Saturday, April 7, 2012

SSD upgrade for my laptop plus ram...

I picked up a SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD from Frys yesterday. Unfortunately, they didn't have what I originally wanted, which was a corsair 120GB for 100$ (99.99), so I wound up buying the next cheapest at $149... yeah, I got hosed and I know it. I also picked up 2 sticks of 4GB ram for my laptop as well, making it a pretty good upgrade round, or at least I think so anyway. 

So far so good, I guess. Although it was a royal pain to get the old system migrated to the new. I made the mistake of trying to clone it using Easeus Partition Manager, which in hindsight was a massive waste of time (about 9 hours, give or take). I wound up transferring the system over using windows backup and gparted. The system is windows 7 home premium, so I ended up going through the backup control panel, and creating a system image on a usb external disk. This only took about 45 minutes and was actually faster than restoring it. The restore took roughly an hour. Once I got the restore finished, I booted off the ssd to make sure I had gotten it to work, finally... booted without issue, and pretty quickly at that... but not the "amazing, blink of an eye, instant boot" that I'd been hearing about.

Now mind you, I'd already installed the ram as well. So, less than impressed, I picked up a utility called AS SSD Benchmark, which pretty much told me where part of the problem was. I needed to align this disk. That in itself was a bit of a pain, mostly time consuming. I'd gotten a usb install of gparted live working, and used that to manipulate my partitions. Now that meant a bit of thinking, especially since nothing likes to work on the first try. I had to move the 2nd and 3rd partitions at least 20MB further from the start of the disk to make room to align the first partition, which is a bit of a weird process. To align the partition, you move the partition at least 2MB further from the start of the disk- then you move it back to 1MB away from the start, for the first partition anyway. Then the second you place 1MB away from the first, and so on until you've placed your partitions.

Depending on the size and how much data is actually there, this can take forever. Considering I had 3 partitions, but only the third really had a lot of data this was only mind numbing and not completely painful. After 3 hours, it was finally finished- remember, each partition had to be moved twice!

After that was done, rebooted into windows... well, no that didn't work. I had destroyed my boot layout during all the partition restructuring. I had to use the windows system disk I created during the system image (and yes, you'll want to create one too... if you don't, you can't restore the image anyway, so it really behooves you to do so when it asks... you'll need a blank disk for it, I used a dvd-r, but I think you can probably get away with a cd-r) to go back in and fix the boot sector and mbr map. That literally took less time to fix than it did to load the disc. Final reboot, and into windows proper again.

Much much faster this time, just the aligning made a noticeable difference at this point. However, I wasn't done yet- I needed to kill off indexing on that drive as well as automatic defragmenting. Removing the index attribute took almost 20 minutes, which again... ugh. However, at this point I decided to do some testing once it was finished. Arduino 1.0 environment took roughly 4 seconds from double click to editor ready to take code. Massive improvement already! Outlook took forever, as for some reason it had trashed it's cache, but considering that was network speed and not local disk, there wasn't anything I could do about that.

Next was firefox 11... something I have started to dread since it's been dragging terribly lately. It loaded, but no real noticeable speed increase... so I decided to load one my my bookmark groups, which was ~30 tabs. That's usually good for me to go take care of a call of nature and grab something to drink. I literally had just set the laptop down to do just that, when I saw it had loaded most the pages and only had 2 or 3 tabs left. Roughly 30 seconds to load 30 tabs... not bad. At this point, I decided to check to see if TRIM had been enabled, and nicely enough it was. Simple enough command from an elevated cmd prompt "fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify", and if it returns 0, then trim is enabled for your system. Whether your device supports it or not is something you'll have to make sure of with your manufacturer. Mine as far as I can tell does.

So, keeping the old drive and the backup on standby and we'll see how long this disk lasts and whether or not it keeps me happy. For almost $200, I think it's a fairly decent upgrade. Considering how much more responsive my laptop is, I think it will be worth the price, provided the drive doesn't fall into the early death that I hear several have already.

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