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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banjo upgrades operating system hard drive - SSD

A couple of months ago, I built up a completely new computer system.  (BTW - "building your own" sure is different than when I did it in 1978, a DEC PDP-11/03 from Heathkit - back then I had to build everything; the keyboard, the keys, the springs under the keys, the labels on the keys, the transformers for the video monitor, all the resistors, all the capacitors, all the IC took a lot of time!" - so building your own computer, by today's standards, is a piece of cake).

Anyway...I picked up an ASUS motherboard P8Z68-VPRO, an Intel Core iP processor, 16 GB of ram, 3 x 3TB hard drives (7200, 64 MB cache), 3 SAMSUNG 27" monitors, 1 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580, and a 60 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) made by Corsair.  I'm driving 2 monitors on it, planning on adding another NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 soon, along with 2 more monitors (Samsung 27"), bringing it up to 4 monitors.  I've got a 1200 watt power supply (!) powering it all, and a big ol UPS to help smooth things out, like when the little window air conditioner kicks in and out due to all the heat.  In order to keep it fast, I've limited the SSD to the OS and ThinkOrSwim.  Nothing else goes on this drive.

Well, it has been fast-as-hell, but it crashes a couple of times a week.  Great big ol' BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) greets me a lot of mornings (btw - if you are new to my blog, I daytrade stocks, and usually leave my system up all night as I will drop by a couple of times a night to see how futures are doing).  And, sometimes it will just sit there and do nothing for about 45 seconds.....not good for trading realtime with money on the line!

This is my primary machine, and I have an older PC with 2 video monitors on it, so I just rotate my chair over to it when something gets goofy.

So I've been pretty much searching for a solution to the BSOD and the 'hanging' situation.  Seeing comments on the Internet that the 'hanging' or 'slow down' may be associated with Windows 7; don't know.  I've got a process monitor running to try and grab some info, but even it hangs when the system hangs, but things like the mouse still move around.

Anyway, quite a bit of research brought forth the problem with the BSOD may be being caused by the Corsair 3 Force 60GB SSD.  They are giving people RMAs and returning new drives.  I flashed the motherboard bios bringing it up to the most current, but that didn't help, so per the vendor, looks like the next step on that is to flash the SSD bios, and if that doesn't work, then ship it back to them.

Well, I don't have time for all of that crap.  Once I found out the vendor is crying about problem SSDs, I went down and bought a 120GB Kingston SSD.  They also had a special rebate on Norton Ghost, so I picked up a copy of that too.  I mentioned to the sales staff at Fry's that I had problems with Ghost in the past, and they assured me this wasn't an issue now.

Well, it was.  I've spent all-damn-day trying to image my OS SDD drive over to the new SDD drive.  I get the images created all right, and can then move them onto the new drive, but it won't boot.  I went through the Ghost user guide, and nothing works.

I powered down and removed the power cord, then pulled the power feeds from all of the hard drives except for the two SSD drives, one of which had my operating system on it (the Corsair), and the other the new empty drive (Kingston), that way there wouldn't be any confusion or chance to destroy data on any of the other drives - only the two SSDs were online and available to the system once I pulled their power feeds.

So I did what all good programmers do - I said "I'm switching to LINUX" to do this.  What I mean by that is, I'm giving up on that POS Norton Ghost, and am using a Ubuntu (LINUX derivative) LiveCD.  I popped that CD (BTW - you can download this for free from Ubuntu) into the CD/DVD reader, selecting the option to 'run' but not the 'install'.  About 2 minutes later, I had an Ubuntu session up and running!  I went to 'Applications' (top menu bar) ->Accessories > Terminal and launched that Terminal program, which looks a lot like an old black screen MSDOS.

I then took a look at the drives the Ubuntu system was seeing using the command "sudo fdisk -l" (and that's a lower case "L"; it showed /dev/sda and /dev/sdb.

I then used the command "sudo dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb" to do an image copy from the Corsairs SSD disk to the Kingston SSD disk.

I then did another "sudo fdisk -l" to have a look, and the partitions and disk data sizes were in agreement.  This took about 25 minutes for the 60 GB to be imaged onto the Kinston SSD.

I powered down and unplugged the electrical cord again.

I reconnected all the power feeds to each of the hard drives, and removed the power feed from the Corsair, so it's not online any more.

I then repowered up, changed the ASUS bios setting to reflect booting from this Kingston SSD, and it came up immediately, no problems, and my trading systems are up and running.

This took about 30 minutes, after spending a whole-damn-day screwing around with Norton Ghost.  And for that privilege of getting nothing but spending time, I had the honor of paying Norton some hard earned cash, while the Ubuntu worked with minimal instructions, took 30 minutes, and was free.

While I have a background in UNIX, and I run one Ubuntu system here (it's one of three up all the time here in my trading office), I don't frequently use commands like 'fdisk' and 'dd'.  I got this excellent insight from the chaps at "howtogeek".  Here's their LINK.

Special Note: I was able to move from a SSD drive to another SSD drive.  You should not do this from a HDD to an SDD, nor from SDD to HDD.  The reason being the boundary sizes are different between the two devices.  In my case, I had installed Windows 7 directly onto the SSD, and Windows 7 takes care of this problem for you; if you install first to an HDD, Windows 7 will set it up for HDD, and you will end up with incorrect boundary sizes when you try to create an image of the HDD and apply it to the SDD.  Do some research on "SSD alignment" for insight.

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