Making the Most of Intel Rapid Start Technology
On a modern Windows PC, the right combination of hardware, drivers, and an operating system can produce some incredibly speedy start-up and shut down times. The key to all this comes from Intel through its Rapid Start Technology. PCs need the right BIOS features, a relatively new chipset, access to available SSD storage, and the right kind of OS install to take advantage, but if they can meet those stipulations, their users can enjoy a faster, more responsive computing experience.
Older—and Even Some Newer Mobile—Chipsets Need Not Apply!
The biggest hurdle that would-be users of Rapid Start Technology must overcome sits on the hardware side of its minimum requirements. The chipset that manages memory and I/O access for a PC is probably the single most important deciding factor as to whether a specific machine can get into the Rapid Start game. Intel offers two User Guides for Rapid Start (one for PCs that boot using a conventional BIOS and the other for PCs that boot using UEFI) that explain how to download, configure, install, and use Rapid Start because there are differences in setup and installation for each situation, but both agree that for series 7 chipsets, the only models that work are Z77, H77, and Q77. Series 8 and 9 chipsets mostly seem to work as well; though my son’s Haswell-equipped Dell XPS2720 with an H87 chipset does not.
The best way to see if Rapid Start Technology is supported on a PC is to inspect the BIOS or UEFI settings available. If no settings mention Intel Rapid Start (it needs to be enabled in the BIOS before it can be used at runtime), the PC is probably not a suitable target for its use. In practice this means newer motherboards that support the LGA 1155 socket (for Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Intel processors) and the LGA 1150 socket (for Haswell and Broadwell processors) are the most likely candidates for would-be Rapid Starters. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) for mobile versions of Series 7, 8, and 9 chipsets, so you’ll want to check the BIOS to see what’s what on such machines. (My 2014 Fujitsu Q704 tablet and my 2013 Dell XPS12 convertible both run Rapid Start, even though the Dell XPS 27 does not.)
Other requirements to run Rapid Start include the following:
- An Intel Core processor with an LGA 1155 or 1150 socket format (or mobile equivalent)
- Access to a solid state drive (SSD) with enough space available to match the amount of RAM installed on the target PC
- Windows 7 SP1 or newer Windows versions (8, 8.1, 8.1 Update 1,…)
- Drive access must be configured in BIOS to use either AHCI (the Advanced Host Controller Interface) or RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive—or Independent—Disks)
- A downloaded copy of the Intel Rapid Start technology software
What Does Rapid Start Technology Do?
Simply put, Intel Rapid Start Technology uses a specially formatted and labeled disk partition (more on those details later) to write a copy of what’s in RAM to an SSD at shutdown (or when going to sleep), and then reads that SSD information back into RAM as bootup gets underway. The reason that BIOS support is needed is because this kind of activity occurs as and after the operating system relinquishes control over the PC at shutdown or sleep, and before the operating system establishes control upon startup or wakeup when getting back into action.
Intel apparently decided that SSD access was critical to speed the process of reading or writing memory contents; though there’s no technical reason why this technology couldn’t also work with a conventional, spinning hard disk. Maybe it’s just a calculated effort to sell more SSDs, but it does work quickly. All my Rapid Start PCs get to the login screen for Windows in somewhere between 3?10 seconds after clicking the start button, and all of them shut down much faster than that. Compare this to the 40?60 seconds it used to take those machines to start up without Rapid Start, and similar shutdown times against 1?3 seconds with Rapid Start in the picture, and you have a good idea why it’s appealing to those users whose PCs meet the requirements involved.
What to Do if Your PC Qualifies for Rapid Start…
Assuming your PC meets all the foregoing requirements, here’s what you need to do to put Intel Rapid Start Technology to work on that machine:
- Make sure you install the OS using AHCI or RAID for disk access in BIOS.
- Install all necessary device drivers to access the storage devices involved. (If Windows can see the drives in File Explorer, or they show up in the Disk Management console, you’re good to go.)
- Enable Intel Rapid Start Technology in the PC’s BIOS. (if a Hibernation Timer setting is available, set it to Immediately; it is not available on all PCs that support Rapid Start.)
- Create a memory store partition on an SSD. (This could be a boot/system drive on a PC with only one SSD, or on any other SSD on a system with two or more solid state drives.) Configuration details are in the next section in this article. Confirm the existence of this partition before proceeding to the next step.
- Install the Intel Rapid Start Technology software by running the setup.exe program from the download ZIP file from the Intel Download Center. Follow the prompts to ensure proper installation. (It announces success or failure at the conclusion of that process.)
- Click the task bar (or type Intel Rapid into the search box) to find and run the Intel® Rapid Start Technology Manager utility. Make sure status is On, and set the Timer value to zero (far left of slider) to make sure the system begins using Rapid Start when put it to sleep, as shown in Figure 1.
- Upon being put to sleep with Intel Rapid Start, users must resume system operation with the Start button (cold start). It will not respond to USB devices such as a mouse or keyboard.
Figure 1 Intel® Rapid Start Technology Manager utility
Setting Up the SSD for Rapid Start Technology
Performing this operation requires working with the Windows DISKPART (partition management) utility, which must be run from an elevated command prompt. The quickest way to launch such a window is to strike Windows+key+X at your keyboard, and then select Command Prompt (Admin) from the resulting pop-up menu. The remaining instructions will be typed at the command line. (You can cut and paste these directly into the cmd.exe window, if you like; though some values have to change to reflect circumstances on your PC):
- Diskpart (launches the disk partition utility).
- List disk (provides a list of drives by number on your PC).
- Select disk X (Replace X with the number for the SSD on which you plan to put the memory capture/restore partition.)
- Create partition primary size=YYYY (number of GB or RAM installed by 1024 to get the value in MB, which is what you’ll use for YYYY; 8192 for 8 GB or 16384 for 16 GB, for example.)
- Detail disk (shows volume IDs for all partitions on selected disk).
- Select Volume K (Replace with letter associated with newly created partition.)
- Set id=D3BFE2DE-3DAF-11DF-BA40-E3A556D89593 (This special value tells Intel Rapid Start Technology that the partition is for its exclusive use; it will appear in Disk Management, but you won’t see it in File Explorer or other Windows file access interfaces.)
- Exit exits the DISKPART utility; repeat Exit to close the Cmd.exe window.
Using Intel Rapid Start Technology
With all the pieces in place, you’ll find that putting your computer to sleep is the quickest way to stop (and restart) activity. All my machines shut down in 4 seconds or less (except when processing Windows updates), and likewise start up again in anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds. Laptops or tablets seem significantly faster than desktops, probably because they usually have fewer devices to shut down and turn off. On all capable machines, though, there’s no doubt that Rapid Start lives up to its name!