Sunday, December 30, 2012

Windows 8 with Intel Rapid Storage (RST) driver

Although Windows 8 performs surprisingly well with older hardware and drivers out of the box, I have generally used drivers from the component manufacturers, as the computer manufaturers stop releasing new drivers after a while (for obvious cost reasons). In this case, I'll be looking at Intel SATA AHCI Controller driver, with particular interest in NCQ.

My Dell Vostro 1520 laptop (~3 years old) came with Windows 7 Pro and AHCI enabled (NCQ was a feature I was looking for at the time - it has to be supported by both chipset and HDD), and the recent upgrade to Windows 8 Pro went smoothly in AHCI mode (I remember what pain it was to change my Windows 7 work laptop a couple years back from legacy to AHCI mode post-install).

With all that work cut out for me, all I had to do is install Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) package (console and driver) - latest version available

Dell Vostro 1520
Intel ICH9M (Intel G45 Express chipset)
Seagate ST9320423ASG HDD
Windows 8 Pro x64

  • Before: Windows 8 standard

  • After: Intel RST driver

ATTO Disk Benchmark shows some mixed results - direct, overlapped I/O, queue depth 4 (default). Microsoft driver performs better with smaller transfer sizes, where Intel driver is slightly faster with larger transfer sizes. In real life use, Intel driver feel very slightly quicker under load, or maybe it's just me - I remember making a bigger difference with older Windows versions (when was called Intel Matrix Storage Manager). Maybe Microsoft is doing a very good job, or Intel exhausting its tricks :-) In fairness, the package does much more than just AHCI (RAID, hybrid SSD acceleration etc), and it's probably doing it's best, especially with older hardware.


In the end, I guess it's up to you to decide whether you want to keep it or not - you can uninstall it and revert back to standard anytime.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Windows: Keyboard repeat delay (short)

One of the first few things I do on a new Windows installation is to change the keyboard repeat delay to short. It helps me with arrow navigation or backspace in code or text files, address bar or contents in web browsers etc. Some people get used to pressing a key repeatedly, but I like this one more.

Go to Control Panel > Keyboard > Speed > Character Repeat > Delay

Drag the slider to the right, then give it a test in the area down at the bottom.