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How To Install Windows On A PCIe SSD

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    Posted: 14 Nov 2015 at 11:38am
USING PCIe SSDs AS YOUR WINDOWS OS/BOOT DRIVE

These simple instructions will allow you to install Windows on a PCIe SSD and use it as your OS/Boot drive.

The overview and description of PCIe SSDs is more complex than their configuration for use as an OS drive. Regardless, it is very important that you at least understand the physical and electrical interfaces to some degree to avoid disappointments with performance after your OS installation. If you encounter any issues, they are most likely explained in the PCIe SSD description sections.

UEFI/BIOS CONFIGURATION FOR OS INSTALLATION ON PCIe SSDs

Only one main UEFI option needs configuration to allow you to install Windows on a PCIe SSD. All this configuration does is cause Windows to use the EFI boot loader rather than the Legacy boot loader, which is necessary for a Windows installation on a PCIe SSD. This setting can be used with any SSD or HDD to enhance OS booting performance.

There are two ways to configure this UEFI option. The first one is the easiest and has no other requirements of your PC hardware. The second way requires your video source to be compatible with a protocol called GOP. That's why I don't suggest using the second method unless you know your video source is GOP compatible.

Before you start, check the UEFI version on your board, and then check for the latest version available for your board. If you find any mention of "PCIe SSD" or "NVMe support" in a newer UEFI version, you should update to that version before you install Windows on your PCIe SSD.

METHOD 1

In the UEFI, in the Boot screen at the bottom, is an option called CSM (Compatibility Support Module.) CSM is Enabled by default. Click on CSM to reveal its sub-options.

The sub-option you are looking for is called Launch Storage OpROM Policy. The default setting is Legacy Only. Change the Launch Storage OpROM Policy setting to UEFI Only.

That's the main thing that must be configured. In the Storage Configuration screen, the SATA Mode should be set to either AHCI (default) or RAID. This is really for any SATA drives you will be using, but is also needed for PCIe AHCI SSDs. Those are described in the PCIe SSD description section if you are interested. Why anyone would be using IDE mode with modern mother boards and drives is beyond me, but just in case do NOT use IDE mode!

Once these options are configured, Save and Exit the UEFI, and go right back into the UEFI.

Not quite done yet. Do NOT be worried if your PCIe SSD is not listed in the Storage Configuration screen or Boot order list. That does not matter at all.

What does matter is the entry for your Windows installation media, whether a USB flash drive (the preferred method) or optical disk, in the Boot order.

You should find an entry in the Boot order like this: UEFI: <Installation Media Device Name>.

"Installation Media Device Name" is the name of whatever you are using as the installation media.

You will see another entry with the prefix AHCI. Do NOT select the AHCI entry. You MUST use the entry with the UEFI prefix.

Once you select the UEFI entry, save and exit if everything else is in order, and the Windows installation will begin. There is no need to format your PCIe SSD before the Windows installation. It is much better to allow the Windows Installation program to format your PCIe SSD. It will be GPT formatted and have an EFI System partition, and a Recovery partition.

Once Windows is installed on your PCIe AHCI or NVMe SSD, the entry in the Boot order list appear as "Windows Boot Loader" or "Windows Boot Loader: <SSD name>", depending upon the UEFI version used with your board.

If you are using a PCIe NVMe SSD (any Intel 750 SSD, and any DC P3500 SSD, Samsung 950 Pro SSD) don't forget to install the NVMe driver that the manufactures provide for their NVMe SSDs.

The Windows NVMe driver is known to have write performance issues, which I noticed when installing Windows 10 on a 950 Pro. That installation was much slower (five+ minutes) than installing Windows 10 on an AHCI SM951 (three minutes at most.)

It is the best practice with ANY Windows installation to only have the target OS drive powered on during the Windows installation. That is true and recommended in this case as well. If you are using an optical drive, that of course may be powered on and won't cause any problem.

