Solid state drive (SSD) laptop upgrade

March 17th, 2011

I am not much of a gadget guy anymore.  No, I don't have to have the newest phone or download the coolest apps.  Funny for someone who makes a living helping firms select business tools to provide leverage.

However, I did get fed up with my workstation-class laptop just not being able to keep up with me.  I have a full-size system as it is a full replacement and I have owned it a couple years.  It shipped with Vista which I was able to eventually tune until it worked OK and I actually did a wipe when my Vista to Windows 7 upgrade didn't work so well, but I do have one weakness, staying current on software.  When I loaded Office 2010, Project 2010, Visio 2010, Netformx and all the others, I started to feel as an executive, I was waiting too much on my laptop.

Since I preach cost-benefit with technology, I decided the problem was big, but not enough to justify me buying a new laptop.  I considered a wipe and upgrading to 64bit Windows, but didn't want to mess around with 64bit printing.  I also have various Windows and network admin tools that I have working together and did not want to reinstall.  So, I decided to try replacing my hard drive with a solid state hard drive (SSD).

The basic concept of SSD is the drive is able to access data closer to RAM memory speeds than much slower regular hard drive speeds, thereby improving performance when performing tasks that used to require accessing a regular hard drive.  The kit I purchased included a SSD and a small chassis to reuse the the drive I was replacing as a backup device. 

Step 1 was to place the SSD into the small chassis and connecting to my USB port to allow imaging.

Step 2 was to actually image my current drive onto the new one.  The backup took about 2.5 hours for my almost 300GB of data.

     I experienced errors which caused the new drive to have issues.  I put the original drive back in my system and ran some chkdsk operations to fix minor disk errors, but after this, I could not return the SSD to a usable state.  I contacted the manufacturer who promptly sent me a replacement, but it was probably 3 hrs of lost time.  Lesson one is to make sure and delete any data you don't need and run a chkdsk /f before you attempt imaging.  

Step 3 was actually running the backup again and this time, the backup worked and the image process worked.   

Step 4 is to remove the SSD from the chassis and swap it with the regular hard drive. 

Step 5 was testing out.  Boot up was about the same, but my normally slow applications such as Visio and Outlook were MUCH faster (my 5 GB mailbox has nothing to do with the slowness issues, heh-heh).

Overall, I am pleased with the difference.  While $600 was a big change, I am sure I have made up the difference in NOT waiting all day long for my laptop like normal.  Outlook would seem to hang at various times through the day and things like scheduled AV scans or other graphics heavy tasks don't burden me like before.

So the moral of the story is consider SSD for your disk-intensive end points used by managers, executives and top producers so they don't have to sit waiting on technology.  I think they would be ideal for large Outlook mailboxes, Adobe CS users, perhaps developers or other large line of business applications.  Desktop SSD drives should be a bit cheaper.  Of course, you can also consider SSD in storage area networks for things like SQL Servers, but be careful as it would also run the co

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