Booting to Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD on Asus B85M-G Motherboard

Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD

Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD

This was my dilemma… I wanted to use a shiny new super fast NVMe SSD on my older Intel B85 chipset based motherboard as my primary boot drive in order to boost system performance. Upgrading the motherboard, CPU and memory wasn’t going to be as cost effective as just adding this, many times faster, storage to my existing system. The machine was pretty fast already; Asus B85M-G motherboard with Core i7 CPU, 32 GB RAM, and a 500GB OCZ Trion150 SATA3 SSD as the boot drive. Despite this configuration, I was still waiting on disk operations with very large files. Some examples are raw images in Photoshop, video processing and rendering, as well as application loading times. It’s funny how quickly one can become accustomed to the speed of an SSD to the point it starts to seem slow again.

I ended up purchasing the Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD drive which boasts read and write speeds of roughly 3 GB/s+. This is about 6 times faster than my SATA3 SSD at roughly 500 MB/s (0.5 GB/s).

However, the Asus B85M-G motherboard is too old to sport a built in M.2 slot. So I also purchased a KingShare NVMe M.2 to PCI-E x4 adapter card that will allow me to use a conventional PCI-E slot with the M.2 SSD. Please note that you will have to use the x16 PCI-E slot as this board does not have any x4 slots that this adapter requires. If you are using an add-on video card in this slot, then this isn’t going to be feasible.

M.2 Installed in PCI-E adapter

Oh how happy was I when these parts arrived? Like a kid on Christmas of course. But little did I know of the hell that would ensue in order to boot my system from this PCI-E card. The main problem is that this motherboard does not support booting from an NVMe drive. There are options in the BIOS for booting to PCI-E. But alas, I was confronted with a BIOS error stating that it does not support the boot device. It would not boot to the new drive no matter what combination of BIOS settings were tried. The Windows 10 setup program as well as Acronis imaging software both see the NVMe drive just fine. Booting into Windows on my old SATA SSD also lets me see and use the NVMe drive as a data drive. However I wanted to fully leverage the super fast NVMe drive as my boot drive to run the system from.

After a lot of Google searching I learned that I am not alone in this. But there is no clear answer for boards this old. There are are quite a few suggested work arounds out there such as using a USB thumb drive loaded with UEFI manager boot software which allows the system to boot to the USB drive and then hand off to the NVMe drive. This did not work for me on this motherboard as the NVMe driver would just hard lock the system while booting to the USB drive. I tried various other methods but the following is exactly how I was able to get my BIOS to fully support the NVMe drive with no USB drive or any other special setup needed. The NVMe SSD now shows up in the BIOS as a boot option along with all the rest of my regular SATA drives.

Note: This should work on many other Asus boards as well, not just the B85M-G.

Disclaimer!!
Follow these steps at your own risk. The author is not responsible for any damage that may be caused to your motherboard by following these steps. You have been warned.

In order for the BIOS of this motherboard to support booting from NVMe drives, we have to install the NVMe driver module into the BIOS. This involves downloading the latest BIOS from the Asus website and then installing the driver into that BIOS file. Then flashing the system with this modified BIOS. And viola! NVMe support built right into BIOS.

Step 1:
Download the latest BIOS from the Asus support site here: https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/B85MG/HelpDesk_BIOS/
Note: You can use any version of the BIOS you want, but I only tested this on the latest version which as of this writing is 3602.

Step 2:
Download the following two files:
NVMe Driver:
https://mega.nz/#!5I8HiIbA!iiE0K-g8uKPI-GA08c0UGp_lsFKNyEpcQcyemdPeH-Y
BIOS Mod Tool:
https://www.chip.de/downloads/UEFITool_74657773.html

Step 3:
Install the NVMe driver module into the BIOS file:
a) Unzip/rar all three files that you downloaded and place them all in a new folder together.
b) Launch the BIOS Mod Tool (UEFITool.exe.) From the File menu, select “Open image file…”.
c) Select the BIOS file you downloaded from the Asus support site and click Open. The file should end with the .CAP extension.
d) From the File menu, select Search.
e) Click the “Text” tab and then enter “DXE” in the search box. (Without the quotes)
f) A large number of results will show in the bottom section of the application. Double click on the first result “Unicode text “DXE” found….” This will bring you to a spot in a long list of BIOS drivers (DXE) that are currently installed in this BIOS file. Maximize the window to see all of the columns.
g) Scroll down and find the last DXE entry right above where it says “Free Space”.
h) Right click on the last DXE driver entry, identified above, and select “Insert after…” Select the NvmExpressDxE_2.ffs file that you extracted earlier and click Open. You should now see the new NvmExpressDxE entry in the list.
i) From the File menu, select “Save image file…”. Give it a meaningful name denoting that this is the modified BIOS file. Click Save.
j) The tool will ask if you want to now open the new file. This is optional but you can do this and then follow steps D through G again and you should be able to see the new NvmExpressDxE entry still in there at the bottom of the DXE driver list.

