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I've already been using my Z68 Sandy Bridge machine for a few months now. Can I now install a SSD and activate Smart Response Technology to speed up my I/O rates, or is this something that must be done when installing the operating system?

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To use the Z68's Smart Response Technology, you need to switch your SATA controller to run in RAID mode. If you have not installed Windows in this mode, you need to perform some driver/registry hacks (which I will outline below), otherwise your system will not boot. This is because Windows disables all non-essential storage drivers for performance reasons.

If your motherboard is already set to RAID mode, then you can just enable SRT and be done with it. However, if you installed Windows in AHCI mode, there is a few more steps to be done. There are some users who have tried this in the past with some success, and some without. There is a tool called RAIDFix which "allows you to enable RAID on an Intel ICH-based motherboard after installing Windows with RAID disabled".

This tool performs automated registry-hacks and driver installations to enable booting your system from RAID mode after installing it in AHCI mode. I cannot vouch for the program, since I have not used it (and would recommend that you just reinstall your OS in RAID mode), but if you have your data backed up, it would be worth trying before going for the OS reinstall.

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Any ideas about if I'll have issues with my dual-boot (Ubuntu)? – Ryanmt Aug 10 '11 at 14:30
@Ryanmt to be honest, I'm not sure how Ubuntu handles RAID/AHCI drivers. Before you change anything, back up your data in case you can't get Ubuntu to boot up. I'm also not sure if this will affect GRUB's operation (I'm assuming you use GRUB as a bootloader). – Breakthrough Aug 10 '11 at 14:50
Thanks, regardless. I'll mark the answer once I've tried it, but from those sources, I'm optimistic. Thanks!! I didn't know what to search... I knew RAID was involved but didn't know about the AHCI stuff. – Ryanmt Aug 10 '11 at 15:41
Just be aware that there are some bug reports of people not being able to use RAID with GRUB. I can't speak for my own experiences (never used RAID, just AHCI), so you're venturing into no-man's land now :P If you do go through with it, good luck, and let us know how it goes (feel free to edit my answer with any additional information you feel should be there, and I will approve the edit). – Breakthrough Aug 10 '11 at 15:52

It seems that you can avoid the blue screen by generalizing windows using sysprep before changing your SATA mode from AHCI to RAID. The same method can be used to prep your Windows install before moving it to a different drive, like just moving from an HDD to an SSD without SRT. Caveat: you may have to reactivate windows after doing this.

I discovered this while building a PC for a friend. He just wanted a hard drive for now, but I wanted to make sure he had the option to drop in an SSD later to speed up his system. After first installing Windows 8 on his H77-chipset system, I pressed Ctrl+Shift+F3 to enter audit mode to install drivers, add my support info registry keys, etc., which allows the user to still have the out-of-box setup experience and create his own user/password). After I had done all that work, that I found out that SRT requires Windows to be installed with the SATA controller in RAID mode. Changing it at that point though, as Breakthrough answered, would have caused the system to blue screen on boot (and did when I tried it).

I didn't want to reinstall windows and do all that work over again, so I used the System Preparation Tool (which opens automatically in audit mode) to generalize the install. I don't have an SSD to configure for SRT right now, but the computer boots fine now from the HDD alone in RAID mode, which I assume means that SRT will work once an SSD is installed.

It's probably a better idea to go with Breakthrough's suggestion of using RAIDfix or just reinstalling windows on a system with data the user cares about, but this might be useful for someone like me who just built a new system with no data on it but wants to change the SATA mode. Besides, you're already backing that data up anyway, right?

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A new easy solution is provided by Microsoft itself in its KB922976:

Error message occurs after you change the SATA mode of the boot drive

Just run a small "Fix It" executable from the KB article prior to rebooting into the RAID SATA mode.

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