NOTE: PCIe NVMe SSDs will NOT be listed in the Storage Configuration screen in the UEFI. They will be shown in the System Browser tool in the UEFI, and of course will be shown in Windows like any other drive.

METHOD 2

This method still requires the the CSM option to be configured. As said above, the default setting of CSM is Enabled. For this method, simply set the CSM option to Disabled. That has the same affect as setting the Launch Storage OpROM Policy setting to UEFI Only.

As said above, this requires the video source of the PC to be GOP compatible. That is necessary because setting the CSM option to Disabled causes the UEFI firmware in your board to be fully utilized. That results in the need for the video source to be GOP compatible, which is an EFI graphics protocol.

The Intel integrated graphics is GOP compatible, as far back as their Sandy Bridge processors, as long as your board's UEFI has the appropriate Intel VBIOS update. ASRock has updated all of their boards at least since the Intel 7 series chipsets with the Intel GOP compatible VBIOS.

I know that EVGA video cards starting with the 7 series are GOP compatible out of the box. EVGA 6 series video cards can be made GOP compatible with a VBIOS update. Otherwise you will need to check with the manufacture of your video card to learn if it is GOP compatible.

Besides setting CSM to Disabled, everything in Method 1 beyond the CSM configuration is the same, and must be the procedure used for installing Windows on your PCIe SSD. Please go over that section which contains important information.

Please feel free to ask any questions or post any problems you have about installing Windows on a PCIe SSD in this thread, or if you have problems with your installation.

WHAT IS A PCIe SSD?

PCIe SSDs do not use the a mother board's SATA chipset interface between the SSD and the Windows file system. They have their own storage controller built into the SSD. The storage controller should not be confused with the standard SSD controller chips that all SSDs use.

The storage controllers used in PCIe SSDs use a driver that is either provided by the OS itself, or one that is provided by the PCIe SSD manufacture, and must be installed by the SSD user.

PCIe SSDs are those SSD types that connect to a mother board in at least one of these ways:
  1. A standard PCIe slot that is at least physically x4.
  2. An M.2 port/slot. NOTE: Not all SSDs with an M.2 interface are PCIe SSDs.
  3. A 2.5" form factor SSD whose interface is PCIe and can be used with a U.2 adapter card and cable that is connected to an M.2 port. U.2 was previously called SFF-8639. A mother board can have an U.2 connector built into the board, that functions the same as an U.2 to M.2 adapter card.
  4. M.2 PCIe SSDs may be used with a M.2 to PCIe slot adapter card.
PCIe SSDs are not SATA drives, although some of them share one aspect with SATA drives.

WHICH PCIe SSDs ARE SUPPORTED?
Intel:
  1. 750 series AIC (Add In Card) in HHHL form factor (Half Height Half Length) PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4.
  2. 750 series 2.5" 15mm PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4.
  3. DC P3500 series AIC HHHL PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4.
Plextor:
  1. M6e series, with PCIe adapter card or M.2 connector PCIe AHCI 2.0 x2.
  2. M6e Black Edition AIC HHHL form factor PCIe AHCI 2.0 x2.

Samsung:
  1. XP941 M.2 PCIe AHCI 2.0 x4.
  2. SM951 M.2 PCIe AHCI 3.0 x4.
  3. SM951 M.2 PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4.
  4. 950 Pro M.2 PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4.
WHAT VERSIONS OF WINDOWS ARE SUPPORTED?

You may use Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. Only 64 bit versions may be used. Beyond that there are no further restrictions.

Windows 7 does not have a built in NVMe driver, that is required by PCIe NVMe SSDs. That makes a clean installation of Windows 7 on a PCIe NVMe SSD difficult. There is a Window 7 Hotfix for this situation, and both Intel and Samsung provide NVMe drivers for their products. But those drivers are not the type that can be used in during a Windows installation. This section will be updated when (if) a solution for this issue is available.

WHAT IS PCIe AHCI AND PCIe NVMe?

