Solid State Drives – The Best Upgrade Ever?

  • Sumo

I love my old laptop – again!

I just installed an SSD (Solid State Drive) on my “home” laptop and wow, I am thoroughly impressed.

Intel SSD - Small Business IT Support Northern NJ

Last Tuesday my hard drive bit the dust. Not a big deal. The laptop is one I retired from work for personal use and I do regular backups just in case.

Anyway, the drive tapped out and needed to be replaced. As it happened, I had just received an email from one of my suppliers announcing new pricing on SSDs (Solid State Drives) so I decided to get one and pop it in my laptop.

I ordered a 128GB drive (8BG larger than my original drive, BTW) for about $125 with free shipping. It arrived Friday but I didn’t get to install it until today.

Holy cow!

Listen, I have, from time to time, suggested laptops and desktops with SSDs to my customers over the last year or so and I understand the benefits. Faster boot times, quicker access to programs, no moving parts. But HOLY COW!

My home laptop is 4 years old and prior to the hard drive failure it took a good 7 or 8 minutes from power-on to having Outlook and my web browser open. A little embarrassing for an IT pro, but like I said, this is my home laptop, not a production machine, and I really don’t spend much time keeping it “tuned”.

It took me about two hours to remove the old drive, install the new one and restore my backup. When I powered it on I was just amazed. From power on to full desktop with Outlook and my browser open in 53 seconds!


What is a Solid State Drive?

SSDs are akin to thumb drives. Basically, they are storage devices that use memory, not unlike RAM, to store data. But SSDs are designed to hold more data and access that data faster than a thumb drive.

They have no moving parts. In a traditional hard drive the platters inside the drive spin and the heads move back and forth to read or write data. This is where a traditional drive bottle-necks. But with an SSD there are no platters or heads to slow you down.

SSDs are new, but not that new. They’ve been around for a couple years now, but until recently they were a bit pricey. The latest pricing is going to be a game changer, I think, especially when you consider the time savings of a machine that boots in under a  minute.

Easy installation

Whether you are installing an SSD in a PC or laptop, it’s pretty simple. You can buy them as a kit that contains all the hardware you’ll need to mount and connect it to your current machine. You can even get a kit with a USB cable that will allow you to clone your existing drive to the SSD. You’ll need cloning software but that can be purchased fairly cheaply. There are even free, opensource programs you can use.

Solid State Drive upgrade kit - NJ Computer Support

Just plug one end of the cable to the SSD and one end to your USB port. Put the bootable cloning software CD in your drive and boot to CD. Clone the drive, install the SSD and you are good to go.

It’s as simple as that.

Is an SSD in your future?

Do you dread rebooting your PC or laptop? Do you come into the office in the morning, fire up your machine then go get a cup of coffee to pass the time as it boots? If so, then an SSD might be the cure.

As a business owner the value of this should be immediately clear. Not just the speed of booting up, but opening your workhorse applications – email, spreadsheet, accounting. An SSD might save 30 minutes a day in wait time alone. What’s that worth in terms of salary and productivity? More than $125, I’ll bet.

There are some caveats, though. Not every old PC or laptop will support an SSD. Some will support it but not at full speed. Ultimately it will be up to you, your IT department or provider to make the determination.

Additionally, while SSDs are not new, they are not as proven as traditional hard drives. In recent months there have been some issues with the reliability of some models. Be sure to check reviews before ordering. Tom’s Hardware is a great site for reviews.  Here’s a link to their April 2012: Best SSDs for the Money article.

If you have several machines you are considering upgrading you might want to try one or two first. Get a feel for the process and see the results for yourself. My results may not be the same as yours, but I bet they will still be very positive.

And if you are going to pay someone to do the upgrades for you you should consider the cost of labor, too.

Upgrade or buy new?

This is a question that has been asked long before there was even such a thing as an SSD. And my answer is always the same. If your laptop or desktop is not under warranty, and if your budget allows for it, buy new. I have plenty of reasons for this but that’s something for another time.

I will, however, modify my standard reply and say that if your PC or laptop is out of warranty and your budget allows for it, buy new with an SSD drive.

Otherwise, upgrade.

Guidelines for upgrading laptops and desktops

For laptops, determine how much storage you are currently using on your hard drive and get an SSD large enough for everything to fit and still have room for growth.

My laptop had a 120GB drive but I was only using about half of that. I probably could have installed a 64GB SSD but I wanted the extra room and the cost difference wasn’t so much that it really mattered to me.

For a desktop it can be a little trickier. A lot of us have a single hard drive, 250GB or more, with all our applications and documents on it, so a little planning is needed.

I suggest installing an SSD for the operating system (Windows) and your most frequently accessed applications like Outlook, Word, Quickbooks, etc. Then use your original hard drive for data (documents, pictures) and less frequently accessed programs.

On my PC, for instance, I use Office, a CRM solution, Quickbooks and remote access tools most frequently. All of these applications will go on the SSD.

Things like Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat Pro and others I use much less often so those programs will go on my old drive. All my business documents and other data are on a server or in the cloud, a practice we should all be following, but I do have a bunch of music and personal data that will also go on the old drive.

As with a laptop, get an SSD that will fit everything you need and have room for growth. Remember, Microsoft updates are stored on your primary drive so, at a minimum you’ll need to account for that.

Assuming you can fit everything that is on your old drive onto the SSD, clone it. Then consider moving some things off the SSD and onto the old drive.

If you can’t fit everything onto the SSD then you have a couple choices. You can uninstall things you don’t really need, move large downloads and documents to a network or thumb drive temporarily or start with a fresh installation of Windows on the SSD and add your most important applications to it. Everything else is still on your old drive and anything that is redundent can be purged.

The improvement

As long as I have been in this business I have never seen anything speed up a dog of a machine like an SSD. Defragging your hard drive (BTW – SSDs never need to be defragmented), adding memory, uninstalling toolbars and other unneeded junk all do an okay job and should be part of any ongoing maintenance plan, but none holds a candle to the drastic difference in speed an SSD can make.

While this isn’t a cure-all for poor computer management policies it goes a long way toward keeping users productive and happy.

Let me know what you think.

Need more information about upgrades or new purchases? Give us a call at 866-753-6279 or email us.

I play with computers for a living and I'm from New Jersey. Jealous?

Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Anti-Spam Quiz: