Migrating HDD to SSD and Upgrading WiFi Card in Dell XPS-8700

December 21, 2019

Synopsis

This paper describes the steps taken to migrate the internal HDD in a Dell XPS-8700 to SSD and steps taken to upgrade the WiFi card.


Background

When I purchased my Dell XPS-8700 desktop computer back in 2015, SSD (solid state drive) capacity was mostly limited to 250 GB. So, I opted for the Seagate 1 TB SATA Desktop HDD (hard disk drive) ST1000DM003-1ER162. While high-capacity HDDs today are practically free, 4 TB SSD drives are now available at reasonable prices.

In addition to migrating the primary HDD, I also planned to add an internal SSD for data storage. Currently, I use a Western Digital (WD) 2 TB My Passport USB drive for this purpose. In order to optimize my purchases, I decided to repurpose the My Passport and two other older USB drives that I wasn’t currently using as follows:

  • WD My Passport 2 TB ⇔ photo and website/blog content backup
  • Seagate 1 TB ⇔ movies
  • Toshiba 500 GB ⇔ system image backup

By relocating the movies to a dedicated USB drive, I was able to reduce my capacity requirement for the working data storage SSD from 2 TB down to 500 GB. The USB drives will now become backup devices not active working drives.

In addition, I’ve also repurposed the Seagate 1 TB HDD as an additional single volume storage pool in my Synology DS216j NAS (Network Accessible Storage) unit.

Finally, I also decided to upgrade the Dell Wireless 1704 802.1b/g/n (2.4GHz) WiFi/Bluetooth card that originally came installed in the XPS-8700.

SSD Hardware

I ordered the following hardware from Amazon.com:

  • Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-76E1T0B/AM)
  • Samsung SSD 860 EVO 500GB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-76E500B/AM)
  • Corsair Dual SSD Mounting Bracket 3.5″ CSSD-BRKT2
  • BENFEI SATA Cable III, SATA Cable III 6Gbps Straight HDD SSD Data Cable with Locking Latch 18 Inch Compatible for SATA HDD, SSD, CD Driver, CD Writer

Given that the XPS-8700 drive bays are 3.5” form factor and the new SSD drives are 2.5” form factor, a special mounting adapter was needed hence the purchase of the Corsair Dual SSD mounting bracket.

Procedure

For this effort, I’ve decided to restore a backup of the system image to the new SSD drive instead of reinstalling Windows 10 and all other applications and settings. This procedure is well documented on the Web so I won’t go into a lot of repetitive detail here.

  1. In Control Panel, clicked the “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” link.
  2. In the resulting dialog, clicked the “Create a system image” link. Responded to the resulting prompts to generate a system image backup. This process took a few hours to complete.
  3. At the completion of the system image backup, I declined the option to create a Windows repair disc since I had already created one.
  4. Since the existing HDD was attached directly to the rack and not to the cage, I oriented the SSD drives in the mounting bracket so that the label on the drives were facing up which allowed the power cables and SATA data cables to be attached properly. If the drives were oriented incorrectly in the mounting bracket, it would be impossible to connect the power cable.
  5. Removed the existing HDD from the rack and installed the mounting bracket containing the SSD drives in the same location using the same holes and screws.
  6. Connected the power cable to both drives but didn’t attached the data cable to the 500 GB drive.
  7. Without reattaching the case cover, connected the power cable, monitor cable, and the Toshiba USB drive containing the system image backup.
  8. Booted the Dell XPS-8700 with the system repair DVD in the drive. A prompt to hit any key to boot from USB or DVD was displayed during the boot sequence. Since I’m using a Microsoft Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it was not possible to respond to the prompt to hit any key… since the Bluetooth service was not available during the boot sequence. Fortunately, I saved the wired USB keyboard that came with the XPS-8700. Rebooted again with the wired keyboard.
  9. Responded to the prompts to restore a system image from a backup. After the operation was complete, the system booted from the internal SSD.
  10. Shut down the system and then attached the SATA data cable to the 500 GB internal SSD and replaced the enclosure cover.
  11. Connected all cables and booted the system.
  12. In Disk Management, selected unallocated Disk 1 (500 GB SSD), entered a volume label and formatted the drive for use.

WiFi/Bluetooth Hardware

I ordered the new WiFi mini-card directly from the Dell website:

  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260, part 8TF1D which supports both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz bands

Procedure

  1. Followed the instructions for removing and replacing the wireless mini-card in the XPS 8700 Owner’s Manual. Since the mini-card was so small (1 3/16” x 1 1/16”) I had to use tweezers to align the screws and to attach the antenna cables.
  2. Replaced the XPS-8700 case cover and rebooted the machine.
  3. Connected a wired keyboard and the MS Bluetooth Precision Mouse using the USB charging cable.
  4. Connected to the network name of my DSL modem/router.
  5. Downloaded and installed Bluetooth and WiFi drivers from the Intel website.
    • Bluetooth Driver Date:  4/17/2019
    • Bluetooth Driver Version:  20.100.5.1
    • WiFi Driver Date:  4/29/2019
    • WiFi Driver Version:  18.33.17.1
  6. In Settings, turned on Bluetooth.
  7. Again, in Settings, observed the MS Ergonomic Keyboard and Precision Mouse were listed as Paired but not Connected. Followed the instructions for connecting the Precision Mouse without success. Made multiple attempts to connect and after thrashing around for some time, the Precision Mouse started working.
  8. Attempted to connect the Ergonomic Keyboard multiple times but failed. Made multiple attempts to Remove Device in Settings without success until I tried removing the device from the Other devices section. In retrospect, I probably should have removed both Bluetooth devices in Settings before replacing the WiFi/Bluetooth mini-card.

Update – 1/15/2020

Not long after I installed the Intel WiFi card, the Bluetooth started reporting errors in Device Manager. This issue seemed to manifest itself after a Windows 10 update. I tried all the suggestions on the Web but without success. As a result, my Microsoft Bluetooth ergonomic keyboard became useless and I needed to connect my Microsoft ergonomic mouse with the charging cable, something that I wasn’t inclined to deal with on a permanent basis. So, I started researching wired keyboards and mice to find replacements.

After initially settling on the Razer DeathAdder gaming mouse, I needed to find a keyboard. I checked out the Razer website and found the BlackWidow Lite tenkeyless mechanical key switch keyboard which seemed to fit the bill. I never liked the cheap mushy membrane keyboards—I’m old school that way. Nevertheless, I kept looking.

I found the Logitech G Pro tenkeyless mechanical gaming keyboard on Amazon which looked pretty good. I really don’t need a gaming keyboard but the concept was alluring. I could live without the RGB backlighting which the BlackWidow Lite omits. However, I was somewhat turned off by the kludgy o-ring hack Razer implemented to dampen the keys. In addition, I wasn’t impressed with the Atheris mouse which along with the BlackWidow Lite keyboard comprised the Razer Productivity Suite. So, back on Amazon, I found the Logitech M525 wireless mouse which looked sleek and compact. I also like the USB-only interface and that it took replaceable batteries.

I believe the Logitech G Pro keyboard is well worth the $130 I shelled out. The keyboard has a solid, heavy feel to it and the adjustable rubber-bottomed feet keep the keyboard from moving around on my desk. I have the backlighting configured for light blue and it’s just bright enough without being distracting. Needless to say, I love the clicky, tactile key switches. The M525 wireless mouse fits my hand comfortably and with the two AA batteries installed the weight is perfect. The mouse buttons are just a little heavier than most I’ve used which is also my preference. Sweet!

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Copyright 2019 Gerard Sczepura