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SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

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JulianMoney-Kyrle

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SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostFri Jan 27, 2023 8:40 pm

I wonder if anybody has specific enough experience or expertise to help me?

I am running HW on a Dell Precision 3640 tower workstation, which I bought about two years ago specifically for HW and nothing else. It has two M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD slots on the motherboard and there is a PCI riser card with a third slot. When I first set it up, I added two 2TB SSD drives, using one of them for my HW set-up and the other for the cache. This worked well at first but I have accumulated too many sample sets now to fit.

I decided to upgrade my storage capacity and bought a Western Digital Black 4 TB drive. Unfortunately I couldn't get the computer to boot if it was in any of the three slots. I eventually returned it, and instead bought a Sabrent 8 TB drive, which was hugely expensive, but I have the same drive in my Precision 7740 laptop and thought it would be compatible. It doesn't seem to be, as again I couldn't get it to boot. I tried it in the laptop and the drive itself seems to be fine. In the end I bought a Sabrent housing for the drive and I am now running it as an external drive using one of the USB3 ports. Rather surprisingly, the speed is still acceptable even when loading a large organ, though it is still slower than the internal drives were.

Unfortunately this configuration seems a bit unreliable, and Windows will very often fail to detect the drive, or worse, suddenly lose it while an organ is loading or unloading. This not only results in HW hanging but it also automatically deletes the cache for that organ, and of course they take a long time to rebuild.

I am beginning to wonder whether my motherboard is fundamentally incompatible with SSD drives over 2 TB, or whether it will work with a different make. The Dell website lets you enter the service tag of the device and it will show any upgrades that they sell which are compatible with your specific computer. In my case the largest SSD on offer is 2 TB, but I don't know whether that is because of compatibility or some other reason.

Crucial and Kingston both allow you to enter the model number of a computer and they will display compatible SSD's and RAM. Entering Dell Precision 3640, they both offer 4 TB SSD's which they say are compatible. The Crucial ones are quite reasonably priced (certainly compared to last year) and if they work I would be happy to buy two of them.

So can anybody tell me which of these three scenarios is most likely?
1. My motherboard is fundamentally incompatible with a PCIe SSD drive over 2 TB
2. My motherboard is compatible with a drive of this size but only some makes
3. My motherboard should be compatible with any of them but is malfunctioning in some way (in which case how do I test it?)

Any thoughts? I would much rather buy a new drive than a new computer (it has an i9 10-core processor and 128 GB RAM, so it runs even the most demanding sample sets well).
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mnailor

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostFri Jan 27, 2023 9:14 pm

Dell's specs for the PC are just what Dell expected to support at the time it first went into production, so if a reputable third party says their 4 TB SSD is compatible, and allows returns, it's worth trying one out. But it might prevent booting again. Maybe there's a BIOS setting to take it out of the bootable device list if it was automatically added to the boot sequence.

I only have a single 2 TB SSD in my Dell XPS 8950, plus 4 external 2 TB SSDs. But I do have the occasional Windows vomit where it declares an external drive has a write failure or semaphore timeout. I've always been able to reboot and repair the drive, but I've become less willing to put time-consuming-to-recover directories out there, such as SamplesetsAndComponents. And cache takes twice as long to load from an external drive in my case.

I recently trimmed my installed and cached organs down to about 20 (out of 80) that I use most of the time or just can't give up, and the entire installation fits on the 2 TB internal SSD. The external drives are now two backups each of my installation files and installed samples, enough to plug into my older backup PC and get going quickly in case the primary dies. I know you'd prefer not to take that step, although two 2 TB internal drives will hold a lot of organs.
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larason2

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostSat Jan 28, 2023 12:36 am

From Dell's website for your tower, it looks like your motherboard only supports class 40 SSD drives up to 2 TB. Dell usually uses proprietary motherboards that intentionally support weird specs, so that you have to rely on them for upgrades. In this case, they would probably prefer you to buy a new computer than upgrade, so the communication protocol/parts for the drives is probably intentionally limited at 2 TB SSD drives. So your options are to slim your collection down to fit in the 4 TB, or get a new computer. You can't really get a new motherboard, because it's a Dell. You could have a local computer builder make you a more bespoke one rather than get another Dell, and it will probably be more upgradeable in the future. Your current options are limited, I'm afraid.

Here's the website I found the info:

https://www.dell.com/support/manuals/en ... lang=en-us

Note that if you get Dell's fancy high speed interposer card, you might be able to add a third 2TB drive, but I can't guarantee that! It's worth calling Dell to check if that would work though.
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IainStinson

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostSat Jan 28, 2023 4:50 am

I have upgraded the ssd in my Dell T3600 workstation (twice) using Crucial ssds which their configurator system said were compatible. On both occasions this was the boot ssd, and on both occasions it work without any issues. I bought their mounting kit and used this to support the ssd. They offer a refund if the device doesn’t work.

I also replaced the boot hdd with an ssd in one Dell and other than mounting the device, the Crucial upgrade was fine.

I also have had one Crucial ssd fail after about 3 years usage.

I would try the Crucial path again…

The problem of the ever-growing cache can be circumvented by copying cache files elsewhere and replacing them by symbolic links in the cache folder. This needs to be done with care and discipline, and should only be done by if you understand what is going on. It is NOT supported by MDA. I have a program, with a simple graphical interface, which I use to manage the cache and can move files elsewhere replacing them with a symbolic link.