PCIe SSDs use two types of non-physical interfaces, AHCI and NVMe.

AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) is the same protocol that may be used by SATA SSDs.

The difference in PCIe AHCI SSDs is the AHCI controller is part of the SSD itself. Standard SSDs use the SATA controller (IDE, AHCI, RAID) that is built into the board's chipset or South Bridge chip.

A PCIe AHCI SSD allows the SSD to not be constrained by the limitations of the SATA interface. The AHCI extension of SATA is still useful and used by these SSDs.

NVMe (Non Volatile-Memory Express) is a new protocol designed specifically for solid state flash storage. It has nothing shared with SATA, and replaces AHCI with a much improved method of dealing with solid state storage. PCIe NVMe SSDs also have their own NVMe storage controller built in the drive.

PCIe SSD ELECTRICAL INTERFACE REQUIREMENTS

Besides the physical PCIe SSD interfaces, the electrical interfaces are important and cannot be overlooked if you want to get the best performance from a PCIe SSD.

These electrical interface requirements apply both to PCIe slots and to M.2 slots.

Besides the Plextor PCIe SSDs, and the Samsung XP941, all of the PCIe SSDs in the supported list above require a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface to operate at their full potential.

The ASRock Ultra M.2 ports are PCIe 3.0 x4 and fully support PCIe AHCI and PCIe NVMe SSDs, with the appropriate UEFI/BIOS update.

PCIe SSDs will still function with a PCIe 2.0 x4 or PCIe 2.0 x2 interface, but at reduced levels of performance. The PCIe 2.0 x2 interface is the minimum that will allow these SSDs to operate.

When using PCIe SSDs in PCIe slots with either their native PCIe slot interface, or by an M.2 to PCIe slot card adapter, you must not forget the PCIe electrical lane resources available, and their allocation to the PCIe slots, on the mother board/CPU platform you are using.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INTEL MOTHER BOARDS AND CHIPSETS

On Intel chipset mother boards other than the new 100 series for Skylake processors, the Ultra M.2/PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 ports share the PCIe 3.0 lanes with the PCIe slots used by video cards.

For example, Z97 boards have their PCIe 3.0 lanes provided by the CPU, and all Haswell "mainstream/performance" processors provide 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes.

If you use a PCIe SSD in those boards, it will likely use four PCIe 3.0 lanes, leaving 12 for the video cards. That will effectively leave eight PCIe 3.0 lanes for one video card. Since Nvidia SLI requires eight PCIe lanes for each video card, you won't be able to use SLI when using the PCIe SSD.

X99 HEDT (High End Desk Top) systems use processors that provide at least 28 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and most provide 40. So you won't be as limited with PCIe 3.0 resources.

X79 HEDT systems use processors that all have 40 PCIe lanes. Only the Ivy Bridge HEDT processors provide PCIe 3.0 lanes. Sandy Bridge HEDT processors provide PCIe 2.0 lanes.

The main point of all this is you cannot expect to use multiple video cards and a PCIe SSD at the same time with many PC platforms, since they use the same PCIe 3.0 resources.

The Skylake/100 series chipset platform for the first time has PCIe 3.0 resources in the chipset itself. The M.2 ports on these boards are connected to the chipset instead of the CPU. Or at least most Skylake boards use that method.

NON-PCIe M.2 SSDs

SSDs that are SATA drives and use the M.2 interface are commonly available. More M.2 SATA SSDs models are available than PCIe M.2 SSDs.

While these M.2 SATA SSDs use the same general M.2 interface as PCIe SSDs, the portion of the drive that is inserted into the M.2 slot has a different "key" than PCIe SSDs. M.2 SATA SSDs have two slots in the connection portion of the drive. M.2 PCIe SSDs have one slot in the connection portion of the drive.

