in the latest Dell OptiPlex, Precision, Latitude, Venue, & XPS systems work optimally with a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)/GUID Partition Table (GPT) based image. UEFI also offers increased speed, performance, and added security with new Microsoft features.

While some of the newest Dell systems require UEFI, other recent models have increased stability when configured using UEFI. The new Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) drives also represent a technology leap forward which works optimally in UEFI configurations. While Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 natively utilize the UEFI standard, additional preparation and consideration must be taken with Windows 7 for compatibility.

Dell systems manufactured since 2011 are UEFI capable. Depending on the order configuration of the system, and the operating system installed from the factory and other considerations, your system may have shipped in a UEFI configuration or in a Legacy BIOS configuration. As a general rule, systems shipped with Windows 8/8.1 shipped with UEFI enabled. All Windows 10 systems ship from Dell in the UEFI mode.

You may hear these drives referred to as M.2 drives, and while technically correct, it is a bit of a misnomer. All NVME drives utilize the M.2 form factor, but not all M.2 SSDs utilize NVME technology. M.2 is simply the form factor.

Frequently asked questions.

  1. What is NVMe?
  2. Should I use NVMe drives with MBR?
  3. Why does my NVMe drive not work with Windows 7?
  4. Do I need to do anything for my NVMe drives to work with my Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 image?
  5. Why won't my Windows 7 disc work with my new Dell systems?
  6. What is Skylake and what do I need to know about it?
  7. What is UEFI?
  8. What is the difference between MBR and GPT?
  9. Which imaging technologies support UEFI?
  10. What is the difference between Legacy BIOS and UEFI?
  11. How are GPT and UEFI associated?
  12. Is MBR the same as Legacy BIOS?
  13. How do I switch my Dell system from Legacy Mode to UEFI?
  14. Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on UEFI for Secure Boot?
  15. Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on UEFI for BitLocker?
  16. Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on Legacy for BitLocker if I am unable to use UEFI?
  1. Q: What is NVMe?
    A: Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) is a communications interface/protocol developed specially for Solid State Drives (SSD). Previously, Solid State drives used hard drive controller interfaces (SATA, SAS etc.) that were designed for spinning hard disk drives. NVMe (Based on the PCI Express data bus) standardizes the interface for SSDs requiring only 1 driver for all drives using this specification. (Similar to USB devices)
  2. Q: Should I use NVMe drives with MBR?
    A: No, Dell recommends NVMe drives be configured via UEFI & GPT for optimal performance, security and reliability.
  3. Q: Why does my NVMe drive not work with Windows 7?
    A: Windows 7 does not include support for NVMe drives natively. In most cases, Windows 7 imaging failures are rooted in improper device configuration, legacy imaging software/processes and failure to load required drivers during the imaging process to provide Windows 7 support for NVMe drives. Dell recommends UEFI and GPT configuration of Windows 7 systems.

  4. Q: Do I need to do anything for my NVMe drives to work with my Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 image?
    A: MAYBE - Depending on how your image was prepared and the source operating system used, you may need to inject NVMe drivers into your Windows 8.1/10 image.
  5. Q: Why won't my Windows 7 disc work with my new Dell systems?
    A: Current Windows 7 media does not include the USB 3.1 driver or the NVMe driver support required to install itself on NVMe equipped systems.
  6. Q: What is Skylake and what do I need to know about it? A: Skylake refers to the 6th Generation of the Intel Core processor design and it is the successor to the 5th generation Broadwell chipset. Some important differences with the Skylake chipset include:
    • No longer includes support for the USB 2.0 bus (Windows 7 requires USB 2.0 support unless specific USB 3.1 drivers are incorporated into your Windows 7 image.)
    • Thunderbolt 3.0 high speed data transport support.
    • Iris Pro Graphics capable of 4k display on up to 3 screens.
  7. Q: What is UEFI?
    A: Is a version of the system setup that replaces BIOS. UEFI is a technology specification managed by The Unified Extensible Firmware Interface Forum or (UEFI Forum) an alliance of multiple technology companies working to modernize the computer booting process.
    Advantages of UEFI included the following:
    • The ability to boot to disks in greater than 2 terabytes using GUID Partitions (GPT)
    • The system architecture is not dependent on the Central Processing Unit (CPU)design
    • Greater flexibility in the pre-Operating System environment, including network capability
    • Modular design
    • Drivers are not dependent on the Central Processing Unit (CPU) design
    • UEFI is a replacement technology for the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS)
    • Secure Boot: a security technology to help prevent virus/malware attacks at the system board level.

