My best computer upgrade, evah

The solid state hard drive comes of age

I spend a lot of time at my PC, and I use quite a number of programs in my tasks at keeping WUWT updated. I use browsers, word editors, PDF viewers, paint programs, graphing programs, Google Earth, and an MP3 recorder/editor for my daily radio forecasts. My PC gets a real workout daily.

With so much to do, I’ve noted that I get impatient just waiting on things to load these days. And so after some trepidation and research, I took the plunge and bought myself a solid state hard disk replacement for my Windows 7 HP slimline desktop in hopes it would speed my tasks. I’m happy to report the results significantly exceeded my expectations and I thought WUWT readers could benefit from my experience. Every one of my readers has a computer, so what better post could I make than something that shows them how to be happier using it?

My experience with flash memory has been so-so so far. Some USB flash drives I’ve tried stop working after a while. An SSD I tried a year ago didn’t give very good performance on small file sizes, and the MTBF wasn’t that great, so I sent it back. I’m glad I waited until now.

My research led me to choose the Kingston SSD Now V 100 128GB SSD drive. I only had about 60GB in use out of my 500GB drive, so I could choose a smaller SSD that didn’t cost a fortune. Prices have been plummeting. I looked at drives from Intel, OCZ, Supertalent, and Crucial, and decided the Kingston drive offered the best bang for the buck – plus it comes with a nearly idiot proof program I’m familiar with -Acronis, which re-images your mechanical hard drive to the SSD.

Kingston advertises this as “the ultimate upgrade” on the box, a pretty bold statement.

Here’s the desktop upgrade kit I bought from Amazon (image from the manufacturer):

Installation was pretty simple and went like this:

  1. Powered down, opened up the case, gave it a good cleaning for dust bunnies.
  2. Plugged in the SSD drive SATA cable to a spare SATA port on the motherboard.
  3. Plugged in the power cable for the SSD to a spare Molex power connector from the power supply.
  4. Left the system open on the table with the SSD sitting to the side on the tabletop, powered it all up.
  5. I put in the CD ROM provided by Kingston, which the system booted the Acronis OS loader from automatically.
  6. Followed the dirt simple on-screen instructions. Decided to be brave and choose the “automatic” setting for the Acronis software. Crossed my fingers.
  7. Waited about 15 minutes, it was done. It offered to make a backup recovery CD for me, which I accepted, that was done in about 5 minutes.
  8. I powered down, and pulled out my old hard drive. Dang it was warm. No wonder I had to add the second fan to my case.
  9. I attached the 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter rails to the new Kingston SSD, put it in the drive bay in place of the old hard disk.
  10. Closed up the case, powered up, kept my fingers crossed.
  11. To my complete surprise and satisfaction, the Windows 7 desktop booted in 15 seconds! And even better, there was no driver angst, no reboots asked for, nothing. It just worked.
  12. What was really wild was that the Windows startup sound didn’t have time to finish before the “logged in and ready” sound played. It got truncated. That was a first.
  13. I opened up Firefox, no wait, zero, none, nada; it was just there.

All of my apps now load nearly instantly. I could not be more pleased. My Dual core Athlon X2 processor is now the weakest link in my Windows experience index:

You know you really have something when your “hard disk” is faster than your 800 MHz DDR2 RAM in the performance index.

I ran HD Tune benchmarks on it…as father Frank used to say on “Everybody Loves Raymond” TV show, HOLY CRAP!

Not quite to the 250 MB/s rating on the box, but I’m betting some of that had to do with my CPU loading, which is now the weakest link.

The drive I replaced, a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 had this HD Tune result for performance:

Which is why it now sits on my desktop, forlorn, pretty much useless:

I gotta tell you, the results of this upgrade are spectacular.

  • Power up boot time ~18 seconds
  • Restart soft boot time ~15 seconds
  • Time from Desktop to Sleep Mode ~ 5 seconds
  • Time from Sleep mode to running Desktop ~5 seconds

I no longer need the extra case fan, which I’ve unplugged (my wife says it was loud but I can’t hear it, but then again I’m nearly deaf ) since the case runs way cooler now. My CPU core temp also reduced since it no longer has ambient heat from the mechanical drive to deal with in the case.

Minus the mechanical HD and the case fan, total PC power consumption according to my 120VAC “Kill-a-Watt” power meter dropped about 29 watts from where it used to be, because the SSD uses about 6 watts power in operation, and 1 watt standby. That’s 29 watts less heat to dissipate. In a small PC case like I have, it’s significantly cooler.

If you are looking to upgrade your computer, whether it be Windows, Mac, or Linux based, I’m convinced this Kingston SSD is the best investment you can make. Here’s the specs (PDF).

Available in 64GB, 96GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB sizes, these high-performance SSDs are equipped with MLC NAND flash memory chips, a SATA 3.0 Gbps interface, a MTBF of 1 million hours and an improved controller offering up to 25 percent better performance that the original SSDNow V series. Not to mention, they’ve also adopted the ‘Always On’ Garbage Collection technology, which Kingston says will cleanse redundant data from the drive to prevent performance degradation and maintains the drive over its life cycle.

If you have a laptop, that Kingston upgrade kit is even more useful, because they give you an external USB case to continue to use your old hard drive in, just costing slightly more than the desktop kit:


I got mine from Amazon.com which has the best deals going that I found. I had it 2 days after ordering. If you have the cash, this upgrade is (IMHO) well worth the time and investment. With a 3 year warranty and a million hour (11.4 years!) Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF), lightning speed, and ultra low power, how could you go wrong? The Acronis disk cloning software will clone your disk no matter if it is Windows, Mac OSX, Or Linux, it just works.

Here’s a video review on the product:

I predict that in about 2 years or less, SSD’s will begin to dominate the market. For now, it’s a great way to double or triple the operational performance of your existing PC. I realize many WUWT readers might not be early technology adoption fans like I am, but this product is really ready for prime-time.

If you are interested in getting one, here’s links to the two upgrade kits at discounted prices:

Desktop Upgrade Kit

Laptop Upgrade Kit

Some people might need more storage, and in that case you could get one of these to boot the OS from to get the performance, and use the older hard disk for media or offline storage.

Either way, I can’t ever see myself going back to a mechanical hard drive now, I’m spoiled.

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124 thoughts on “My best computer upgrade, evah

  1. If you think they’re great for desktops, they’re ten times better for laptops – because with laptops you have a dozen or two utilities that load along with Windows making all of the funky laptop hardware usable. Boot times (from “pushing the power button” to “logged in and ready for use”) are typically between 1/5 and 1/10 as long after you’re done. I don’t even bother with hibernation mode anymore – shutting down and restarting is actually faster.

  2. I recently upgraded my Asus N10Jc with an SSD and never looked back – the only noise coming from it now is the CPU/GPU cooling fan and that’s almost silent anyway.

    Regards.

  3. web link to purchases..

    REPLY: That’s only for the bare drive, and if you have no cloning software, and/or drive rail adapters, you can find yourself SOL. See the two links I provide in the story for the kits. – Anthony

  4. Mac Users:
    I don’t work for them, but have had a similar experience with the Mac-optimized setups from Macsales.com.

    They also have the 3.5″ adaptor and I have a 120 gig unit powering my PowerMac 6cpu 3.33ghz machine. Boot times are sub-15 seconds. Launching Final Cut Pro is two bounces. Motion is a single bounce. Most other apps are sub-1 bounce.

    I get over 200fps h.264 encoding with Handbrake from my 1080p ProRes files.