NON-STANDARD PCIe SSDs

There are a few PCIe SSDs that were available before and after the M.2 interface existed, that use a PCIe slot interface. They don't use the current PCIe SSD "standard" of an x4 interface, and are also unique in other ways. Those are the main reasons I am classifying them as non-standard PCIe SSDs. Examples of those PCIe SSDs are any of the OCZ "Revo" drives, and the Asus RAIDR Express.

These SSDs differ from the new PCIe SSDs in several basic ways. Both models are two or more groups of NAND chips, each with its own SSD controller. A standard SATA RAID controller is added to the drive, and each of the SSD controller and NAND chip groupings (basically a SATA SSD) are combined into a RAID 0 array.

The speeds of these SSDs beyond that of a single SATA III SSD is due to the enhanced performance of a RAID 0 array. They also need a PCIe 2.0 x8 physical and electrical interface.

The new designs of PCIe SSDs, whether AHCI or NVMe, do not use RAID arrays to provide their high performance. It would be physically impossible to have a SSD like those the same size as a Samsung SM951 or 950 Pro. The Windows installation procedure is different for the non-standard PCIe SSDs, so they are not included in this tutorial.

If you have any questions, comments, or corrections about this, please feel free to post them in this thread. I've installed Windows on PCIe AHCI and PCIe NVMe SSDs on three different ASRock boards, including PCIe AHCI SSDs in RAID 0. But that does not mean I have experience with every platform or combination of hardware, or every PCIe SSD available.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Piddeman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Nov 2015 at 6:00pm
Thanks! I save this for my future update :)
My PC. http://i.imgur.com/x6wZmmz.png
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ziko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2015 at 5:49pm
Will ALL X99 boards Support this method?
I own the X99 Extreme4/3.1 with 1.2 BIOS.
Officialy, only the Extreme 4, without USB 3.1 support the NVME SSD.
Its my first Asrock board and i am very disappointed with it.
Today it boot normaly, tomorrow freeze at Asrock logo.
After reset CMOS it boots again.
How long, its a luck of the draw.
Boot time is horrible, CSM disbled and Win 10 x64 fast boot enabled.
My first and last Asrock product, for shure.
Will now try to go along with this board.
My boot drive is a OCZ Revodrive 3 x2 PCIe.
No issue, only the boot problem and overclocking issue from board.
 
Can anyone answer my question about the M2 boot drive on my Extreme 4/3.1?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mptock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2015 at 12:39am
Still a little confused. The z170 extreme3 bios does not support NVME? Correct? So my Samsung 950 pro is running off AHCI protocol instead? The support that is does offer is only to be able to boot from a NVME
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2015 at 1:35am
Originally posted by mptock mptock wrote:

Still a little confused. The z170 extreme3 bios does not support NVME? Correct? So my Samsung 950 pro is running off AHCI protocol instead? The support that is does offer is only to be able to boot from a NVME


ALL ASRock Z170 boards support NVMe PCIe SSDs, including the Z170 Extreme3. You can boot an OS from a 950 Pro with your board.

Check the Specifications page of your board, and scroll down to the Slots and Storage information:

http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Z170%20Extreme3/?cat=Specifications

You won't see any information about adding NVMe support in the UEFI/BIOS version listings of ASRock Z170 boards, simply because they support NVMe out of the box with any UEFI version.

Mother boards that came before the Intel 100 series chipsets will have information about supporting NVMe in their UEFI updates, if that support was added. The older boards, when released, did not have NVMe support out of the box.

An NVMe SSD, like the 950 Pro, cannot use the AHCI protocol, it is programmed within its firmware to use the NVMe protocol, nothing can change that.

Have you installed the Samsung NVMe driver? What OS are you using?

