Tuesday 1 December 2015

Supe up your computer with a Solid State Drive

The cost of Solid State Drives (SSD) has dropped to a level where replacement of hard drives is now a reasonable option.

But can you really expect to notice any improvement in using an SSD in place of an old hard drive?

Having replaced a couple of HDD at work, I decided to invest in an SSD for my light-weight home laptop.

I've been very happy with my ASUS X401A laptop for the last two and a half years. But having seen an improvement in performance on my works HP630, I decided it needed pepping-up?

I did a little research before ordering, and found an illustration showing the existing HDD tucked inside an ASUS. From the model number I confirmed that a SATA 3 would be the best choice.

Another site had a video of how to get access to the existing drive using a small Philips screw driver and a guitar plectrum (...sorry "pick". I'm showing my age again!).

As the existing drive was only 320GB, I thought I could get away with less, just by removing some video files and a few outdated Linux images. Consequently I decided to invest £85 in a Sandisk Extreme Pro 240GB SATA 3.

Out with the old, in with the new

Removing the ASUS keyboard to gain access to the drive looked easy on the video, but I suspect the guy had done it a few times and so the case was nice and lose. I found the plectrum tricky to get into the gap between keyboard and case. Once I started to work my way around the keyboard, it got easier until I reached the air vent in the left side of the case. Unfortunately this cracked.

Note to self: I must clean that keyboard

However it does not seem to cause me any problems (e.g. its not flapping or gapping or catching on my hands).

How will this make a computer faster

Any improvements by replacing a HDD with a faster SSD, are limited to file access. Once an application is loaded into RAM, there will be no further improvement in application speed unless the application is accessing the drive for some reason (e.g. memory/disk swapping {because you don't have enough RAM} or loading secondary files like templates, themes & so on).

Here are my "before" & "after" measurements:-
Boot from cold to log-in screen:-
*1min 15s >>> 15s

From log-in to desktop:-
15s >>> about 2s

Loading Firefox (10 tabs):-
16s >>> 5s

Loading my financial spreadsheet (LibreOffice):-
19s >>> less than 3s

Gambas to "project select" screen:-
*34s >>> about 3s

*Note: since I had to install a fresh copy of Lubuntu 15.10 on this new SSD, this may have contributed to some of the improvement, especially to boot time. However, another laptop with a HDD running Lubuntu also takes over 60s.


Worth every penny!

I no longer feel like I'm waiting for my laptop to catch up when I turn it on, load applications (even GIMP) and shut the laptop down.

If you can get by with a relatively small capacity drive (by today's standards) then it is certaining an upgrade worth considering.

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