    Do yourself a favor and go SSD.

  5. Having been in the industry for many years, I have seen several replacements for hard drives come and go the most memorable being bubble memory. I did read the specs but I am unsure these drives will handle a large number of writes without failure. They may say the drives are more reliable because they will survive impacts better than an old style hard drive. As long as you use that old hard drive for regular backups I see no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of the new technology.

  6. I’ve been considering this as an interim solution for my current computer problems (boots up fairly fast, but lags on certain applications), so thanks for posting this. My long term solution will eventually be Racetrack memory and a replacement for my motherboard to Sandy Bridge or something similar.

  7. I expected to find it cost a bundle, but the price is only a bit over $225. Not bad. Now I just have to figure out how to get someone to buy one for me.

  8. Nothing like the enthusiam of a recent convert. ;)

    I went SSD on my laptop a few months back. . .but now the laptop died last week and has been replaced (HP Envy 17) with one with a much larger mechanical HDD. But it will take a second HDD, so perhaps after a bit (enough panic-stricken rushing around over the old laptop dying for the moment, thankyouverymuch) I’ll put the SSD (it’s fine) in the new laptop too.

  9. I’ve been considering going the SSD route, but I’m waiting for better prices (or until that check from Big Oil arrives). I have plenty of data files that would probably still fill the current state of the art SSD capacity, but I suppose one option is to install the OS on a SSD and keep a hard drive for data files. I seem to recall hearing about “hybrid” SSD/hard drives, that combine the two technologies in one package. Not sure if that gives you a significant advantage, though.

  10. Thanks for the informative review. It’s great to get an opinion on tech gear from someone who is a user rather than someone who does reviews regularly. I Will look at this to upgrade my notebook. I am curious as to how much more battery life I will get using the SSD.

    REPLY: Well, I plan to upgrade my laptop next, and find that out too! Stay tuned. – Anthony

  11. Got a 64GB version a year ago for a mini itx system I assembled w/Ubuntu OS. I nearly cried when I saw the boot time. These things are worth the extra cash.

  12. Nice to see a device that makes something about real PC bottleneck – HDD.

    “You know you really have something when your “hard disk” is faster than your 800 MHz DDR2 RAM in the performance index.”

    You can’t compare speeds of these two. Sure Microsoft doesn’t.

    CPU – MHz, SSD – MBps

  13. Well that’s pretty cool, Anthony. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for my old TI-99. I lost my cherry to it in 1981. :)

  14. I think it would be a good idea to put your old drive in as a backup, but set the Windows power settings to spin it down after a few minutes without use. You could then backup any changed files once per day or per hour.

    Do SSDs still have the problem that they fail after about 10,000 writes to the same address?

  15. When I updated my gaming rig from a WD VelociRaptor mechanical drive to an SSD, the change was incredible! Zoning in Oblivion was so fast that there was no time to read the text in the cut scenes. Zoning in EQ2 was so fast that I was always the first in my group to zone by seconds.

    My next SSD will be the PCIe cards that are coming out as the PCIe slots are directly connected to the system bus, no more SATA latency!

    Check em out, PCIe SSDs are twice as fast in read and write as SATA SSDs and priced now about where SATA SSDs were a couple years ago.

    Don’t forget to use your old mechanical drive for your page file, no sense contending with application data on the SSD SATA controller.

  16. Thanks for the heads up Anthony.
    I managed to track it down in Australia and it’s available via a couple of online stores DStore and Getprice but they want $312 – $351 for it. Kingston Australia want $361.

    With the Aussie dollar at pretty well parody price (i.e US$1 = AUD99c) Amazon’s $231 plus postage looks like a pretty good deal.

  17. I went with the OCZ Vertex 2 for the desktop because of reliability and am planning on using the Intel X25-M for the tablet because it only draws about 75 mA idle current, which is, I believe, the lowest idle current available.

  18. My teenage son has a notebook with no mechanical drives whatsoever. It has no CD, no DVD and no hard drive. It runs on a version of Linux that only occupies 3.2 GB of memory including all the application programs.

    However, the performance of his flash drive is much less than yours (I am not going to mention the manufacturer but it is not Kingston).

    Thanks for a great piece of advice. I plan to upgrade my other computers with Kingston drives.

  19. I’ve looked at these drives and although they perform well the capacities just aren’t high enough for my needs. I need a minimum 750Gb, with 1Tb being the better option for me (I build, run and store VMWare virtual machines and need lots of space). However, having recently had 1 each of Seagate’s 7200.10 and .11 drives fail due to head crashes, I’m tempted.

    Good info, thanks Anthoney.

  20. I have an SSD and regular HD on my Linux laptop. I put /tmp, swap, and /home on the regular HD to minimize writes to the SSD. SSD supposedly are good for 10,000 writes. Which is a long time if you use it for the OS and apps. In linux it is easy to put apps on one drive (SSD) and your work/data on the hardrive. Also, make sure the kernel has TRIM for the SSD. Latest Ubuntu does. Also, disable the write cache, that will actually improve performance.

    REPLY: That supposed 10K write limit is old news/old tech. Kingston couldn’t offer a 3 year warranty with that limit, they would go broke. – Anthony

  21. I went with an 80 GB SSD for my new i7 quad-core workstation 18 months ago; for just the ”C” drive. That earlier model SSD can’t match the price/performace of the latest Kingston product Anthony installed, but overall pretty much same perceived performance improvement as he reported, and no problems so far. Can’t imagine I’d ever have the patience to go back to the ”old” hard drive technology for the ”C” drive; SSD spoiled me.

    But I stayed with RAID1 mirrored 1 TB Western Digital hard drives for my ”D” drive; for cost-capacity reasons. If you have huge amounts of data that’s still pretty attractive. A couple weeks ago Amazon was selling top-quality 1.5 TB WD hard drives for $70 each; that’s hard to beat. . .

  22. Installed an Intel 80GB SSD into my old ASUS netbook over Christmas. Took me about a day to reinstall Win7, drivers and applications, but I am very happy with the improvement in performance. A highly recommended upgrade.

  23. I have to say I’m kind of disappointed with my SSDs. I have one in my MythTV frontend and one in my netbook and they just about halved the boot time, but most of the time the computers aren’t booting or starting new applications from disk, so for that time the SSD is really not providing any benefit other than slightly lower power consumption. And the downside is that they have a limited number of write cycles, so I’ve had to configure both machines to put all their temporary files in RAM.

    And with some new games taking 30+GB, 128GB does not last long anymore.

  24. I put together a new desktop machine this summer and went with an SSD for my boot drive as well as most programs (OCZ Agility 2 – 64 GB) and a standard 1 TB HDD for my data (I process a ton of video). Best of both worlds; I get super fast booting and program startup and can save tons of data.

    I considered a RAID 1 setup of (2) SSD’s for booting but it simply wasn’t necessary…

  25. For the price of one 128GB SSD I can buy two 2TB HDD. On the Hiatchi HDD my computer cold boots in under 10 seconds. I’d recommend you run disk clean and defragmentation on a regular basis to keep your speeds up. Not to mention using some solid anti virus. You can stack these three programs(free) together:

    AVG
    Avast
    MalwareBytes

    Last week I cleaned up a friends machine which took ten minutes on a cold boot. Now it boots up in 12 seconds, and it’s a 5 year old refurbished laptop.

    I’m not dissing the SDD technology. Just saying that their are other ways to get the most performance out of your machine without spending a dime.

