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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

Setting up a Solid State Drive with Windows 8.1 - Mon, 17 Mar 2014

Ready for an adventure? Anything that should be easy usually isn’t, especially when it comes to computers and hardware.

A new computer is expected to result in a boost to productivity … but only after the dust settles. Why is there always so much dust?

The first step is setting up the hardware. I thought it would be easy to add a 240GB Solid State Drive (SSD) to my new computer to become the boot drive to contain the Operating System and program files, and use the 2 TB drive it came with as the data drive. After all, I did buy a kit to make it easy.

ssd-kit

A Solid State Drive is made of memory like those in USB pens or SD cards for cameras. It has no moving parts and is about 10 times faster than a standard hard drive. Prices have come down and SSD sizes have increased so that it is now worthwhile and possible to set up an SSD drive as your boot drive. This kit cost $260 but I got it on sale for $160. It is one of the best ways to improve computer performance. Few computers come this way yet. Maybe in a few years.

So this is what happened:

First I had to physically install the SSD drive into my computer. This was difficult as there was no obvious place to secure the 3.5 inch tray that came with the 2.5 inch SSD. The video instructions showed mounting brackets, not a tray. The mounting brackets would have worked. Eventually, I found that I could slide the tray in place and use 2 screws to jam it into the frame so that it would be secure. That would be fine with not too much to worry about since and SSD doesn’t vibrate and gives off little heat.

Between getting my knobby fingers into the case and fiddling my way around, it only took 4 or 5 hours before I settled on that final solution. Only two minor cuts with slight bleeding.

Setting up the SSD required installing the installed Windows 8.1 operating system that was on the hard drive onto the SSD. They provide a bootable Acronis True Image software to do this. The tricky part was figuring out how to boot from the DVD with Windows 8.1. I tried going into the BIOS and changing it so that USB DVD was the first item. I did not realize at the time that it had to be a USB connected DVD (which I do not have) and not the DVD in the Desktop itself. So the second method I tried was in Windows 8.1 to access the Charm -> Settings -> Change PC Settings -> Update and Recovery -> Recovery -> Advanced startup -> Restart Now –> Use a device –> USB Floppy/CD. Of course that didn’t work either.

Well the whole point was to clone the disk. I found a free program: AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition. I had to copy 4 partitions, one by one, but it knew it was an SSD and asked if I wanted to optimize for it, which I did. I set the BIOS to boot up off the SSD. When that rebooted, it asked me the Windows 8.1 first time startup questions again. But after some investigation, I realized it didn’t boot up off of the SSD at all, but still was booting up off the hard drive. I tried a number of things but decided to wait until the next morning to call Kingston Tech Support 1-877-546-4786 Mon - Fri, 6 am to 6 pm PT.

Kingston Tech told me that Windows 8.1 boots in UEFI mode meaning it can only boot from selected devices, and the computer’s DVD drive is not one of them. I would have to change to Legacy BIOS-compatibility mode to do that. I would have tried this, but after I got off the phone with them, there were all sorts of warnings in the BIOS of the consequences of going back to Legacy mode. So I didn’t try that.

The second thing Kingston Tech told me was once the drive is cloned, you have to disconnect the internal hard drive before the OS will make it the boot drive. That was the key thing that none of the other instructions anywhere told me. They also recommended Macrium Reflect to do the cloning which has a 30 day free trial and said it would do a better job to clone the main drive to the SSD.

So that’s what I did. This is something relatively simple but you’ve got to be quite meticulous to do it right. Then in the BIOS, I switched the boot drive to the SSD and disconnected the other drive. The machine started up and set the SSD as the boot drive. We are now at hour 12.

I reconnected the Sata cable for the other drive, but switched Sata positions so that the SSD would appear as Disk 0 and the other drive as Disk 1.

To clean up the old drive, I went into Windows Disk Management, but it wouldn’t allow me many operations on the old drive. Initially it looked like a bug because a right-click would only bring up a partial menu box with only “Help” visible. I tried the Macrium Reflect and AOMEI as well but they wouldn’t do it either. It seemed that HP must have protected the partitions of the hard drive. After some Google research, I found “How to delete a protected EFI disk partition with Windows 7 or 8″ from http://www.winability.com/delete-protected-efi-disk-partition/ and it showed me how to completely clean the drive, after which I could reformat it as one big data drive that would be my D: drive.

There. 16 hours of work later and its done. That was easy, wasn’t it? Probably only 100 steps to do this, but I tried 1,000 steps before I got to the right 100 in the right order.

