As we are slowly more and more transitioning from your classic hard drives to SSD at that consumer level, you can notice that the offer of the external SSD model is also on the rise, one of the latest being this ADATA SD700 model.
This time I’ll be turning things around and expect your usual review, I’ll also do a guide on how to do a bootable USB Windows to go drive based on this external SSD, check out how it performs in that kind of environment, especially since this one promise to deliver decent figures, so if you’re more interested in that, you can go ahead and skip this review, the video guide starts at around 4 and a half minute mark, you can see the video listed down below.
Pocketing your OS with ADATA SD700
The SD700 is ADATA’s very small and compact external SSD drive, which is also before all very fast on a count of the 3D NAND flash which it uses. In particular, this one uses Micron’s TLC 3D NAND flash combined with Silicon motion’s SM2258 controller. As you can see, here I have the 256 GB version of it, which is actually the smallest one from that series, and expect it you can also get the 512 GB and 1 TB model, last one being pretty pricey as you would guess, which is one the reasons why the external SSD solutions, in general, aren’t so popular among your average user, as the HDD still beats it when it comes to value per GB.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t use the latest USB type-C port interface, like for example some newer external hard drive models have, so you’ll get that pretty bulky cable and connection port on the SSD’s end and a classic Type-A end on the other end of the cable. It’s a shame and really wish they’ve implemented some kind of integrated cable since it’s aiming to be practical on a count of its small dimensions. Although it’s a USB 3.1 interface in question, it’s actually the Gen 1 version of it, which is basically as we all know equal to the USB 3.0 interface when it comes to bandwidth, and that’s 5 Gb/s.
The design of the chassis is pretty cool and sleek looking, with a small LED activity indicator on the top. It seems to have an aluminum style casing, but unfortunately, it’s just a plain plastic shell in question. On the other hand, its protected by this rubber frame, which also covers the connection port, and protects it and the whole drive based on the claimed IP68 rating, meaning that it’s waterproof, dustproof and can handle some drops. Speaking of the drops, I’ve sort of checked out that claim for myself, not on purpose though. Yeah, that happened, LinusTechTips style an approximately 3 meter or 10-foot drop, and to my surprise drive survived without a single serious scratch on it, just a small scuff on the edge, and with working as before after that. Yes, it’s an SSD which and they can some serious beating, but still, it was impressive and I’m glad to see that everything was perfectly fine, even in an extreme scenario like this one.
Taking it for a spin, in terms of the performance, SD700 delivers on the claim speeds, just above 400 MB/s for sequential read speeds and up to 360 MB/s on the write speed, or around 300 MB/s in practice when doing a straight up copying of a large file to it as you can see it here, which is less then what they claimed, but then again it’s the smallest capacity model in question, so that’s probably the reason why it’s on the slower side compared to the claimed 430 MB/s for the write speed. Although I basically did my full batch of benchmarking, don’t be too concern about performance in other fields, this is an external drive after all, so linear and sequential speeds are what matter the most, as you’ll probably just be doing medium to large file size backup.
Although I didn’t encounter a lot of external SSD, judging by what I saw here, this seems to be a pretty reasonable product. Maybe it’s not on par performance wise with the mainstream budget examples of internal 2,5” SSD drives, but it offers an interesting format and decent figures considering that it will serve a purpose of an external drive for data backup or data transitioning and should be more than good enough to – run Windows from usb.
This is what you need to do to make a Windows to Go drive
And now, let’s make that Windows to-go bootable USB stick happen. To start off, you’ll need a total four different things, two being software utilities, the GImageX and Rufus, you can find the links in the description box below together with all other dos commands which I will be using , and you’ll also need two different drives, one for the Windows To Go USB drive, the final product, which will in my case be ADATA’s SD700, and one for mounting the Windows installation ISO file on it, your regular USB stick, like this Corsair that I have here. I assume you’re all pretty much familiar with this last one, as that’s nowadays a standard way of installing Windows on your PC configuration or notebook, via the bootable Windows installation USB drive which replaced your optical discs. I would suggest you get at least a 16 GB USB stick, as 8 GB won’t be enough this time, you’ll see later on why. You can create that bootable Windows Installation USB drive using Microsofts own download utility which can also create a bootable installation drive for you right after it’s downloaded, or you can just use the program if you already download or have that Windows ISO file from before. In my case, I’ve just downloaded the Windows 10 64-bit iso using that utility from Microsoft website and used Rufus to create a bootable USB Windows installation drive instead of using that feature in the Microsoft’s utility. You can do it, either way, it doesn’t matter, I just choose this one cause I wanted to keep that ISO file as otherwise it gets dumped in a temporary folder. After you’re done with that, leave that USB plugged in and let’s make that ADATA’s SD700 external SSD an active drive.