  26. I’ve been quite excited about SSDs for a while and nearly purchased a new computer a few months ago with that in mind. I imagine their widespread use will greatly reduce the need for computer repair (less heat, less moving parts, less power supply problems, etc).

    With the stagnation of processor improvements this is certainly one of the best steps a person can take to get more performance out of their PC.

  27. Anthony,
    I went to the link you posted and there was only one customer review for this product (1 star). Need to post your review to Amazon.

  28. “That supposed 10K write limit is old news/old tech. Kingston couldn’t offer a 3 year warranty with that limit, they would go broke.”

    It’s still true on the cheaper MLC SSDs. But the disks will remap writes so that if you write to the same logical block 10,000 times it will write to different physical blocks… ultimately though you can only write about 10,000 times the capacity of the disk before it dies, and writing a single byte to a file can potentially result in a few kilobytes of writes to the SSD as it moves things around.

    I believe the SLC SSDs handle 100,000+ writes, but are several times as expensive.

  29. i think one of those $30 HDD docking stations would be useful in a situation like this…then you can pick from a number of free imaging programs as well as Acronis and make several backups before imaging and installing to the SSD….also allows you to do a much better job scanning for malware on a removed drive rather than one that is currently running an OS and trying to scan itself…

  30. “…early technology adoption fans like I am…”

    The technology is older than an iphone. I doubt that counts as being an early adopter :).

  31. And oh yeah, if you are looking to keep the heat down in your computer in a silent fashion, the cooler I’m using for my processor is the bomb. It’s a water cooled unit from COOL It called the ECO ALC and it works like you wouldn’t believe. Quiet as heck and it keeps my idle temp at 7 degrees C above ambient and at full load only 30 degrees C above ambient. Great product and it’s quiet as heck.

  32. You can put the standard hard drive back in the computer for secondary storage. As long as your operating system, cache, applications, and temporary directories are on the solid state drive, you won’t see any degradation in performance. Use the old drive to store video, music, and any other large files that aren’t critical. Keep your important business and family documents, pictures and movies on the SSD because it’s more stable, but don’t forget to back them up to cd/dvd frequently. Better safe than sorry.

  33. Like Kath above…I got an 80GB SSD on my Asus (although a pc) when my 1TB drive had a catastrophic failure after only 6 months. The spinning drive was replaced under warranty and the SSD is now the main drive. My stats are about the same as Anthony’s. Best computer upgrade I’ve done in years. Highly recommended.

  34. Keep the operating system and program files on the SSD.
    Use the old hard drive, or a new, cheap, fast, capacious hard drive, for your files: documents, pics, articles, etc. If the SSD ever failed, all of your documents are on a hard drive, ready to be read by another machine, or as mentioned, a hard drive dock.

    Page file: your page file gets accessed a lot; the computer can only be hitting a drive at one time for something – so the page file on either the operating system SSD drive, or the media hard drive will make things a bit slow. A way to get more boost for a few more dollars is to have the page file located to a CF drive plugged into an adapter that plugs into one of the computer’s IDE connections. You can google the instructions for how to do all of this. note that moving the page file to another drive will likely require selecting the option to move it to another drive, plus the option to NOT have it on the c drive. Good instructions will include both of these easy but necessary steps. Cf cards are not very expensive. Your page file might be 2 gb to 8gb. you just need CF for this size. The adapter might be abt $15.

    finally: unless you work at East Anglia U or U Va, back things up regularly.

  35. Thanks for the review Anthony. I’m tempted to replace my laptop HDD with a SSD primarily to get more run time off batteries when I’m traveling. The main concern I have is the limited number of write cycles and will have to look at the size of the SSD RAM cache as well as seeing if I can get WinXP to minimize disk writes. I’ve got an 80 Gb HDD in my laptop now and expand storage by using USB flash drives and SD cards.

    The only concern I have with SSD’s is data retention and risk of losing data when they go through airport xray machines. I’d still use the hibernate feature on my laptop as setting up all the programs I want available to me takes a lot longer than just booting up the machine. Will definitely look into this option.

    On another tip you made in a previous post, DPlot is one of the best graphing programs that I’ve seen in a long time and is well worth the $195 price tag. Have been very happy with it and being able to script it from VB makes it even more useful.

  36. I have a Lenovo Think Pad T510 with a solid state drive and I agree, best system I have ever owned and it is the SSD that makes the difference. Turn off file “indexing”, you aren’t going to need it with a solid state drive and it reduces the number of writes (no need to keep file index up to date).

    There are a few other tweaks worth making, you can find lots via google, but turning off filesystem indexing is the most important one.

  37. About 10 months ago I went with the Intel 160 GB SSD and moved from XP to Windows 7 at the same time.

    Huge improvement.

    Yes, most people tend to say that SSD’s are the best improvement you can make.

    And it is!

  38. One key thing: backups. Have some external device and make backups regularly. USB, eSata, network, etc. Everything will break, eventually. I use a network RAID system that all my computers can access. Not as fast as USB 2 (or three) but easy to use. Takes a couple minutes per day. And an 8mm tape to back that up. (OK, I’m paranoid) I keep my entire business on my desktop and it would be ‘painful’ to lose any of it.

    “There are those who make backups. And those who wish they had.”

  39. “The technology is older than an iphone. I doubt that counts as being an early adopter :).”

    Thinking about it, we were running Windows 3.1 off an SSD around 1990, and then it really did make the OS fly compared to a hard drive.

    However, that only held 128MB, cost about $50,000, and lost all the data when you turned it off because it was RAM rather than flash. It was mostly intended to be used as a swap drive in minicomputers where it was a lot cheaper than buying 128MB of RAM from the manufacturer.

  40. Hope this SSD design wasn’t based on any scientific research. I expect not, it will almost certainly be designed based on common sense principles. Don’t know why they weren’t produced centuries ago if it comes to that.

  41. We have been using these at work for about two years. Different reason, though. We have a distributed control system that is running on 486 desktops. Hard drives are no longer available for these at a reasonable cost. The drives we have been using are 500Mb and are literally mounted on an IDE connector. Fortunately, the last of that system is being replaced next month. I know where a bunch of operable 486 computers will be available as government excess if anyone is interested.

  42. Fer shure, backups. Keep the old spinner and get a freebie backup program from Snapfiles.com. The SyncBack program works for me.

    If you run the case fan off the red 5 volt line (yellow is 12 volt), it will run a lot more quietly.
    Hard drives do run hot, but is not to worry. Google, which buys hard drives in lots of 100,000, did a study on hard drive failures and concluded it was age, not heat or activity that does them in.

    http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/labs.google.com/en/us/papers/disk_failures.pdf

    Built myself a new AMD dual-core mainframe for Christmas, and the o.c. motherboard unlocked the other two cores. Much better than a lump of coal in the stocking. USB 3.0, too.

    I plan to use it to convert the GISS Model E into an iPhone app.

  43. Power up boot time ~18 seconds

    I have an old 1.8 GHz P4 with 512 MB RAM and 20 GB ATA IDE HDD – and it beats this. Well, it runs Linux, not Windows; but if it can boot Ubuntu in ~15 seconds, probably it could get close to 10 with some slimmer Linux distro.

    The only downside of Linux I’m aware of is the lack of a decent pinball game. :)

  44. I’ve heard the SSD’s can lose files or not live long enough, but apart from that they are pretty fast.

  45. Thomas says:
    January 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    i hear they’re good at storing raw climate data

    Does Hadley CRU know about this?

    LOL. Very funny.

