Installing Windows 8 with an SSD

win8

I recently purchased a new Windows 8 laptop and rebuilt it, copied all my stuff over, etc. It had a relatively small ~25 GB SSD drive and while it wasn’t slow to boot and login, it wasn’t that fast either. In my search for the “7 second” boot time, I came across a bunch of articles and suggestions and ended up rebuilding my laptop several times to finally get the extremely fast start time. After doing all that I found yet another tip to make it even faster, but decided it wasn’t worth yet another day to rebuilt it yet again.

First, let me give you the links I found, then I’ll give you an outline of the process I followed. How you do it will depend on the size of your SSD and how much pain you’re willing to go through.

The best guide for implementing/using an SSD with Windows 8: http://www.overclock.net/t/1240779/seans-windows-8-install-optimization-guide-for-ssds-hdds

Using symbolic links to move user profiles over to your main drive: http://www.windows7hacker.com/index.php/2012/09/how-to-change-user-profile-location-in-windows-8-without-registry-hack/

First off, I tried to cheat and do a Windows Easy Transfer to get my data and profile from my old machine to my new one. It didn’t end up working for me because WET sees your new SSD drive as the C:\ and won’t do the restore because it thinks you’re out of space. I ended up having to copy everything over and setting everything up manually. Just be aware!

So in my case I had a 25GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. I wanted the OS on the SSD (C:\) and everything else on the HDD (D:\). Because my SSD is relatively small I elected not to create a Rapid Start partition, but it’s the last piece that is supposed to make the OS super fast.

When you install the OS make sure you delete all the partitions on both disks and follow the 1st guide above fairly close. Here’s where I deviated:

  • I made a very small pagefile and moved it to the D:\
  • I elected not to keep my user profile on C:\ due to the space limitations. I also didn’t want to just move pictures/videos/etc to d:\, so I used symbolic links (more on that in a bit). Note that this has caused me a few issues, but nothing I haven’t been able to get around.
  • I left the UAC on. I’ve been burned by viruses before and keeping the UAC on is worth the annoyance for me

In addition to moving my profile using the second link I provided above (symbolic links), I also moved some other Windows directories like SoftwareDistribution and Temp. This clears up some non-essential files that can severely impact how much disk space you have. I went from having less than 2GB free on the SSD to about 9GB.

I found other suggestions for how to move user profiles to the other drive, including sysprep, but that gave me a ton of issues. I felt using the symbolic link was the cleanest way to go. Note that I also tried moving ProgramData over, but as others suggested it would it gave me a ton of problems with the Metro interface.

I tried changing the default program files location in the registry, because I was tired of changing it when I installed apps, but other things got flaky when I did that. IE10 stopped working completely. I don’t use IE normally, but I do like having the builtin browser working successfully, especially given how much MS ties into it.

That’s about it. My boot time went from about 1 minute before to maybe 5-7 seconds after. It wakes from sleep almost instantly. I haven’t particularly noticed that the shell itself is faster, but this is a new laptop that is much faster than my old one, so it’s hard to judge.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to speed up Windows 8? Any other good tips of items to move to the local disk? Let me know in the comments!

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