Are you having a problem with your 950 Pro as a boot/OS drive?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mptock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Nov 2015 at 3:06am
I have not installed any driver from Samsung. I am using windows 10. No problems booting or use of this PCIe drive.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Nov 2015 at 2:41am
Originally posted by ziko ziko wrote:

Will ALL X99 boards Support this method?
I own the X99 Extreme4/3.1 with 1.2 BIOS.
Officialy, only the Extreme 4, without USB 3.1 support the NVME SSD.
Its my first Asrock board and i am very disappointed with it.
Today it boot normaly, tomorrow freeze at Asrock logo.
After reset CMOS it boots again.
How long, its a luck of the draw.
Boot time is horrible, CSM disbled and Win 10 x64 fast boot enabled.
My first and last Asrock product, for shure.
Will now try to go along with this board.
My boot drive is a OCZ Revodrive 3 x2 PCIe.
No issue, only the boot problem and overclocking issue from board.
 
Can anyone answer my question about the M2 boot drive on my Extreme 4/3.1?
 


Welcome to the world of X99 boards. Pinch

ALL X99 boards are slow to POST, which is the process that happens before the actual OS loading/boot occurs. Even with CSM Disabled and Fast Boot Enabled.

If you check other forums with threads about other X99 boards, you will find complaints about the "boot time". The startup time of any PC includes BOTH the POST time, followed by the actual OS boot time. It is the POST time on X99 boards that is slower than other chipset boards.

When you hear the single POST Ok beep from the board, that is when the OS boot process begins.

There is a secret about "Fast Boot", it is actually Fast POST. Using Fast Boot causes the POST process to be shorter (or faster), which gives the affect of the overall PC startup process to be faster. Still, X99 boards are slow to POST, my X99 board is also slow to start.

Next, you use an OCZ Revo drive, have you used it with any other board?

Revo drives boot slow because they must load their special driver, which you must have installed, right? Revo drives are one of the non-standard types of PCIe drives, and are not related to the new PCIe SSDs, except for the use of the PCIe interface. They are really SATA SSDs that use the PCIe interface.

Your X99 Extreme4/3.1 board supports using the new PCIe SSDs. I use a Samsung SM951 on my X99 Extreme6/3.1 as the OS drive with Windows 10.

You are wondering about this because you can't find any information in the specifications or UEFI/BIOS versions about adding NVMe support. My X99 board also does not have that information.

The reason why we can't find this information is this: Our X99 boards are the new 3.1 models, that were released after the original ASRock X99 boards. Our X99 boards have ALL of the UEFI/BIOS updates in their FIRST UEFI version that the older X99 boards have had since their release.

Unfortunately, there is no information in our board's specifications or UEFI versions that tell us about this. But I assure you your X99 board will support a PCIe NVMe SSD, and you can use the methods in this thread to install and use one as your boot/OS drive.

I'll be happy to help you if you have any issues with a PCIe NVMe SSD. Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SonOfMore Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2015 at 6:18am
I have a legitimate disc copy of Windows 7 64 bit Pro OEM edition. I used the Windows 7 patcher program provided by ASRock to create an USB stick install of Windows 7. Whenever I've tried to install via that stick, the following error message pops up once the install starts:  "A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing". I don't have a CD/DVD drive connected to the computer, so I'm confused as to why this message is appearing.

I've tried switching USB ports as recommended by Microsoft's support community, but that didn't resolve the issue. I've been using the USB 2.0 to insert the thumb drive. Is there any way to install and activate Windows 7 by overcoming this issue? I've double-checked all the settings in this thread recommended above, following it step by step without fail.

I've also downloaded a copy of Windows 10 Pro directly from Microsoft and was able to install it without any issue, but because my Windows 7 key was never able to be activated on this machine, I don't have a "pure" upgrade to Windows 10, and now it is asking for a Windows 10 key which I don't have.

Any ideas?

Thank you!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wardog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2015 at 10:19am
There is no legitimate "copy' of a Windows install disc.

I trust that's not what you meant there.
< id="kpm_plugin" ="application/x-KPMPlugin">
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SonOfMore Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2015 at 10:22am
It means that it is a factory OEM disc, not some random file I downloaded from the internet. I have no reason to believe that my source file is what is causing this problem.
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