    I remember in 1967 when my Geometry teacher Mr. Jefferies told us about this exciting new technology called floppy drives. Made my knees quiver. Wanted so bad to have my own computer. At the time I was learning Basic on a teletype timesharing system and time stood still as I played with the circuit modeling modules. I would compare the software results with the circuits I was building in the Physics lab. None of the teachers knew what I was doing, but was left alone to play with the yellowcake uranium sample and the mercury in a flask. One of the other assistants was a very cute brunette who had taught herself Tolkien’s Elvish and would write long messages on the brown hand towel rolls with blue poster paint and a brush from art class.

    Ah, a misspent youth…

    For really neat back up stuff, check out https://www.dropbox.com/

    Regards to all.

  46. I used a flash device as boot HD for an optical spectrum analyzer that I designed. It’s very quick indeed. Noting compares to it, but if you want backup reliability I still have some doubts about.
    The floating gates of the flash device are still sensitive to high electrostatic discharges.
    Just to say, AFAIK flash never passed the mil specification for EM reliability, even if some last generation shielded USB flash drives seem to comply the US MIL-SPEC standards for battlefield use.
    About 8 years ago, I had a flash device half deleted due to a strong electromagnetic pulse induced by a three-phase active power compensator which failed.
    Anyways, I agree with your prediction that in about 2 years SSD’s will begin to dominate the market, because it depends on the many pros and few cons.

    Massimo

  47. Oh finally i can be of use round here as this is my day job, oh wait you’ve already done a good job. I’ll go back to keeping quite in the corner while you bring some of the 21st centuries liars, cheats and miscreants down a peg or ten.

    keep up the good tech skillz.

  48. NOOOOOOO !

    SSDs are a terrible idea if you are still running Windows XP.

    In Windows 7, SSDs work great, but the way the memory is written to and erased (or more correctly not erased), leads the drives to slow down terribly once all the cells are written to. SSD manufacturers came up with way to control this using the operating system – call the TRIM command, which does block erases. Windows XP does not have this in the opreating system. The result is – after a few months, you will notice the computer slow down because the computer sees that the SSD is full, and Windows XP does not handle this well.

    Like I said – Windows 7 has the TRIM function, and SSDs work perfectly. But if you still have Windows XP, putting in a SSD is a very bad idea (unless you get a really expensive SLC type instead of the cheaper MLC type)

  49. No of hours in a year = 365 * 24 = 8760

    MTBF = 1,000,000 hours

    1,000,000/8760 = 114 years

    Is that for real?

  50. Jack Simmons>

    “For really neat back up stuff, check out https://www.dropbox.com/

    I wouldn’t, if I were you. Their security is hopelessly bad. At most, use it for things where privacy is entirely inessential, and use a unique password bearing no relation to any of your others. They’re going to be another Gawker.

  51. I used a 32Gb SSD a few months ago (they were more expensive then!), and now I have a Windows Server 2008 64 bit Domain Controller that consumes just 17 watts when running. And has no moving parts whatever.

    Now that’s a lower-power computer.

    Pleased I am.

  52. Now WUWT is combining two of my favorite interests! SSDs are indeed coming of age, and the best possible upgrade you can find for almost any computer. As gg comments above, though, they work better with Win 7 (or at least Vista SP1).

  53. Anthony,

    1. Congratulations.

    2. The cheaper performance upgrade is usually a matter of more RAM. A minmum of 4G with memory hogs like Win7 and gooey-intensive *nix. 8G is easy on a modern desktop machine.

    3. Don’t use swap under *nix or pagefile under Windows. You can turn them off if you have plenty of RAM. You’d never want to be paging to swap/pagefile on a regular basis anyway: It sucks dirty swamp-water through a straw.

    4. Get an external housing (eSATA if your computer has a plug for it or simply USB) for your “old” HDD and use the Acronis software to do backups on a regular basis. All storage media fails eventually. Detach the HDD when not doing backups and put it in a safe place away from the computer.

    5. The writing was on the wall for high-performance HDD when Fusion-IO released their first ioDrive – a PCIe card that’s 10 to 50 times faster than what can go through a single SATA connection. They are still quite expensive, the high-performance ones based on SLC SSD which is more durable; but if you have a database that’s doing terabytes of writes every day, the SSD is much cheaper than an array of HDD with similar throughput rates. And it consumes about 1% of the power. And it is silent and more tolerant of high temperatures.

    6. Flash memory technology as non-volatile RAM looks like being integrated into mainboards in a way similar to RAM sticks (there’s a JEDEC working group, IIRC)… if you want some, there’ll be a socket on the mainboard with IO at around a gigabyte a second. Modern hardware and operating systems cope with NUMA (non-uniform memory architecture) fairly well, so the blockiness of IO to flash isn’t a problem.

    7. Integration of non-volatile memory closes the circle in computing technology. Computers used to have “core” to store programs and to use as second-level memory. HDDs will take the role of tapes of yore, relinquished to archival and bulk data storage, as well as (somewhat fragile) backups.

  54. Flashback memory. In the mid 70s I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) as the guy bringing in the ‘new’ 100 MB disk technology for the PDP-10 timesharing computers. The 100 MB disk drive was the size of a washing machine, and the removeable media was a heavy stack of disks a foot high and 18″ wide. Engineers were amazed that 8 of these could be chained together to get almost one gigabyte, an amount of storage that nobody would ever need. :)

  55. For boot-up speed it is much cheaper to open msconfig.exe and remove all boot-time junk.

    REPLY: Yes, been there done that, but my main issue is with application loading and images that I work with. – Anthony

  56. “Frank Brus says:
    January 9, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks for the informative review. It’s great to get an opinion on tech gear from someone who is a user rather than someone who does reviews regularly. I Will look at this to upgrade my notebook. I am curious as to how much more battery life I will get using the SSD.”

    Not sure if anyone has replied, but I have a 120GB SSD in my laptop and the biggest improvement is weight/battery life. I have only a 4-cell battery but still get over 3 hours use on WiFi (with a 14.1″ screen and CD-ROM etc.) A 6-cell battery option is available rated as 5-6 hours, but this increases the weight. Boot-up seems fast, but since I also went from XP to Windows 7, comparison is a bit difficult. Also very quiet since no fan (be careful if you go for a high-end graphics card as these can end up generating a lot of heat which may not be dissipated in a small machine).

    At the time I bought this (December ’09) the SSD was a major increase in price, but since I travel a lot with the my notebook, I felt it was justified and still feel that way. I have seen recent articles suggesting even main-stream arrays can get a big boost in performance by putting commonly accessed files onto SSD and then going for larger spinning disks for storage. I think the bottom line is that the larger HDD (500GB and above) can be somewhat slow (in relative terms) – something apparently noted by manufacturers who are adding large chunks of flash RAM to the high end models (cache sizes are now up to 4GB).

    Have fun!

  57. Just before Christmas, one of the component drives in the RAID array in my 4 year old HP died gracefully. When I went to the Best Buy, I did notice both the SSD and hybrid SSD units. However, since I plan on a new desktop in a year, I opted for two slightly larger conventional drives, costing about $100 total. Using my existing Acronis software, it took about 30 minutes from cracking the case to going back to work. However, if the WIN7 upgrade to my laptop goes well, I will definitely opt for a SSD.

    Oddly, the holdup on the WIN7 upgrade is caused by Acronis. The latest version of True Image is the only one which supports WIN7 fully. I have found that it is buggy, and the “new and improved” user interface makes some very basic operations nearly impossible. Acronis has saved my bacon too many times to put myself in a position where I can’t use it.

