Solid State Drives – Do You Really Need One?

I’ve slowly faded from the ranks of the early adopter cult and instead, I now count myself amongst the laggards – those that are less likely to jump, with both feet, onto the new technology bandwagon.

No, it’s not because I’ve lost interest in technology. It’s just that so much of the “new” technology seems to be focused on connectedness – always on, always reachable, technology. I can easily admit – I’m not interested in being “always on”, or “always reachable”.

Still, I had an itch to give an SSD (Solid State Drive – no moving parts) a whirl. Since SSDs reportedly are capable of faster boot times, faster system shutdown, along with faster sleep and hibernation modes, scratching the itch was a no brainer – I just had to do it.  Faster application load times (including games), clinched it.

Following a trip to my supplier, I installed an OCZ Vertex Plus 60GB SATA II SSD (a tiny little thing!), into a test machine. Installing the drive was easy and straightforward.

Installed and secured the drive.

Connected the power and drive interface cables.

Set the BIOS so that the drive was recognized by the machine as the boot drive.

Installed Windows 7 Enterprise.

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OCZ Vertex Series SATA II 2.5″ SSD Specs:

Interface Type: SATA II

Buffer Memory: 64MB

Average Seek (msec): 0.1 – My first 10 MB HDD (back in the Jurassic Period, had a seek time of 198 msec.

Write Speed: up to 90 MB/sec

Read Speed: up to 185 MB/sec

Form Factor: 2.5″

MTBF: 1,500,000 hrs.

Temperature, Operating (°C): 0 to 70

Noticeable improvements following installation

Boot time: reduced from about 90 seconds, to roughly 15 seconds.

Application load times: appear to be at least twice as fast.

Application installation time: fast, fast, fast!

Gaming: this is the area in which I noted the biggest improvement. As strange as this may seem, characters in Far Cry 2 (the game I used for testing), moved faster. Initially, I assumed that my perception was off – but, no. Ubisoft, the well know game developer, has posted a comparison video which clearly shows the improvement in character speed – SSD versus HDD. Quite amazing!

Before proceeding with a series of Disk benchmarks, I took a look at the Windows Experience Index and happily noted a major improvement in Disk data transfer rate.

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Benchmark: SSD – OCZ Vertex Plus 60GB – SATA 2.

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Benchmark: HDD – Western Digital WD3200 320GB – 7200 RPM – SATA 2. Seek Time 8.9 ms. Read/Write Time 10.9 ms.

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Clearly, the Benchmark tests show the SSD running away with the prize for efficiency.  

Bottom line:

After running with this SSD, for a week or so, it’s easy to see why SSDs can lay claim to HDD “bottleneck elimination” – read and write speed, is what it’s all about. The boot takes only one sixth as long, application launches are at least twice as fast as with the Western Digital WD3200, and file handling speeds are dramatically improved. What’s not to like?

After experiencing the performance gain with an SSD configured as a boot and system drive, there’s no turning back. I can already see the cash in my accounts dwindling.   Smile

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21 Comments

Filed under flash drive, Hard Drive, Opinion, Solid State Drives, SSD, Windows Tips and Tools

21 responses to “Solid State Drives – Do You Really Need One?

  1. Bill,

    Thank you for taking the time (and money) to test one of these drives. I just had someone this past week inquiring about the Solid State Drives (SSD). I will surely forward this to their attention.

    Rick

  2. You should maybe invite some SSD suppliers to ahem… ‘loan’ you some samples to test & review? 🙂

  3. kenneth lunkins

    can we get a free sample for high profile cars? remember i one of your fateful readers.

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  5. Noahsark

    Bill,
    I’m so glad to see that you are in love with the solid state drives. I have 3 solid state drives installed and I also will never go back. Less heat, faster operating, and no defragmenting. Great review Bill.
    Noahsark

  6. hipockets

    Hi, Bill

    “Set the BIOS so that the drive was recognized by the machine as the boot drive.” — Will older BIOSs recognize the drive? Or does one need a relatively recent BIOS that allows booting to special devices (such as USB) ?

    If the motherboard does not have built in provision for SATA, is a SATA expansion card needed, or does the drive has built-in provision for such boards?

    Thanks!

    • Hey Hipockets,

      There’s no easy rule of thumb unfortunately – best to search for your PC model/motherboard and “SSD compatibility”.

      I’m not convinced that an add-on board is the right solution – but, it can be done, of course.

      Best,

      Bill

  7. A Guy

    Bill, you should make sure AHCI is enabled to get maximum performance:

    http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/61869-ahci-enable-windows-7-vista.html

    Also, confirm the SSD is aligned:

    http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/113967-ssd-alignment.html

    A SSD is the best performance improvement you can make these days. Once you have one, you’ll never go back 🙂

    A Guy

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  9. I experience the performance of SSD drives but for now I didn’t consider to buy one. Maybe when become cheap as HDD 🙂

  10. Hi Bill,
    I’ve held off using SSD’s simply due to the price and capacity. Since I’m already running a fast 10,000 RPM drive in my main PC I thought I’d hold off. But with hard drive prices going up due to the flooding in Thailand this would be the time for solid states drive makers to cut their prices and get more people on board.
    Well at least I can hope. My next laptop will definitely have an SSD.
    Mark

  11. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Funny how we often don’t know we “needed” something until we get it. I’m finding this with my new “smartphone”, something I had no interest in until it showed a reduction in my monthly subscription. Now I spend nearly as much time “playing” with it as with my laptop and sometimes both together! I’m sure it was this tendency that helped Steve Jobs achieve such success (my phone’s an Android BTW).

    Presumably the only downside of the SSD is cost, otherwise why would all computers not ship with it. Are there any other limitations, for example capacity?

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      You’re right – cost is a factor; about a dollar a GB. Capacity no longer seems to be an issue as there are now large SSDs on the market.

      I’m in the process of writing another article on SSDs since I’ve learned that all is not “sweetness and light” in an after market install. Non-recoverable file corruption can be a major issue, for example.

      Best,

      Bill

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