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Intel releases SSD firmware and SSD Toolbox (Trim) for Windows 7

Intel has released the long-awaited trim feature for its newer 34nm SSDs (Intel X25-M and X18-M G2). For those of you with the older G1 series, there is no trim feature available.

Trim is enabled by installing the firmware update from Intel to bring all G2 SSDs to the 02HA firmware. http://www.intel.com/go/ssdfirmware. When updating, remember to take your system out of AHCI mode (but put it back after the update). The firmware tool cannot update drives in RAID.

You must also download the SSD Toolbox from Intel. It is recommended to run the trim tool daily for optimal performance (scheduled task) if you are using Windows XP or Vista. Windows 7 users will not need to run it as long as they have the drive in AHCI mode. http://www.intel.com/go/ssdtoolbox

The trim feature in Windows 7 helps to alleviate the ‘re-write’ penalty found in most SSDs. When you have a fresh SSD, unwritten blocks only require one operation to fill, whereas a previously full (even if the data is deleted) SSD requires two operations to fill a block.

What trim does is ‘zero’-out the SSD’s free space to return it to a factory fresh state. In a previous entry I described how to do this (but it required erasing the whole drive – not very useful).

Here are some benchmarks from PC Perspective outlining the IO improvements of the Intel X25-M with trim enabled. If you run a database or web server you’ll want to use the trim feature. Anandtech’s writeup is here (more technical).

UPDATE: I’ve just updated the firmware on my Thinkpad T400 with the 34nm G2 X25-M 80GB SSD. Everything went smoothly, the firmware update DID NOT erase any files. Before you do the firmware update, backup all of your files with the expectation that you will need to reinstall everything! Just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Below are the screenshots step by step just in case you were curious. It took about 12 minutes from downloading the ISO to booting Windows 7 back up.

AHCI SATA in BIOS
Intel SSD Firmware Update Step 1
Intel SSD Firmware Update Step 2
Intel SSD Firmware Update Step 3
Intel SSD Firmware Update Step 4
Intel SSD Firmware Update Step 5

Core i7 860 is slow for ripping music and managing photos!

I’ve been waiting for the new 1156 processors and boards to come out in order to “upgrade” my home system. Last week I put together the following:

  • Core i7 860 (2.8 GHz) – New
  • Asus P7P55D – New
  • Corsair 8GB XMS PC3-10600 – New
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 260 Superclocked – Existing
  • Intel X25-E 32GB – Existing
  • WD VelociRaptor 150GB (x2) – Existing
  • WD 1 TB – Existing

I was looking through Futureshop’s website tonight and found the “Upgrade Advisor” tool…I thought: OK, let’s see how my new system ranks against the best.

futureshoprank

Well. Can’t say I’m surprised. I know the machine isn’t the best, but still, 4/5 on TV recording? 3.5/5 for ripping music and managing photos?! I’d like to know how they do the rankings – even if the i7 860 was “too new” to be included, surely the 8GB RAM would rank pretty good for managing photos?

The tool is made by FutureMark and Intel. I guess I’ll need to wait to get an 8 core system, 32GB RAM and 4x GTX 295s in SLI before I can surf the net and manage my photos.

But seriously, there are “regular” people using this tool and thinking “oh no, my Phenom 940 is slow, it says I should get a Core 2 5600…”

BTW, the i7 860 is pretty good. It is roughly the same price as the i7 920 (1366 pin) but the 1156 platform is much less expensive.

Using Taskkill to End Tasks (and end Task Manager)

A few days ago I was faced with the issue of Task Manager not responding…so how would I kill tasks…or, how do I kill Task Manager?

Not too many people know about taskkill, the command prompt’s End Task equivalent.

In my particular case I used:

taskkill /f /im Taskmgr.exe

If you are unsure of the Image Name, you can specify a wildcard in the syntax, ex. Task*. The Process ID can also be used. It can be found through Perfmon (Windows 2008) if Task Manager is unresponsive. Go to Start -> Run -> Perfmon.

Below is the full syntax and options available using Taskkill from the Command Prompt.

taskkill [/s Computer] [/u Domain\User [/p Password]]] [/fi FilterName] [/pid ProcessID]|[/im ImageName] [/f][/t]

/s computer

  • Specifies the name or IP address of a remote computer (do not use backslashes). The default is the local computer.

/u domain\user

  • Runs the command with the account permissions of the user specified by User or Domain\User. The default is the permissions of the current logged on user on the computer issuing the command.

/p password

  • Specifies the password of the user account that is specified in the /u parameter.

/fi FilterName

  • Specifies the types of process(es) to include in or exclude from termination. The following are valid filter names, operators, and values.
Name Operators Value
Hostname eq, ne Any valid string.
Status eq, ne RUNNING|NOT RESPONDING
Imagename eq, ne Any valid string.
PID eq, ne, gt, lt, ge, le Any valid positive integer.
Session eq, ne, gt, lt, ge, le Any valid session number.
CPUTime eq, ne, gt, lt, ge, le Valid time in the format of hh:mm:ss. The mm and ss parameters should be between 0 and 59 and hh can be any valid unsigned numeric value.
Memusage eq, ne, gt, lt, ge, le Any valid integer.
Username eq, ne Any valid user name ([Domain\]User).
Services eq, ne Any valid string.
Windowtitle eq, ne Any valid string.

/pid processID

  • Specifies the process ID of the process to be terminated.

/im ImageName

  • Specifies the image name of the process to be terminated. Use the wildcard (*) to specify all image names.

/f

  • Specifies that process(es) be forcefully terminated. This parameter is ignored for remote processes; all remote processes are forcefully terminated.

/t

  • Specifies to terminate all child processes along with the parent process, commonly known as a tree kill.

How to Secure Erase (reset) an Intel Solid State Drive (SSD)

By now many have heard about the performance degredation found in Intel SSDs due to the write/rewrite commands. Although they remain incredibly fast, there are some instances where you may wish to “reset” the drive or at least secure erase the drive for a second sale or install in a different computer or server.

An Intel quote: “An alternative method (faster) is to use a tool to perform a SECURE ERASE command on the drive. This command will release all of the user LBA locations internally in the drive and result in all of the NAND locations being reset to an erased state. This is equivalent to resetting the drive to the factory shipped condition, and will provide the optimum performance.”

The Center for Magnetic Recording Research no longer has HDDErase 3.3 on their website which is needed to secure erase the Intel X18-M, X25-M and X25-E. HDDErase 4.0 is not compatible with the Intel SSDs but should be used for all other hard drives. HDDErase 3.3 is available below:

Download HDDErase 3.3 (Intel SSD Compatible) here.

Included in the zip file are usage instructions. Be sure you can create a DOS 6.22 boot disk (in Windows XP explorer, right click on the “A drive” and select “format” and “create boot disk”). Then include the HDDErase.exe file on the disk.

You must also disable AHCI (SATA Mode) if enabled in your BIOS before you boot into DOS for the utility to run and work properly. Most BIOS will have an option to emulate IDE mode for SATA ports. Be sure to switch it back to AHCI once you are done.

Secure erasing the Intel SSD only takes about a minute.

sec-erase-0


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IE8 Showing as Critical Update in XP

Internet Explorer 8 is showing up in Windows XP’s Windows Update as a critical update. Although this may be a good thing for developers (getting a “more” standards compliant browser out there), it can wreak havoc on networks with applications designed for IE6/7.

There is an IE8 Blocker toolkit from Microsoft. Simply download it and install on your network. It will disable the IE8 update through Windows Update.

http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=133921