Iain
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JulianMoney-Kyrle

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostSat Jan 28, 2023 7:56 pm

Larason2 (sorry I don't know your name),
That is rather what I suspected. However...

Mark and Iain,
Your answers have convinced me to order a pair of 4TB Crucial SSD's, particularly as they are reasonably priced, and come with a money back guarantee if they don't work.

I really don't want to delete half of my sample sets, nor to go to the expense of a new computer, even if I can reuse some of my existing components (such as the RAM). I keep telling myself that I don't need any more organs, and then the likes of Duren, Blackburn and Ottobeuren appear. Like Osar Wilde, I can resist anything, except temptation.
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JulianMoney-Kyrle

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostSun Feb 12, 2023 9:38 am

I thought I would post an update with my progress so far.

I went ahead and ordered two Crucial 4TB SSD's. When I tried one of them in the free slot on the motherboard the computer wouldn't boot, and swapping it for either of the two SSD's already in place it also wouldn't boot (one of them was the boot drive, but the other one was data only). I spoke to Dell technical support, and the engineer told me that the drive should be compatible, so I thought it was worth persevering.

BTW, if any of you are considering a Dell system it is worth getting Pro Support Plus, as it gets you through to a real engineer in Glasgow with whom you can have a sensible discussion and not somebody in a call centre reading an on-screen menu in Bangalore telling you to unplug it and plug it back in again.

I decided to try a fresh installation of Windows, so I put in the two new 4TB SSD's as well as a 256 GB Samsung SSD that I had knocking around. There is also an 8TB conventional HDD where I keep all my installation files. I deleted the partitions on the 256 GB and installed Windows 10 on that from the recovery USB drive that Dell had supplied with the computer when I bought it roughly two years ago. Everything seemed to be fine, and all three drives showed up in Windows. I turned off automatic updates and installed HW7 from the HDD. I downloaded the drivers for my MOTU audio and MIDI interfaces and for the iLok dongle. I specified the external drive that I had been previously using as the location for everything except the basic HW installation itself, which gives you no option other than to put it on the C: drive. I then restored by HW settings from a backup on the HDD.

Everything was up and running as before, except that my cache files had all disappeared, and the Launchpad also wasn't working (I thought I would deal with that later). I tried a few organs (starting with St. Anne's) and they all worked as expected, with my settings preserved, apart from having to rebuild the caches.

The next step was to copy all of my HW files from the externed HDD onto one of the new SSD's. Unfortunately this took a long time as the external drive kept disappearing, which was the main reason why I wanted to get the internal drives in the first place. Finally it seemed to be copying OK and I left it running overnight.

This morning I found that the PC had clearly rebooted while I was asleep, and had completed the Dell diagnostic program that runs when booting fails enough times. I tried booting it again, and eventually got the Windows boot manager, which gave me the option of booting Windows normally, but when I chose that it seemed to freeze. I left it while I had breakfast, and on my return was a screen displaying diagnostics results with an error message giving the serial number of one of the new drives (Error code 2000-0151, status 80000000000000002 could not read DST Short).

I took the drive out, and it still wouldn't boot. I then tried Windows reset from the boot menus, and it got to 66% and then hung.

I concluded at this point that either there was a hardware problem (which I still think there could be, maybe the motherboard) or else that Windows or Dell had updated something during the night which had broken the system.

I put the SSD back and reinstalled Windows from the recovered USB drive again, but this time I removed the WiFi card from the computer so that there was no possibility of downloading anything. Windows installed fine, and it appeared that the HW files had copied across successfully overnight, so I reinstalled HW and the essential drivers from the internal HDD. This time I specified the two new SSD's for HW's files, with the cache on one and everything else on the other. Once I had restore the HW configuration from the backup, everything is working again, except that I am having to rebuild the caches. However, the system is (so far) playable.

The Launchpad isn't working properly, which I have mentioned in another post, and I still have over 60 organs to cache, which will take a while, and I have yet to optimise Windows to avoid glitches, but so far so good. I don't think I need to connect the computer to the Internet at all or to update Windows, and if I want to add any more organs (or HW8 when it appears) then I have other computers for downloading the files.

If the system falls over again I will update you.
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JulianMoney-Kyrle

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Re: SSD upgrade Dell Precision 3640

PostTue Feb 28, 2023 6:36 pm

A further update:

Since my previous post I have been running HW from the two new SSD's and everything is working fine. In the absence of a WiFi card, Windows 10 installed itself to a slightly different state from how it is on my other computers, requiring a password instead of a PIN, for instance. I have now recached all my sample sets, and the only problem was that they were taking a very long time to load. I didn't know which of the two cards had HW on it and which had the cache, but I thought maybe the cache was on the SSD on the PCI riser card rather than the one on the motherboard. I swapped them over to see if it would make any difference. They both showed up in Windows Explorer with the correct drive leters, which surprised me as I thought Windows would assign them at boot time. However, I couldn't read the one with the cache. I then removed the riser card altogether, and this time when I booted the cache drive had gone. I reseated the drive in the slot on the card, put the card back, and both drives were visible but this time the HW drive was unreadable. I took that out and reseated it, and now it is all working again, with organs loading about four times faster than before.

Clearly the SSD contacts with their sockets are a potential cause of trouble, and might have had something to do with my boot problems when I first tried the 8TB SSD. However, it is all working properly now, and I hope that I won't need to upgrade anything else now. I am running a build fo Windows that is two years out of date and missing all the security updates that it should have had over this period, but as there is no network connection of any kind I hope I can manage without them.

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