Step 4:
Flash the newly saved modified BIOS image to the motherboard. This step proved the most difficult to figure out. The problem is that all of the BIOS update methods will refuse to flash because of a security verification error. As this is a modified BIOS file, this does make sense. But how can we get around this? Other guides say to use the Asus Flashback method but this board does not have that. I even tried using the Crashfree Auto Recovery Tool, but that also refused to flash the modified file. The method I figured out was to use the following steps:

a) Download the ASUS AI Suite 3 software from the support site. This motherboard does not have this as a download option on the Asus Support site so I had to get it from another board’s download section here:
https://dlcdnets.asus.com/pub/ASUS/mb/Utility/AI_Suite_III_3.00.13_DIP5_1.05.13.zip?_ga=2.260643469.1093459202.1545413149-1161538718.1543356867

b) Install the AI Suite 3 software and deselect everything except for EZ Update. The EZ Update is what we need. You may be prompted to reboot.

c) Open the EZ Update app. Select the ORIGINAL BIOS file that you downloaded from the Asus support website. We have to do this first because the modified file will fail the security verification. Wait for the verification to complete on the original file and it will then ask you if you are sure and you are ready to click the “Flash” button. But do not click the Flash button yet!

d) Rename the original BIOS file to something else. (Add “.old” to the end for instance.) Then rename the modified BIOS file that was saved earlier to match the exact name of the original file. We are doing this so as to fool the EZ Update utility into flashing the modified file; As it has already completed the verification phase.

e) Click Flash and then click reboot when complete.

You should now be presented with a newly flashed BIOS screen asking to press F1 to enter the BIOS settings. Go into the BIOS and the NVMe driver should be loaded and allowing you to select the NVMe drive as a boot device. Boom!

After you load Windows or restore your image to the NVMe drive, it is recommended that you install the Samsung NVMe driver into Windows. This will give additional performance and stability, but technically isn’t a required step because the Microsoft provided NVMe driver does work. This driver can be downloaded from Samsung’s website here:
https://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/product/consumer/970evo/

I have to say, the difference is very noticeable in my system. Boot times dropped by about 50% and file operations are insanely fast now. Here are the benchmark results using the Samsung Magician software:

Task Manager during the Samsung benchmark:

The Importance of Knowing Your Employees Jobs

Working Together

Image Credit: TownePost Network

As a business owner or upper manager, when was the last time worked a job that one of your employees routinely performs? If the answer is over a year ago, you may want to consider getting back in the trenches and truly learning the jobs that you’ve tasked your employees to do.

If you’ve ever seen the show Undercover Boss, then you know the importance of seeing exactly what your employees do. No, not so you can give them fabulous prizes at the end, but so that you know exactly how realistic tasks and time management schedules are, and to help you better understand exactly what you’re asking of them as employees.

However, taking the time to walk a day (or more) in your employee’s shoes also has some big benefits for your business:

Stay In Touch With Your Business

Depending on how long you’ve been in business, it’s probably been a while since you’ve performed some of the more mundane tasks. Taking the time to work these types of tasks and positions can help you understand how procedures affect employee productivity, client interaction, and more.

Understand Exactly What a Job Entails

It’s easy to create policy and procedure on what you think the job should be, but how close do these procedures line up to reality? By performing various positions throughout

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the company, you can gain insight on what is, and isn’t, working, and how to fix it.

Help Analyze Employee Productivity

When an employee comes to you and says that they are overloaded with work and need help, how do you know if what they’re saying is true, or if they are just working inefficiently? Without working the position directly, it’s difficult to truly analyze workload and productivity.

To Do the Job When No One Else Can

Perhaps the most important reason to re-learn various positions throughout the company is that when the world explodes, you know you can jump in and do the job if you have to, without floundering or looking like it’s your first day.

As a business owner or manager, do you take the time to sit with your employees and learn their jobs? Why or why not?

How to Turn Word Documents or Excel Spreadsheets into Templates

Both Word and Excel are powerful programs for creating forms and other “reusable” documents. However, unless you take care to lock these documents down, they can easily be overwritten.

Have you ever opened up an existing document on your computer, meaning to Save As a different file, but after changing a bunch of information, you accidentally hit Save instead, overwriting the original file?

It’s a pain, but it happens, all the time. Even to the best of us. But, you can protect yourself from problems like these by turning your document into a template.

Reasons to Create a Template

  • When you are creating a reusable form
  • To lock the form down so it can’t be overwritten
  • If you want your document to automatically Save As when you hit save

How to Create a Template

Saving Word - Excel Documents as Templates

Saving Word / Excel Documents as Templates

Creating a template out of a Word or Excel file is extremely easy. All you have to do is change one setting when you’re saving the file.

First setup your form. When you’re ready, go to File > Save As. In the File Name field, type in the name of your template. Then, from the Save As Type dropdown (underneath the File Name field) select Word Template (or Excel Template).

Important Note: Be mindful! Sometimes when you select Template, the Save As location changes, so make sure you are still saving the file in the proper location prior to hitting Save.

How to Edit a Template

Editing Word - Excel Templates

Editing Word / Excel Templates

Editing a template is easy, but does require a few extra steps. If you open the document by double clicking on it, it will open a new instance of the document, and when you hit save it will ask you where you want to save the document. This is NOT the same as editing it, and any changes made will not be saved to the main template.

Instead, to edit your template you have to open it slightly differently. Navigate to your template file, and right click on it. Then click on Open (older versions may say Edit). Now you are editing the main template, and any changes made will be saved to the template.

(Note: Changes only apply to future uses, and will not update past forms created with outdated template.)

Creating, editing, and using templates are so easy that once you start to use them, you’ll wonder how you got along without them.