  58. “… if you have a database that’s doing terabytes of writes every day, the SSD is much cheaper than an array of HDD with similar throughput rates.”

    I dunno. Last I heard, the SSDs still started to have reliability problems after around a million writes — which is a lot for an ordinary PC, but only a couple of years or less for a volatile database. Keep those backups handy…

  59. All you poor fools who give business to Microsloth are paving the way for a disgusting new globalist eugenics plan to “eliminate 80% of the world’s population”.

    Bill Gates talks about putting vaccines in mosquitos and reducing world population in the same sentence. Figure it out, people… connect a dot for once… by using these inferior Microsloth products you are not only costing yourself a significant penalty in computer down-time and hassles, but you’re actually funding your own demise! Help destroy the New World Order by boycotting:

    • Microsloth
    • Google / YouTube
    • Facebook
    • MySpace
    • Yahoo

    And most importantly, do not allow Obaaama to pass his new Internet ID. Once this is passed, free speech is gone for good.

  60. I’d always said that adding more mem to the PeeCee was useless as a speedup. Since the advent of 1988’s Commodore Amiga’s fast, reset-proof and memory-chip based “RAD” drive, I predicted flash drives would become the norm and, here we are. A faster drive on the heavily disk-based PeeCee is always going to be faster than adding mem. Well done Anthony.

  61. Some notes on my experience with SSD:

    – They are reliable, though I backup as usual.

    – They provide a performance boost above and beyond maxing out your RAM. I had 12GB of RAM and would still suffer with “thrashing” slowdowns, or outright hangs for several minutes. Those are gone.

    – Boot/login performance is much much better. The minute I can see the desktop, it’s usable. Used to be even if I could manage to launch a program from the start menu right after boot, it’d take 30 seconds before it would actually appear. Now everything is nearly instantaneous (at most a few seconds).

    – Don’t listen to the guy telling you to disable your pagefile in Windows. Microsoft experts recommend against this, and I think they know what they are talking about. Just make sure your pagefile is on your SSD – or even better, on a different SSD.

  62. The biggest nod in favour of SSDs for me is that they run cooler and with a fraction of the watts needed for a “traditional” HD. This makes them appealing for use in sailboats (a personal interest) where they can be the storage on mini-ITX or pico-ITX motherboards that can be essentially “black boxed” down to the size of a paperback or so and stowed, fanless, inside the navigation station, safe from weather and from the corrosive effects of salt air, which the usual case fans in laptops or desktops merely makes worse. The low power draw is also desirable considering that a sailboat underway must make every amp and watt from sun, wind or alternator.

    They are (or should be) more resistant to shocks as well, and a sailboat in heavy weather can vibrate, twist and thump in all the major axes, making the running of an OS from a HD problematic. PCs on sailboats are used in place of chart plotters and for running SSB radio communications, obtaining weather charts, etc., as well as the usual file keeping a floating office would require. The computing needs are low…a typical 2005 business laptop could handle everything, so even the better sort of netbook would suffice today. I rigged a USB “puck” style GPS to my Asus netbook a few days ago and downloaded some NOAA nav charts…voila! I now have a one-kilo, $300 plotter that does mail, YouTube, browsing and OpenOffice. (“Dedicated” plotters run $1000-$5000, by contrast). And I can keep every chart NOAA has on a $15 flash drive.

    SSDs are an intriguing advance and certainly worthy of consideration both today and down the road. Whether they will be as durable and cheap as HDs, I don’t know. For certain machines and a large number of situations, they don’t have to be, as people will want in certain form factors a decent screen and longevity over rapid file transfer and huge storage capacities. Data will in many situations be “outsourced” and will not necessarily reside in the device.

  63. Bernd>

    “3. Don’t use swap under *nix or pagefile under Windows. You can turn them off if you have plenty of RAM. You’d never want to be paging to swap/pagefile on a regular basis anyway: It sucks dirty swamp-water through a straw.”

    The first half of that is a common myth. Windows handles page files pretty well, and has done since at least XP. If it doesn’t need to page out to disk, it won’t. The second half is true, but then again, if you need to page to disk, it’s faster than not being able to do so.

    In general, what Windows actually does is page out stuff that isn’t used, which for most users is most of the Windows overhead. If it doesn’t need to be accessed, it never gets paged back in.

  64. Pretty pricey though. I can get 2 TB for less than the 220 USD that would cost me. Have you ever thought of upgrading to a real OS instead and dumping Windoze?

  65. Caveats:

    Windows 7 is recommended. Vista needs some system features turned off otherwise it’ll wear out the SSD early due to a limited number of write cycles. In particular demand paging and disk defragmentation need to be turned off as these result in excessive writes to the disk.

    Get about twice the maximum amount of storage you expect to need. SSD’s main advantage is there no latency due to head stepping i.e. positioning the read/write head on the proper track and then waiting for the platter to spin to the right location. The downside of an SSD is erase time which is glacial. To get around the abysmal erase time instead of writing new data over old data the SSD must write the new data to an already erased and ready-to-write region. A background task runs that goes along and erases stale data to keep a constant supply of ready-to-write regions. If the SSD is starved for space i.e. this becomes more difficult.

    Windows 7 will automatically turn off demand paging for an SSD. Demand paging manages RAM such that when RAM space is running short it keeps track of what RAM resident stuff is being hit a lot and which isn’t then swaps the least frequently used RAM data out to disk to make room for more active data. With demand paging turned off it becomes very important to have lots of RAM in the system so as to avoid out-of-RAM situations.

    With those caveats in mind then it’s just a matter of cost-performance benefits. SSD is 5x – 10x more expensive than magnetic disk and you need more of it to ensure you don’t get premature failures and performance hits from not enough pre-erased regions available during intense activity.

    Just as a side note I designed hardware and software for the first hard disk cache for the IBM PC over 25 years ago and over 30 years ago the first RAM-disk for a personal computer. Those were the good old days when a lone wolf like me could do big things on a shoestring budget in a small lab.

  66. Ah, nothing beats the feeling when you get something cool and new that works better than you expected it to!

  67. Tripod says:
    January 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Anthony, The Amazon site has one very negative customer report each for a desktop and a laptop. Look forward to your hearing how your SSD performs long term.

    P.S. Could fitting SSDs save the planet from imminent destruction?

  68. I think Tom’s Hardware did a project like this about 6 months ago.
    What they did is use the SSD as a home for the operating system (windows 7).
    You want to keep ever changing data off of the SSD because they (flash memory) have
    a limited number of write cycles. Also do not use the SSD for the virtual memory cache as the performance will deteriorate over time.

  69. You are turning into a real geek there dude! Next you will load up Ubuntu and make the switch :)

    REPLY: I already run Ubuntu and Slackware on other projects, but prefer Win7 for my blogging machine at home due to wide compatibility with almost everything in the the wild – Anthony

  70. Sounds like a neat bit of kit, but oh dear, look at the Amazon review for the 2.5″ laptop version!
    “By
    Biztekguy – See all my reviews
    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Kingston SSDNow V100 128GB SATA II 3GB/s 2.5 Inch Notebook Bundle SV100S2N/128GZ (Electronics)
    SSD drives promised to be the answer for my sales team, who wanted an instant-on solution for their laptops. The drives also gave me greater confidence than the I had with mechanical drives. So I bought three of these Kingston drives.

    The imaging kit made the transfer a breeze and the new drives were up and running in less than an hour.