If you get the least bit frustrated with trying to get computers working, then I would suggest that you don’t try this yourself. I had all weekend and from past experience I was expecting this.

Now I’m a bit closer to getting the new computer set up. I’ll still have to copy all my data over, install all my programs again, customize it the way I like it, and learn some of the nuances of Windows 8.1 so that I’ll be efficient at it.

When Is It Time To Get A New Desktop Computer? - Sat, 15 Mar 2014

11. When you’ve still got Windows Vista.

10. When your monitors are so old that one flashes for 30 seconds when it starts up and the other’s color doesn’t match. Yes, you could simply get new monitors if this is your only problem.

9. You can’t connect to your home network because every time you try to turn it on, it turns itself off … and you’ve spend countless hours looking for a solution that doesn’t involve disabling your firewall.

8. Search indexing started slowing down your computer so much, you had to turn it off, and now your searches take forever.

7. The card reader stopped working so long ago, you can’t remember when.

6. You turn it on when you arrive home and hope it has booted before you’ve finished supper.

5. Your hard drive is 3/4 full. Yes, you could simply get a bigger hard drive if this is your only problem.

4. You’ve been thinking about getting a new computer for at least a year.

3. The computer you’d love to get just went on sale for $150 off this week.

2. You’ve decided to reorganize everything from scratch and go paperless.

1. The time has come.

Re-evaluating the Future of Genealogy Software - Wed, 12 Mar 2014

I have been busy the past couple of years. Busy trying to assemble my thoughts about the genealogy software of today and the software for tomorrow. I’ve had my eyes open and I’ve been listening intently. The winds are changing somewhat and course corrections for all developers are required if they want to satisfy genealogists’ future needs.

Since 2012, my ideas have been further advanced.

I listened intently to the goings on from RootsTech 2013, and then again went to Salt Lake City for RootsTech 2014 (giving a talk) which included a valuable day for developers coined the Innovator’s Summit. I gave seven talks on the 2013 Unlock The Past Cruise from Sydney Australia. I wrote an 8 page article comparing genealogy software for the October 2013 Family Tree Tracker magazine.

I helped form and helped grow the Genealogy and Family History question and answer site on StackExchange. I got significantly involved socially in genealogy through Twitter and Google Plus. I’ve kept in tune with all the new software that’s come out and how people feel about their software through my GenSoftReviews site. I experimented with smartphones and going paperless. And I’ve blogged.

I’ve talked or otherwise communicated directly with many notable people in the genealogy field one on one and shared ideas wit them, including technologists like: Tamura Jones, Tim Forsythe, Ryan Heaton, Dovy Paukstys, John Ralls, Tony Proctor and Bill Harten; with genealogy developers including Tom Wetmore (LifeLines), Richard Thomas (Clooz), Luc Comeau (GenViewer, Legacy), Darrin Lythgoe (The Next Generation) and Bob Velke (The Master Genealogist); and with notable bloggers including Dear Myrtle, Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver, James Tanner, Jill Ball and Alona Tester.

Over the past two years, I’ve taken my ideas about genealogy software to task. These are some of the new important conclusions I have come up about future genealogy software that few developers today are considering:

1. Genealogists want to keep their own data separate. Many online shared trees  are trying to come up with one “conclusion”. That is okay as long as they allow everyone to keep their data separate and retrievable again. They do not want others destroying their years of work.

2. Genealogists want to share. They want to put their data online and they want to send their data to their relatives and allow their relatives to read it. But they don’t want others just taking their data blindly and adding it to other databases.

3. They want connectivity. They want to sync to their online database. They want to sync data between multiple programs. They want all synching to be fast  and failsafe.

4. Data input must be simple. Input is the number one time taker. It’s got to be streamlined and fast. If it takes 5 minutes to set up a single source citation, do you think the average person will look forward to entering all their sources?

5. The program must know what is wanted. Few people want to set up their own options any more. They expect the program to give reasonable defaults that work without fiddling. They don’t want the program to ask them a half dozen questions whenever they open or save a file.

6. Portability. Is there a phone app for that?

7. Social, social, social. Tweet this. Like that.

8. No thinking required. When did you last see someone under 40 read the documentation, or use the help file? If three tries don’t do it, then it doesn’t work.

9. Useful. Nah. Forget it. Just make them spend thousands of hours entering all their genealogy data. Why bother trying to make it useful?

10. Fun. Give them a goal. Make the numbers go up. Make it a game.

Watch how the young people are using computers. They are the 99%. We old fogeys are the 1%.