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TweakTown's Ultimate Windows SSD Performance Installation Guide

By: Jon Coulter | Guides | Posted: Nov 5, 2014 11:05 pm

MBR (Master Boot Record) Partitions

 

Master Boot Record (MBR) is the standard partition upon which most of us will install our Windows operating system. Master Boot Record has its limitations; you can only have three primary partitions on the same disk, and only 2048GB is addressable on the same partition. The only reason I advocate MBR partitions over GPT for Windows installation is performance. I have extensively tested MBR vs. GPT, and have come to find that MBR partitions have slightly better performance.

 

When you install Windows on your computer (unless you are installing as boot UEFI only, set in your motherboard's BIOS), Windows will automatically create two MBR partitions. The first will be a boot partition that is 100MB - 350MB in size. The second will be the Windows "C" partition up to 2048GB. Ninety percent of you reading this are currently running this setup.

 

Personally, I do not care for the separate boot partition that Windows creates on its own when installing. If you want to install Windows on an MBR partition like a boss, the boot partition that Windows creates can be incorporated into your Windows OS Partition. It will be streamlined, like you see here:

 

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Notice how there is no boot partition. Everything is contained within one partition. This allows me to create two more primary partitions on the same MBR disk, instead of only one, should I desire to do so. I commonly create a data partition and a system image partition on an OS SSD, both of which belong on a primary partition. An additional benefit of having everything on a single partition is that imaging is simplified.

 

The key to getting everything on a single partition is to pre-format your SSD or array volume. The easiest way to accomplish this is to format the SSD/array on another system. Alternatively, you can pre-format your OS Volume with Parted Magic. When there is a single partition that encompasses the entire volume, there is no space for Windows to create a separate boot partition; that forces Windows to move boot information to a folder on your Windows install, instead of creating a separate boot partition.

 

Here is how you pre-partition your freshly Secure Erased SSD/array using Windows:

 

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Select MBR, then hit "OK."

 

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Right click on the disk you want to format, then select "New Simple Volume."

 

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Select "Do not assign a drive letter or drive path."

 

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Make sure "Perform a quick format" is selected, and then click "next."

 

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If you just let Windows installer format the drive, it will always create the boot partition. I like to use a MBR partition for my OS volume because it gives me slightly better performance than GPT. GPT partitions have the advantage over MBR Partitions in that you can utilize single partitions that exceed 2048GB.

 

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When a MBR disk has a capacity that exceeds 2048GB (as shown above), Windows will create a primary partition of 2048GB, and the rest will be unallocated. You can create up to two more primary partitions with a capacity of 2048GB; with a MBR partitioned disk provided, you have everything on a single partition.

 

Note: To insure you get everything on a single partition, you need to make sure you are installing Windows with only the SSD/array that Windows is to reside on attached to the motherboard. It's possible that Windows installer will try and create a boot partition on another disk should one be attached.

 

Alternatively, you can completely skip this step, and just install Windows without pre-partitioning if you do not mind having the boot partition.

 

When you are installing Windows on an MBR partition, you need to be sure you do NOT boot Windows installer from UEFI.

 

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I also recommend installing Windows 8.1 without an internet connection attached to your PC. With no active internet connection available, Windows 8.1 will not ask you for your email to create a user account.

 

If your needs exceed what can be done with a MBR partition, then it's time to move to a GPT (GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition.

 

 

GPT (GUID Partition Table) Partitions

 

GUID Partition Table (GPT) is a standard for the layout of the partition table on a physical hard disk, using globally unique identifiers (GUID). GPT Volumes have several advantages over MBR. There is no practical size limit for a partition; you can create as many primary partitions on a disk as you desire, and GPT is more secure than MBR.

 

This is the standard layout of a GPT partition:

 

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Ideally, when you install a GPT partition, you will be doing so utilizing an FOB or freshly Secure Erased SSD/array. There is no pre-partitioning involved with a GPT install; it provides no advantage. Step one when installing Windows on a GPT partition is to boot your Windows installer from UEFI, as shown below:

 

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Windows installer is booting from a thumb drive that I created using the technique described in this guide. The same thumb drive shows up in my boot loader twice. If you intend to install using a GPT partition, you must boot Windows installer from UEFI.

 

If you are installing to an uninitialized disk/array, you will have no problems, and you simply install as normal. However, if you cannot install as GPT, it is because your disk is already initialized. If your disk has already initialized, then cleaning and initializing your disk/array for a GPT install is a simple matter.

From inside Windows setup, press Shift+F10 to open a command prompt window. Open the Diskpart tool by typing "diskpart," and hitting "enter."

 

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At the DISKPART command prompt, type "list disk," and any attached disks will be listed, as shown here:

 

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Select the drive to convert by typing "select disk ," and then press "enter." Once we have selected the correct disk, we need to clean it.

 

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Type "clean" at the command prompt, press "enter." Now we need to convert our disk/array to GPT.

 

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At the command prompt type "convert gpt," hit "enter," and your disk/array will convert to GPT, and you can proceed with a normal install. Exit the diskpart tool by typing "exit," then close the command prompt window, and continue the Windows Setup installation. When choosing the installation type, select custom. The drive will appear as a single area of unallocated space, as you can see below:

 

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Select the unallocated space, and click "next." Windows begins the installation. That's it! You have successfully installed Windows on a GPT partition. Here is an example of a typical GPT Windows partition exceeding 2048GB:

 

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Windows installed on a GPT disk will have three partitions on it, a recovery partition, an EFI system partition, and a Windows "C" partition. A GPT volume will boot slightly faster than a MBR volume, and now there are no limits to the number or size of primary partitions that can be created on the same volume.

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