    Within two weeks of installation, two of the drives failed catastrophically with no warning. In each case, the users merely shut down and rebooted. Upon reboot, there was no hard drive found. I’m not going to wait for the third one to fail. I’m replacing it with another brand.

    Kingston tech support and warranty repair proudly noted that their drives only fail 1% of the time. In the IT world, that is unacceptably high. My experience of 66.6% is a disaster.

    http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-SSDNow-Notebook-SV100S2N-128GZ/product-reviews/B004BDORMY/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

  71. Prior comment mentioned using Acronis True Image Home (TIH) with Win7. I used to be an Acronis user too, BUT: When I went to RAID1 mirrored discs for my ”D” drive after install SSD ”C” drive, on checking with Acronis tech support was told that TIH does NOT support RAID1. Bummer. . . OTOH, I’ve found that bundled Win7 backup is ”good enough” for my purposes; supports all the backups I need to do.

  72. I have my SSD ready to install, along with a switch to 64 bit Windows-7. I restricted mytself to just a 64 Gig SSD; enough for Windows, Norton-360, and PhotoShop.

    Back in the days of Word Perfect, and 5 1/4 inch 360 K floppy disks, I had seven megs of “above board” RAM, and my system was set up to load WP or whatever else I was using into RAM, and run it from there. The only thing you could use “above board” RAM for anyway, was a phantom drive. Lotus 1-2-3 screwed all that up with their silly copy protection, so I couldn’t copy Lotus 123 fromt he floppies to the ramdrive; so I ditched lotus for a competitor that let me do that.

  73. About the Kingston SSD low reliability experienced by the Amazon reviewer, I guess it’s due to the “Enhanced Write Filter” like algorithm used to extend the MTBF of those devices.
    AFAIK, to avoid frequent writes to the flash memory, which would lead to a premature departure of the flash, the write operations are diverted to an embedded RAM buffer and discharged in flash periodically.
    If you remove the power supply while one of that data transfer is not performed and the data are still into the ram buffer, the flash disk could be corrupted and the disk could need a new formatting.

    Massimo

    • I have two 500 Gb drives in exactly that situation . . mind you I also have a failed 1Tb disc drive that has failed in the same manner for the same reason ( we have lots of power cuts here ).

  74. Dave Springer says:
    January 10, 2011 at 7:32 am
    Just as a side note I designed hardware and software for the first hard disk cache for the IBM PC over 25 years ago . . .

    When IBM announced their new PC, we ordered one; I think in October of ‘81. It took until March of the following year before it arrived and was up and running. We added a small harddrive (Miniscribe of Longmont, CO) later and with instellation the cost of that, alone, was $500. That was about the same as the PC XT. The MiniScribe story is interesting (fraud!); see

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniScribe

  75. REPLY: That supposed 10K write limit is old news/old tech. Kingston couldn’t offer a 3 year warranty with that limit, they would go broke. – Anthony

    I was under that impression as well, and was going to ask. But googled it instead. I was pleasantly surprised to read that those early SSDs are gone and the new ones have significantly much higher write endurances. So much so that some are actually suggesting they be used in Database servers (I would not go that far).

    So for a personal laptop – just do 2 things. buy one and use it! And backup!

  76. I bought one as a Christmas gift this year for my daughter who is (like her Dad) a serious PC gamer. I think these will be adopted more widely as their use grows and prices drop. Those that will be the early adopters are PC gamers. Being “first to frag” is worth any price to a hardcore gamer.

  77. @ Waffle – you mention using both AVG AND Avast! at the same time. These are both AntiVirus programmes and it’s never recommended to have more that one, as they will be constantly arguing. In any case AVG sucks – a friends older PC was virtually unusable with it installed, despite all the normal clean up procedures. I removed it and substituted Avast! and the difference was amazing.

  78. TomB you bring up an interesting point. As Anthony indicated, the prices on a per gb basis are already comparable. The only reason (I think) they have not taken over the low end is that at the low end, HDD are still a bit cheaper. But should ever these things win the day, then that is another selling point on the low end systems! It seems like no one needs a 500gb drive (you can always get a USB one) for the primary drive. So a 128gb primary on a netbook (even a tablet) at $100 (future) and that makes a great low end selling point! (low, but high performace!).

  79. Anthony, you say your going to upgrade your laptop too. May I suggest that you look at the Zallman options. THey don’t have kits like you got, but for the laptop you shouldn’t need it (and for desktops you can by the things you need separately.).

    There is nothing wrong with that Kingston, but the new Zallman’s are spectacular for the price. 280 Mb read, and 273 Write. and the price is quite good. Only a smidge better than that Kingston, but price wise worth it.

    Been running SSDs for a couple of years now, the technology is running fast with upgrades.

  80. guys, stop your home-brew advise on the pagefile. DO NOT turn it off. The reason is because a lot of software expects it to be there either way, so turning it off is asking for trouble. That is why MS and other actual experts tell you so. Go read up about it at the scource if in doubt.

    Also, W7 is not a memory hog, Vista was. With your typical office and day-to-day apps open, you rarely need more than 1GB, as you can easily monitor in your task manager. W7 does not hog memory, it only keeps stuff in RAM until it is actually needed by other apps (and Linux did this all the way). You don’t need 4 GB with a 32Bit OS; and I don’t see any of the applications required to maintain this website to be in need of that. Again, if in doubt, check your task manager.

  81. Oh BTW to those that talk about failure over time. You will note that, for example Anthony’s drive, the drive size will be 128 Gb been when formated you get significantly less than that. The controller sets aside a portion for re-mapping bad sectors.

    It is correct that XP does not support Trim, but most manufacturers have a program that you can schedule to perform the same type of functionality.

    SSD’s on an XP machine are not a death knell, you just need to make some settings adjustments.

  82. I just built a new system with 32G SSD(under $80) 3 days ago . I put ubuntu on the SSD with /home and swap on the 1TB hard disk and a tweak to limit keeping track of file access times. I’m very pleased.

  83. My understanding of solid state memory is that each storage element has a “write” limitation. The element will wear out after a given number of erasures and rewrites.

    That would make them better for storage of data/software, but not so great for the types of data which is often rewritten to the disk.

    Something to consider.

  84. CRS, Dr.P.H. said on January 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm:

    *sigh* Anthony, haven’t you heard? The PC, even the laptop, are DEAD! As dead as the crabs piled up on the shores of the Thanet coast!!

    http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_17011895?nclick_check=1

    Now, how the hell I am supposed to compose a 200 pp. report, with tabs & appendices, on a hand-held mobile device escapes me for the moment, but the kids all tell me not to sweat it!

    Oh, that’s easy. Get the correct smartphone with appropriate available apps. Buy a matching Redfly to have a usable keyboard and monitor. The combo is the functional equivalent of a netbook, so you should be able to manage getting that report out. You should be able to also use online apps like Google provides. There’s also an upgrade benefit. The Redfly is just a terminal. You can switch to another compatible smartphone without needing a new Redfly.

    Also consider the security aspect. If some moron steals your “laptop,” you haven’t lost your files! ☺

  85. The SSD is very cool, but I wish they would give the specification for the limit of the number of writes per cell. My understanding is the the newer technology can deal with 1,000,000 write operations, but there is a point where the flash memory fails.

    The newer designs have a controller to move the location around, so the same bit in memory doesn’t get re-written all the time.

    It will be interesting to see what the long term life of the product really is…

  86. In the mid 1990s, the two founders of Kingston received an offer for the ~15 yr old company in excess of 1.5B as I recall.