Plugin your main external drive on which we’re going to install and run Windows from, in my case that was ADATA’s SD700, run the command prompt as an administrator, type diskpart in one word, hit enter, type list disk, hit enter again, and take a good look which drive corresponds to it. Once you’ve identified that drive, you can go into the disk manager and double check just to be sure, select it with select disk 5 in my case, hit enter, then type clean, hit enter, type create partition primary, hit enter, then type select partition 1, hit enter, then type active, hit enter, and that’s it, you can exit now. You can format it using NTFS file format and after that, I advise you to re-plug the drive before we continue cause sometimes it can show a drive letter although it’s not assigned. Now assign a drive letter if it didn’t already, cause as I said sometimes it doesn’t do that, so you’ll have to do it yourself otherwise it won’t show in my computer under drives.
After you’re done with that you can open the GimageX application and go under the “apply” tab, go to the source and go to that bootable drive with windows installation on it, in my case that was the Corsairs USB stick, and open sources folder. With the newer version of Windows ISO’s, like for example this latest version of 64-bit Windows 10 download from Microsoft website, you won’t see the necessary install.wim file which you have to choose for the source file so it can do its thing and install Windows on the second Windows to go drive, which is the ADATA’s SD 700. There is an install file, but it’s an ESD file type of one, so you’ll have to do one more step and that’s to transform that ESD into a WIN type of file.
Open up again command prompt as an administrator, navigate to that source folder on that windows bootable usb installation drive, in your case it will probably be a different drive letter, so mind that as for my Corsair USB stick that was E drive, type in this command and hit enter, it will be done fast. Right after that type this second command, you can also copy it from the description box below, and hit enter. This will basically create and extract that install.wim file that you need from that install.esd file, on that same bootable USB stick with Windows installation on it. It can take some time, depending on your USB performance, let it finish completely, don’t do anything, even if it says 100%, it needs to write completed below and let you type in commands again. This is why I suggested a bigger 16 GB USB stick for the bootable Windows installation USB drive, since with this extraction it takes just a bit over 8 GB, so the 8 GB USB stick wouldn’t be enough.
After that, you can again go to GImageX, choose that install.wim file under the source and under destination you need to choose that USB Windows to go drive which will hold the complete Windows installation, here that was the ADATA SD700 external SSD. Again, in my case, it was pretty fast, but if you have slower drives, it can take up to a few minutes. This basically does the process of Windows setup install an empty drive from that USB stick with Windows installation on it too, just like your regular example of doing a fresh Windows install on a PC.
Final steps to run Windows from USB
After that’s finished, there’s one more thing that’s left to be done and that’s to create a bootable instruction set on it, so it can actually be booted as a regular internal primary drive which usually holds your operating system. Again, open up a command prompt, navigate to your Win to go drive, then navigate to System32 folder, and after that type in this command and hit enter. Again be careful what drive letter is used in your case, it’s very likely to be different than mine, for my ADATA SD700 that was the L drive. And that’s it, you’re finally done!
It seems like a lot of stuff to do, but in the end it’s not so complicated after you do it for the first time. Now you can finally plug it in a PC or notebook, and boot directly from it into a freshly installed Windows environment. If you don’t have any system drives attached it will probably boot right away, like in my case where I disconnected all of my systems drives from my benchmarking rig, or you can just press F12 during post and bring up the boot menu and choose it manually.
After I did my initial boot with updating the Windows and driver installation, I went in to get a better feel from this setup. Based on boot time you could’ve told that you’re are running Windows straight from an external drive via USB port, everything seemed to be perfectly normal and fast, very responsive, no lag or stutter, just like in your regular scenario where you would have an internal 2,5” SSD. I went in to load it up a bit and after installing some games and doing some measurement, it turned out to be comparable to my recent review of also ADATA’s SU900 Ultimate SSD. Really impressive and before all handy if you need to have a working environment of your own, which needs to be moved around with maximal ease. This would probably not be the case where you would use a classic USB stick with your average read and write performance, although it would be doable and you could work with it, it wouldn’t be as near as fast as this kind of setup. Hope this helped you with setuping your own drive for you to run windows from USB, if you have any questions about it feel free to leave a comment in my YouTube video listed above, or you can contact me via my social media channels.