Windows 8, Disk Usage, and the MSI GE60 Laptop
by, 25th June 2013 at 12:33 PM (9530 Views)
I rarely buy hardware as a complete package, preferring to build my own PCs, however when it comes to Laptops, I felt I ought to play it safe and buy from a brand. I wanted a laptop that was powerful enough to handle the odd game (think UFO: Enemy Unknown rather than Crysis) and wasn't going to break the bank. After much deliberating, I decided on the GE60 by MSI. On paper, it had the right specs, a decent graphics card, fast processor combined with 8GB RAM. The only drawback was the hard drive, a pretty slow 5400RPM SATA drive, not the SSD drive I would prefer. No matter, I thought, it can' be too bad. A bit of a mistake.
My first piece of advice if considering this laptop is either to buy an mSATA SSD drive and fit it yourself and clone the C: drive onto it, or buy the next model up with a SSD drive. This alone will save you a lot of grief.
However, if, like me, you've bought the £750 model with standard drive, and have found a fair few issues with the GE60, then let me explain what the problems are, and how to fix them.
The first problem is Windows 8, indeed most problems with this laptop stem from having Windows 8 as an OS. This isn't to bemoan Windows 8 as a whole, but on this laptop, and the MSI configuration of Windows 8 on this laptop, has made the performance woeful. So my second piece of advice is to either reinstall Windows 8 from scratch, or downgrade to Windows 7 if possible. Again, this will save you a lot of time, sweat and tears. All drivers for Windows 7 can be found on the MSI website (apparently, I didn't go down this route).
Again, if the above isn't an option, then read on.
Windows 8 likes to do something called 'Write-caching'. In theory, this speeds up performance of your machine, and prevent data loss in the event of a power outage. All very sensible. The problem is, the data loss part of the equation absolutely kills the performance as the hard drive is in near 100% usage all the time. From the moment I turned the laptop on, disk usage was at 100%. After around 5-10 minutes, it would dip to 90% or so, and the laptop became usable.I had come to accept this as part of the laptop usual routine, blaming the slow speed of the hard drive. However, this does not need to be the case!
After my laptop became slow and unresponsive loading up the basic Mail client, I started to look around and noticed something in the system tray called 'Intel Rapid Storage Technology'. Thinking that my storage wasn't being particularly rapid, I loaded up the application. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, however there was a message talking about the Windows write-cache buffer flushing policy, and that disabling it can improve performance. Thinking anything is worth a try, I followed the instructions, written below for your convenience:
- Right click the bottom left hand corner of your screen, this should open a drop down menu, choose Device Manager.
- From Device manager, expand Disk drives.
- Right click your disk drive, and open properties.
- Choose the Policies Tab.
- Tick the tick box next to "Turn off Windows write cache buffer flushing on this device."
- Click OK.
All of a sudden, my disk usage dropped to 5% and my laptop has never felt so fast and responsive. Seriously, it's finally performing like it should have from the start. A word of warning, should your laptop suddenly lose power, then you are far more likely to lose anything you were working on. But, I figured this is a gaming laptop with a battery life of two hours tops. Most of the time, it's going to be plugged in anyway, and the performance gain is well worth the price.
There are other issues with this laptop, primarily the fact that MSI in their wisdom decided to install every language display language as standard. This means that every update you download from windows update has to be configured for each language, meaning every update takes an incredible long time to install and configure. In addition, Windows 8 is clever enough to realise you're not likely to use these extra language packs, so tries to uninstall them every once and awhile after a reboot. Sadly, this process can also take hours, leaving your machine with the "configuring windows features" with either 15% or 100%. I have successfully removed all language packs, and my laptop was still chugging (primarily due to the above write-caching issue), though windows updates weren't quite so painful.
So to sum up, if you've bought this laptop and are just a little bit disappointed with it's speed, then do the following:
- Turn off Windows write-cache buffer flushing on your hard drive
- Remove all the extra display languages from the laptop (http://techmell.net/how-to/uninstall...cks-windows-8/)
I hope this helps someone, somewhere, as the laptop itself is a fine bit of kit, and with the above tweaking, can be the laptop it should be.
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