    Dell recommends that if you do use Windows 7, you should migrate your systems to GPT partitioning/Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) system setup configuration to obtain the best possible functionality for new hardware. This will also reduce compatibility considerations during the eventual transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

    • Many Windows 7 users have planned to make the transition to GPT/UEFI along with the migration to Windows 10, but moving to GPT/UEFI with Windows 7 may be required now to support the latest hardware platforms & technology enhancements.
    • Moving to Windows 7 with GPT partitioning / UEFI system setup configuration provides a bridge for Windows 7 users who are not ready to move to Windows 10 immediately.
  8. Q: What is the difference between MBR and GPT?
    A: MBR stands for Master Boot Record. MBR dates to the start of personal computing 1983. MBR uses a special boot sector on the drive containing a boot loader for the operating system. MBR's largest limitations are a maximum of primary partitions (4) and a limitation of 2 Terabyte disk size. MBR stores the boot and partitioning information in the dedicated boot sector providing a failure point and limiting disaster recovery.
    GPT stands for GUID Partition Table. It’s called GUID Partition Table because every partition on your drive has a "globally unique identifier," or GUID — a random set of characters allowing GPT partitions their own unique identifier (GUID Format 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000). On modern drives, the drive size limit 8 Zebibyte (ZiB). GPT stores multiple copies of the boot and partition data across the drive providing redundancy and better disaster recovery.
  9. Q: Which imaging technologies support UEFI?
    A: Dell recommends Dell ImageAssist (Dell’s cross-platform imaging technology), Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2012, 2012 R2, 2016 or newer and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) as the recommended imaging technologies for UEFI based systems.
  10. Q: What is the difference between Legacy BIOS and UEFI?
    A: Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is a replacement technology for the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). Legacy BIOS has limitations that do not allow for optimal performance of new technologies and will likely be no longer supported in the near future as newer technologies are more and more incompatible with this older technology.
  11. Q: How are GPT and UEFI associated?
    A:UEFI does not boot to MBR partitions without specific Legacy ROM support available in some Dell system UEFI setups. UEFI is designed for GPT partitions. Secure Boot will not function with a MBR partition.
  12. Q: Is MBR the same as Legacy BIOS?
    A: MBR refers to the Master Boot Record partitions of a hard drive. Legacy BIOS refers to system setup designs prior to UEFI. Both Legacy BIOS and UEFI allow you to configure the system options in the firmware of the motherboard. UEFI is intended to be used with the GPT partition type, but can be configured to use MBR on systems designed with Legacy BIOS support, but there are functional limitations and performance limitations associated with this legacy support.
  13. Q: How do I switch my Dell system from Legacy Mode to UEFI?
    A: Dell systems that support Legacy BIOS in system setup have an option to switch from UEFI to Legacy modes.
    NOTE: Switching a system from UEFI to Legacy or Legacy to UEFI will render the system unbootable, requiring the system to have the operating system either reinstalled or reimaged.
  14. Q: Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on UEFI for Secure Boot?
    A: SecureBoot is a feature of UEFI. It cannot be enabled in Windows 7.
  15. Q: Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on UEFI for BitLocker?
    A: Yes. Legacy Option ROMs will need to be enabled for Windows 7 to function correctly.
    NOTE: Some systems may not have Legacy Option ROMS capability. Check your system setup to determine if this option is available in your system setup.
  16. Q: Can I configure my Windows 7 systems setup on Legacy for BitLocker if I am unable to use UEFI?
    Yes. Some systems will require a BIOS update to allow BitLocker to function in Legacy Mode.
    NOTE: Ensure your system has the most current BIOS update installed.

Model

Current BIOS Version
(as of April 14, 2016)

Latitude E7270/7470

1.4.2

Latitude E5270/5470/5570

1.4.7

Latitude 5175/5179

1.0.7

Rugged Tablet 7202 Venue 11 Pro (5)

A06

XPS 13 9350

1.3.3

XPS15 9550

1.2.0

OptiPlex 7440 All-in-One (AIO)

1.3.9

OptiPlex 7040 MT, SFF, Micro

1.2.8

OptiPlex 5040 MT, SFF

1.2.7

OptiPlex 3040 MT, SFF, Micro

1.3.5

Precision T3420/T3620

1.3.2

Precision 3510

1.4.7

Precision 5510

1.2.0

Precision 7510/7710

1.4.8

If your system is not listed then Legacy BitLocker is not currently supported on your system.