    They had a philosophy that the key to success was your employees. So for roughly 100 employees (and this is all from memory) They set aside several Hundred Million dollars. They paid off homes (In Southern California) and opened trust funds for college, etc for every employee. Amazing.

  87. PhilW1776 says:
    January 10, 2011 at 5:17 am

    >Flashback memory. In the mid 70s I worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) as the guy bringing in the ‘new’ 100 MB disk technology for the PDP-10 timesharing computers.

    RP06? I had my own RP02 diskpack at CMU and was surprised I filled its 25 MB
    capacity with crash dumps and whatnot. Took me less than a year.

    > Engineers were amazed that 8 of these could be chained together to get almost one gigabyte, an amount of storage that nobody would ever need. :)

    I worked at DEC from 1974-1978 (and again from 1992-2007). At least we could chain the disks together in the operating system to form a single file system. Of course, all that space was shared among the hundred or so users the system supported.

    In the latter stint I remember walking down the hall with each hand holding a disk “shelf” of 1 GB SCSI disks. Someone noticed my goofy look and broke out laughing realizing I was mightily impressed I was carrying 14 GB of disk storage.

    And, of course, a Terabyte was the holy grail of storage since IBM’s robotic tape cartridge system in the 1960s. A TB just isn’t what it used to be.

  88. I’m loving the stories commenters here are sharing about working at DEC and IBM etc and the perspectives on the old days.

    Anthony, I’m now salivating for a SSD, but my computer expert son says my computer is too new and I don’t need an expensive upgrade right now. Layne Blanchard’s story about how well Kingston treated its employees makes me want to buy their products, although obviously the ownership has changed. I’ll trot that story out to counter the anti-corporate views of my students when the occasion arises. Thanks, all, for sharing your expertise and memories.

  89. @ Waffle – you mention using both AVG AND Avast! at the same time. These are both AntiVirus programmes and it’s never recommended to have more that one, as they will be constantly arguing. In any case AVG sucks – a friends older PC was virtually unusable with it installed, despite all the normal clean up procedures. I removed it and substituted Avast! and the difference was amazing.

    dave – you need at least 2 CPU cores to stack anti-virus. In fact, to run any anti-virus as a background task. My development machine is a quad core with 5 anti-virus programs running constantly ant it is still blisteringly fast. Those three programs I mentioned will work without any noticeable performance hit if you install them in the order I listed them. I have an SSD on my netbook(business machine) and with the some OS(win7) and anti-virus setup as my dev machine. I’ve found the HDD performance difference is negligible to SSD on disk reads(w/ my optimised setup).

    Run your Disk Clean every other day, Defrag your disk once a month and buy a HDD that keeps good performance throughout it’s life. WD and Samsung HDD are notorious for their performance degradation(Hiatchi is the best). Oh, and don’t install greedy anti-virus that wants to hog your system resources.

    As for your friend. He had a worm. Worms kill AVG and AVG can’t do anything about it, neither can Avast. That’s why you need a dedicated worm/trojan anti-virus running, like MalwareBytes.

  90. >>
    *sigh* Anthony, haven’t you heard? The PC, even the laptop, are DEAD! As dead as the crabs piled up on the shores of the Thanet coast!!

    http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_17011895?nclick_check=1

    Now, how the hell I am supposed to compose a 200 pp. report, with tabs & appendices, on a hand-held mobile device escapes me for the moment, but the kids all tell me not to sweat it!
    >>

    There’s not way I’ll be “trusting” google , amazon or anyone else to be cloud-spy-host for my work.

    If you have no private life and your professional life has no importance or confidential content I suppose it could be useful. There’s vitually nothing I would want to do on a service that snooping my every word and indexing what I do.

    Anthony, don’t confuse MTBF and how long you can expect a device to work for before it breaks. It’s not the same thing! Under heavy usage I’d give that device a year or two , so keep your backups upto date.

    NAND based devices burn out after a certain number of write cycles. So even quoting a figure based of “years” is pretty meaningless and probably dishonest, as is providing MTBF figures to the general public who will almost certainly misunderstand what it means.

    http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/qual/specMTBF-c.html

    I’m not saying they are bad, the speeds are excellent as you note. It may be a better idea to split you disk usage. If you can organise Windows so that this device is predominantly read only (c:/windows ; c:/Program Files ; etc. ) and keep data areas like your home folder/desktop on another device, that would offer you longest life whilst benefiting from fast start up times.

  91. >>
    I worked at DEC from 1974-1978 (and again from 1992-2007). At least we could chain the disks together in the operating system to form a single file system. Of course, all that space was shared among the hundred or so users the system supported.
    >>

    As you can now on a PC running linux or mac OSX.

    I have two drives, one with 23 partitions the other with 15 . Bits are used as needed and always show up as one filesystem hierarchy. I can remotely log in to machines elsewhere as an independant user while the main user is independantly using it and probably not even aware. I can even integrate part of their hard disk into my filesystem and still see it as a single file system.

    All that with a ONE core processor that does not need three of four anti-virus programs running back to back.

    Cost of this amazing OS : zero cents.

  92. “I feel the need – the need for speed!” Sign me up!

    This thread has certainly stirred up a spirited discussion by all the old and young geeks out there. Very good information for the most part. What I haven’t seen is a comment about what is coming (SSD: warming or cooling??). So here is my two cents based on many years tracking the progress of computer technology.

    First, I too think the long term speed and reliability of current SSDs is suspect, given the write limitations. The best mfgs are over-provisioning the drives (a 100GB drive actually has 128GB of installed capacity, for example) to account for cell failure. For the purposes of this post, I am going to use Other World Computing’s drives, since I am familiar with their strategy and pricing and not sure about the rest. However, I am pretty sure that you are not going to need your SSD for more than a year or two, because new shiny, cheaper, bigger and faster ones are coming down the pike.

    To understand what to expect, we need to loosely invoke Moore’s Law, which originally stated that CPU power would double every 18 months. This is most usefully interpreted as power-per-dollar increments, and 12 months is a more accurate figure currently, as the development cycles have speeded up. It also applies to storage.

    While CPUs have reached a plateau, storage media (HDDs and SSDs) are right on the steep part of the curve. So how do they compare and where will we be in 2013? My contention is that the demise of the HDD is, in Mark Twains words, “Greatly exaggerated.”

    For the purposes of discussion, I am going to use the OWC 100GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD 2.5″ Serial-ATA 9.5mm Solid State Drive. It is over provisioned by 28% and costs $300, which makes the arithmetic easy and is in the cost/capacity sweet spot. Make your own comparisons. http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/SSDMXRE100/

    First the basics:
    100GB SSD @ $300 = $3/GB (depending on what you bought, you milage may vary)

    And a typical HDD:
    2TB @ $100 = $.05/GB, a 60:1 cost per stored byte ratio

    This is Christmas 2011. Let’s look in Santa’s stocking and see what’s in it for 2013:

    SSDs are now $.75/GB. However, like HDDs, the minimum retail price point for current capacity will probably settle at $100, so we get a 133GB SSD for $100.

    Meanwhile, for $100 we get an 8TB HDD. HDD technology is far, far from any kind of plateau (we are now in the early stages of perpendicular recording, still to come is nano-lithography, with potentially 1000x more capacity).

    The next year, 2014, we get 266 GB of SSD for $100, 16 TB of HDD. And so it goes.

    There is no question that the “Need for speed” is real for all of us humans, who are quite tired of waiting for computers to do their business and get on with it. I’m hovering over the “Buy Now” button myself. So what might happen to change our picture of the future? What might happen to accelerate the progress of SSDs?

