Running an SSD on WHS

OK, I take back all the grief I told everyone on the forums about using an SSD in a Windows Home Server.  That being said, this is probably not for everyone but if you have a spare SSD it is worth considering.

Okay let me set up the background of the experiment for you. Since I had set up the beta version, I’ve been using the IcyDock dual laptop drive enclosure with two 250 Gig Western Digital Caviar Black drives. Over the past year I noticed the system was getting extremely slow. Opening and closing the console took way too much time and I was pretty frustrated every time I had to do it. I’ve been toying with the idea of using SSD drive, however buying an SSD drive larger than 160 GB is very pricey. The first thing I wanted to try was to utilize an existing 60 GB drive I had just bought on sale, and use Acronis which I recently installed to restore the backed up partition onto a smaller drive. I used the restore from Acronis and was able to get the WHS OS onto a 60 gig SSD. Since I did not have anything on the “D” drive anyway, everything booted and worked perfectly with no errors. Since this was a Sata 3 drive, it was never my intention to leave it as I have a different plan for that, I just merely wanted to attempt to try it and to make sure that this is actually possible. Many have talked about the idea in the forums and have used various hacks to install the OS on an SSD.  I found this option easier, safer, and worked extremely well for me.

Once I confirmed that it would restore correctly, and I fell in love with the performance of using an SSD on WHS, I opted to repeat the process this time using the cloning feature in Acronis to clone the IcyDock mirror onto an extra OCZ 240 Gig Vertex 2 that I had recently removed from my main system to replace with a faster drive. My plan was to use the extra space for something that did not need much protection such as iTunes where I could benefit from the speed.

The actual cloning process to go from the IcyDock mirror to the OCZ 240 SSD took about 8 to 9 min. The process was very simple, though I did have to manually adjust the partition sizes in Acronis so that there was 60 gig on the “C” drive and the balance on the “D”. The process went through with no errors. When it was done I was very pleased with the results. Everything I now do from loading the console to using apps from the desktop are much quicker. Even the actual boot time of the server itself is greatly improved. Granted you don’t boot your server very often, however for me it was a very painfully and slow process. I am very happy with the results and although it’s not something that I would recommend you go off and purchase, if you do have an extra SSD kicking around that 60+ Gigs, it is certainly worth considering. For me it also establishes the value of using Acronis on my WHS as it demonstrates the versatility that it provides as well as a quick way recovering your OS drive. I attached a quick benchmark of the result. It’s a tad slower running on Windows Home Server than on my Core I7, however the performance is still extremely fast giving you extra flexibility for your WHS. Overall I’m extremely pleased with the project and I am glad I could prove that Acronis would restore to a smaller drive and allow me to install an SSD into my system.


ATTO-240G on WHS 2011

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10 Responses

  1. Tojoski says:

    Nice ehh? Welcome to the dark side 🙂

    Take another look at the "hacks" you mentioned, as they really aren't hacks at all, but config options built-in for OEM's to use for customization.

    • pcdoc says:

      You are right, I referred to them as hacks but not in a bad way. I find it easier to clone as I can adjust visually the partition size and I do not have to do a clean install. If doing a new or fresh install, the method you described is great. Thanks for the comment.

  2. jmwills says:

    Thanks….I was looking for that post!

  3. @timekills17 says:

    That was the primary reason for my using the SSD caching feature with Z68 on my virtual drive; the speed that the dashboard opens is much faster. Just noticeably more responsive.

    I'm curious about your using iTunes on the WHS however. I recently transferred a VMWare Win7 VM to Hyper-V VHD for the sole purpose of iTunes. I don't feel comfortable running iTunes on my WHS. How do you have it set up? I'm really enjoying the wireless synching and I'm getting the Z68 caching advantage.

    • win7king says:

      With regards to iTunes, I am not really running it on my server but I do have the entire library mapped to it by default. Both systems that have iTunes insalled are pointing to the WHS for the libray so speed was a bit of and issue. I originally had it on a mirror but that was too slow, then I moved it to a RAID 5 and that helped, now on the SSD it is very nice.

  4. @timekills17 says:

    Speeds from my Z68 cached VM of WHS2011 are very similar to yours, Mike (using 60GB Vertex2):

  5. tinkererguy says:

    Hey pcdoc, great post!

    As you know, for gaming PCs, I'm a big fan of SRT (SSD caching), now that automatic RAID repair (chkdsk equivalent that happen after reboot if powered down improperly) take just seconds instead of days, and the Intel driver seems to be stable:

    Heck, I even wish my laptop had the same capability built-in, but it doesn't (only W520s ordered with RAID can do SRT).
    So I came up with a Plan B, leveraging mSATA for C: (Windows 7 x64), and a 2x1TB stripe RAID0 for a 2TB D: drive (data).
    since the new Momentus XT 750GB hybrid drives weren't available then (and aren't affordable now).

    I've been cloning systems for about 17 years now, and have dabbled in Ghost, Macrium Reflect, and Acronis (all affordable), and even Clonezilla and EaseUS Disk Copy (free). And they all hold a spot in my toolbox/arsenal. Like you, I love running WHS on SSD as well, much more pleasant to quickly get in and get out.

    But, for my needs, I also need to juggle WHS and a bunch of other VMs all on one somewhat affordable machine left running 24/7. Which is why I'm virtualizing (power savings). Not because it's best, or easiest, just because it's best for me (as I'm already familiar with VMware ESXi and the performance it offers). And it does also offer me a way to migrate all data from physical to virtual, AND still get to re-use the 1.5TB drives I need to pull out of my about-to-be-gutted WHSv1 box (ancient Pentium D):

    Unfortunately, at this time, VMware ESXi 5.0 doesn't support Z68 caching (Intel Smart Response Technology, which requires Intel's Windows based driver).

    But Microsoft Hyper-V does (see timekills comment above), but has some other gotchas:

    So going with ESXi with nested Hyper-V is the way forward that I chose, to learn both (ESXi has been rock solid stable on Z68)

    I'm hoping to eventually get OS-agnostic SSD caching (no drivers needed) of my entire RAID5 array with LSI CacheCade 2.0 early next year, for my LSI 9265-8i, we'll have to see how it performs when it finally ships. CacheCade 2.0 is read AND write caching for RAID5, and will support 6Gpbs SSD (which I've tested gets about ~550MBps read/writes):
    The more affordable 9260-8i and 9260-4i (or equivalent Dell PERCs) aren't upgradeable to CacheCade 2.0.

    Meanwhile, I just keep using new 2011 based Home Server and other critical VMs on some SATA2/3Gbps SSDs I have running fine on ESXi, which require the .cfg tweaking method that I also used (I took a clumsy stab at documenting that technique here):
    (but Tojoski's post above is better).

    Clearer, or clear as mud? Curious what others think!

    I hope this fun dialogue keeps going for a bit, and I know I've clicked "Subscribe to All new comments" to hear what gets said next!

  6. Ryan says:

    Using a Core i7 for a Home Server seems a bit silly, I'm using an old Athlon and 939. Buying a new system just for a server to sit that sits in the corner most of the time..meh. Of course, the name Core i7 (copy of Apple's crap) is a bit silly too. I'd love to nab an i7 for gaming, as I'm using an old Kuma X2 7850BE.

  7. Mastiha says:

    Should the page file be switched off if using an SSD?

  8. Great article. I am thinking about adding an SSD to the boot for my WHS so that it will speed it up, make it cooler, and quieter.

    Thanks again