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NVME SSD can boot from Z87 mobo!

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Jan 27, 2011
Beautiful Sunny Winfield
[[This should probably go in Windows or Intel Motherboards but Storage has been too quiet lately so I choose to post here. :p]]

I'm getting ready to upgrade the NVME SSD in my laptop. (running out of disk space sux :-/) When deciding what to do with the drive I take out I compared prices between USB-C/Thunderbolt external enclosures ($$$) and PCI adapter cards ($) and decided to get an adapter card to put in my signature system. One of the things I wanted to do was run some benchmarks on the new drive (*) so I put the new SSD in the adapter and put it in my desktop system. The new drive is a 1TB HP EX950 SSD.

First of all, I'm simply blown away by how little space 1TB of fast storage takes. My first 1TB disk store was a stack of six 200GB 3.5 inch drives in RAID5 (and housed in a monster Lian Li tower.) This NVME SSD is a little bigger than a stick of gum!

Second, I'm really pleased by the speed of this NVME drive. Primary storage in my desktop is a RAID0 array of 500GB EVOs. The NVME drive simply blows away the array. IOW, an NVME can be much faster than four times the SATA speed limit. Unfortunately the same seems not true of the drive I'll eventually be putting there. I've run some benchmarks on the OE Toshiba NVME SSD in my laptop and write speed in some tests is lower than a decent SATA SSD. But the drive is nearly full and I plan to repeat the tests after it's in the desktop and I've been able to perform a secure erase.

Lastly... I can boot from it in my desktop (with an Asrock Extreme IV Z87 board.) I did some research and found that Z97 and newer boards can boot PCIE NVME drives but supposedly not boards with the Z87 chip set. As part of my prep I blasted a disk image from the laptop on to the new SSD. (I've got Windows 10 and a couple Linux installs that I can boot on the laptop.) Out of curiosity I hit <F11> the next time I booted my desktop to bring up the boot selector menu. Windows Boot Manager was listed. I selected it and was surprised to see Windows come up. :shock: I logged in and opened disk manager and confirmed that C: was on the NVME. It was! I've never had Windows installed on this PC nor has it been installed on any of the installed drives... No. Check that. It might have been installed on one of the other drives I'm using, but they've been re-partitioned and I doubt that any of the previous Windows installs remained. I didn't want Windows to get too comfortable on this machine so I shut it down, hit the reboot button and walked away, confident that it would reboot to the default Debian install.

Hours later I returned and was surprised to be presented with a Windows log on screen. :confused: :shock: I clicked the power switch icon and was presented with two choices: update and reboot or update and shutdown. :mad: Somehow the NVME has become the default boot drive in my desktop. It's not really a big deal because I can still hit F11 and boot Debian Linux 10. Or Debian Linux 9. Or Ubuntu Mate. ... Or Windows. I'll mess with that more when I get the other drive in place if I need to. Or maybe I'll just put a new install on the NVME SSD and roll with it.

Anyway, it's always fun to have something new to play with and faster storage is one of those things that warms the cockles of this old man's heart. For those of us who are running older but still very serviceable H/W I thought it might be useful to know that it can still rock a modern NVME SSD. :D

The only other thing... I went to open my laptop and was disappointed to discover that the screws on the housing are Torx T5 and my set of quality Wiha Torx drivers goes down to T6. :facepalm: A T5 driver is inbound.

(*) My new love is the ZFS file system. It's designed to detect/prevent bit rot and rolls snapshots, RAID and volume management into one package. I've been playing with it for a while now, including scripting the instructions for installing Debian 9 and 10 on ZFS root and incidental to that, helping to correct issues in the instructions. ZFS now supports native encryption on ZFS pools and I want to see how much that would impact performance on my laptop.
I have some old dell and hp sandy bridge computers that all will allow me to boot from nvme in a pcie carrier card. Not sure if its the samsung 950pro that allows it. sometimes I have to use a clover boot usb
you can set clover up to boot efi or non efi, but I think you have to make a bootable usb with clover setup each way. but it does work. Have used it on the x58 board as well. can make a nice difference on board that are pre sata III
You are limited to the pci gen version of the given board though. So, pci gen 2 will only transfer at around 1900Mbps