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Windows transition schedule

  • June 30, 2017 End of Distribution
    • Windows 8
    • Windows 8 Pro DOWNGRADE to Windows 7 Pro
    • Windows 8.1 DOWNGRSDE to Windows 7 Pro
    • Windows 7 Home Basic (China ONLY)
  • July 31, 2017 End of Distribution
    • Windows 10 Pro Small Tablet
    • Windows 10 Tablet 2-in-1 DOWNGRADE
  • October 31, 2017 End of Distribution
    • Windows 7 Pro
    • Windows 8.1
    • Windows 10 Pro DOWNGRADE to Windows 7 Pro or 8.1 Pro

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Glossary

  • UEFI - Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, System Setup interface that replaces BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) used for system configuration.
  • NVMe - Non-Volatile Memory express, a new technology that uses the PCI-Express bus for SSD operations, which is considerably faster than SATA technology .
  • PCI Express - A high-speed serial computer expansion bus standard, designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X, and AGP bus standards
  • SATA - Serial ATA (abbreviated from Serial AT Attachment) is a computer bus interface that connects host bus adapters to mass storage devices such as hard disk drives, optical drives, and solid-state drives.
  • SAS - Serial-attached SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), a computer bus interface using SATA devices and the speed of the SCSI host controller.
  • MBR - Master Boot Record
  • GPT - GUID Partition Table
  • GUID - Globally Unique IDentifier
  • ZiB - Zebibyte (1 zebibyte = 270 bytes = 1,180,591,620,717,411,303,424bytes = 1024 exbibytes)
  • SCCM - System Center Configuration Manager (Microsoft)
  • MDT - Microsoft Deployment Toolkit
  • Legacy ROM - (Legacy Read-Only Memory) enables older boot device options when systems are configured for UEFI (Shows boot options other than EFI enabled boot drives.)
  • Firmware - permanent software programmed into a read-only memory.
  • Skylake - Refers to the 6th Generation of the Intel Core processor design.
  • Kaby Lake - Refers to the 7th Generation of the Intel Core processor design. (It is expected that Kaby Lake will only support Windows 10.)
  • Broadwell - Refers to the 4th Generation of the Intel Core processor design
  • Haswell - Refers to the 4th Generation of the Intel Core processor design
  • Thunderbolt 3 - Thunderbolt 3 is a hardware interface that uses the USB Type-C connector. Thunderbolt combines PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort (DP) into one serial signal, and additionally provides DC power, all in one cable. Up to six peripherals may be supported by one Thunderbolt 3 connection.
  • DisplayPort (DP) - A digital display interface primarily used to connect a video source to a display device such as a LCD Display. DisplayPort connections can also be used to carry audio, USB, and other forms of data over a single connection.

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Dell Skylake Models with Windows 7 Support

Dell Skylake Models
with Windows 7 Support

Legacy BIOS/MBR Partition

UFEI BIOS/GPT Partitioning

Latitude 12 7000 Series (E7270)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 14 7000 Series (E7470)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 12 Rugged Tablet (7202)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 15 3000 Series (3470)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 15 3000 Series (3570)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 12 5000 Series (E5270)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 14 5000 Series (E5470)

Yes1

Yes

Latitude 15 5000 Series (E5570)

Yes1

Yes

OptiPlex 24 7000 Series All-in-One (7440)

Yes1

Yes

OptiPlex 22 3000 Series All-in-One (3240)

Yes1

Yes
OptiPlex 7040

Yes1

Yes
OptiPlex 5040

Yes1

Yes
OptiPlex 3040

Yes1

Yes
Precision 15 5000 Series (5510) No2 Yes
Precision 15 7000 Series (7510) No2 Yes
Precision 17 7000 Series (7710) No2 Yes
Precision 15 3000 Series (3510) No2 Yes
Precision Tower 3000 Series (3620) Yes Yes
Precision Tower 3000 Series (3420) Yes Yes
XPS 13 9350 Ultrabook No2 No2
XPS 13 9360 Ultrabook Yes1 Yes

Notes:

  1. Windows 7 Legacy BIOS/MBR Partition configurations support Non-NVMe drives only.
  2. Windows 7 not supported but may be supported at a future date.

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Article ID: SLN301149

Last Date Modified: 02/22/2019 12:58 PM


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