    For one thing, today the MFGs are focused on replacing laptop HDDs, their sweet spot. They are peddling high cost/high profit SSDs to amortize their very high development costs (last time I checked, a FAB was more than $2 billion) for smaller feature-size chips. In the early phase of marketing, this will be the rule. However, in a couple of years, some upstart company will arrive, having contracted with one of the slightly out of date FABs, to deliver slightly behind the curve chips at ridiculously low prices.

    NOW, consider that all of the current SDDs are in the 2.5″ form factor. Imagine stuffing a 3.5″ form factor (all desktop computers) with SSD chips which are a little too big for competitive 2/5″ SSDs, but at 1/4 the price. 5X (maybe 4X accounting for the size of the “Out of date” chips) the volume at 1/4 the price/stored byte in 2013 =
    530GB for $100.

    So there you have the fearless predictions. 30 years of experience has shown that despite all the technological advances (marketing hype), this is the development curve that will be followed. We will see.

    In the meantime, we are going to see very rapid development of computer system technology- I would expect that Apple will no longer offer HDDs in the next generation of laptops and that in the next generation after that (2012 or 13) the SSDs will be integrated into the motherboard, with another huge speed bump as some PCI cards are doing today. iPads will have 100+ GB of storage. The desktop computer as we know it may be going bye bye, (but oh please, not that fantastic 27″ screen!) but I am very sure that in every system, there will be a big HDD somewhere pumping out zillions of terabytes of storage. What for? Not for word processing; not for pictures; not for movies. How about for incredibly detailed and complete 3D virtual realities (stored actual-realities among other things) with, oh, say all of our Facebook friend’s avatars meeting in Cancun for, oh geez, let me guess, a global cooling conference. Any questions, read Snow Crash again.

    Click – Buy Now.

  93. SSD’s are OK for small storage needs. You stated yourself that you only use 60GB. I’ve got multiple terabytes myself. There’s also no way they’re going to take over the storage market in two years. The simple fact is that they are too expensive and pretty much always will be. A modern 300mm fab costs billions to capitalize and the number of bits it can ship is pretty limited. MLC is a trick for getting more bits out of the same silicon, but you pay a high endurance penalty. The industry is pushing at the 22nm node and things are really ugly below that. The 10K write limit for MLC is very real. They’re hoping you won’t notice it by using wear leveling and hoping you don’t pound on the unit too much, but it’s a gamble. They may be right, but I’d be nervous having a sizable swap file on an MLC unit. On top of that the leveling algorithms get pretty sluggish as capacity is approached on a unit as it struggles to keep all of the pages at about the same write count.

    I’m also surprised at your reported power savings. You mentioned something about a fan, so I wonder how much is there. I couldn’t make out the drive model, but a modern 3.5″ disk should consume about 11W max and be far less than that most of the time. The big power pigs in computers these days are the cpu, the screen in laptops (backlight), and the RAM which must be refreshed, i.e. read and re-written, about every 2ms. I don’t know the exact draws of chipsets, but take a look at the heat sinks and you’ll see they get toasty as well, not to mention the graphics cards that require their own molex connectors. A laptop drive will use less than 10W maximum load and more like 2-4W.

    A much more likely scenario is that hybrid drives take over the market. You can get nearly all of the performance gains by placing a small amount of flash on the drive and using the large and cheap (and more recoverable) rigid disk for main storage. It’s really a pretty obvious choice. Pay a $25 premium over a plain rigid disk for 80% of the pure SSD performance. You also get 10-20 times better cost/capacity. Given how price sensitive the markets still are and how much people complain about even spending $50 for a 1TB drive and expect laptops to cost $4-500, I don’t see how consumers are going to tolerate an SSD taking up half of their computer budget for 5-10times less capacity.

  94. Windows experience index……..LOL……..

    Thank you for this. I think I would benefit alot. I keep all my data on a terabyte and my OS on 30 GB of which I only use 17GB.

  95. Hard drives keep getting higher capacity and better energy efficiency. Typically a larger drive at the same RPM will have a higher transfer rate due mainly to there being more data zipping past the heads in the same time.

    Crank the RPMs higher and the transfer rate gets even faster, boot times drop and so do application load times.

    Mid to low end laptops and even some high end ones tend to be equipped with slower spinning drives. These days a 5400 RPM is common. Not too long ago 4200 RPM was most common. I had a circa 1998 Toshiba Tecra 800 which came with a 4200 RPM drive, 40 gig. It was a mid-high end business laptop but with Win 98SE it took about 6 minutes to boot. I swapped in a 5400 RPM 120 gig and boot times dropped to less than 2 minutes.

    Similar tale with my current Acer Aspire. I changed the OEM 80 gig for a 500 gig and it’s like a whole new laptop, significantly faster overall. Battery life should be better too, if the power consumption specs of the new drive are real. Now if I could just find an affordable dual core Socket P CPU that has core technology contemporary with or newer than the Conroe-L Celeron 530. (CPU-World and Wikipedia for some reason say nothing about the Conroe-L core solo 500 series Celerons.) I’m *not* going to pay more for a CPU than the laptop plus the new hard drive cost. The laptop was a doorbuster Wal-Mart special 3 years ago for just under $300 and the 500 gig was $45.

    So if’n you can’t throw down the $$$ for an SSD, you can give a computer a very good boot in performance simply by buying the largest, fastest spinning hard drive you can afford. (Which is very affordable from places like geeks.com )

    P.S. To put storage prices in perspective, I remember when drives first got down to $1 a *megabyte*. That was for a 500 megabyte drive. Half a thousand bucks for only 500 megabytes! Storage prices sunk past $1 a gigabyte so fast the computer media industry didn’t even have time to comment on it. ;)

  96. John F. Hultquist says:
    January 10, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Dave Springer says:
    January 10, 2011 at 7:32 am
    Just as a side note I designed hardware and software for the first hard disk cache for the IBM PC over 25 years ago . . .

    When IBM announced their new PC, we ordered one; I think in October of ‘81. It took until March of the following year before it arrived and was up and running. We added a small harddrive (Miniscribe of Longmont, CO) later and with instellation the cost of that, alone, was $500. That was about the same as the PC XT. The MiniScribe story is interesting (fraud!); see

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniScribe

    My first (and only) true blue IBM PC was a prize I won in a programming contest. I was working in a game programming company in 1981. We got a contract from Nolan Bushnell to develop the hardware and a half dozen games for a project of his called AndroMan. It was basically a freewheeling robot controlled through an IR tower attached to the one of the game controller ports of an Atari 2600 VCS. There were four programmers assigned to the project. Various prizes were offered to the first programmer to finish his game. I won. Handily. I nearly finished a second game before anyone else finished the first. As a prize I selected a fully loaded IBM PC with a price tag of $4000. Hard drives weren’t offered on those first IBM PCs so I added my own – a pair of 5MB Syquist removeable hard disk drives that I had sitting around from a previous project at a different company. I had to prototype my own hard disk controller board and write the firmware for it and that was the first (of many) expansion card designs I did for the IBM PC. In effect I had an IBM XT before IBM came out with it. For my next trick a friend and I did the first knockoff of the Lotus/Intel/Microsoft (LIM) Expanded Memory card. My buddy did the hardware and I wrote the knockoff utilities that came with the real LIM cards plus I added a utility of my own – a hard disk cache with a bitching least frequently used and predictive look-ahead algorithm. At the time, it bloody screamed. Those were the days.

  97. All this talk of gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes reminds me of the joke:

    “Q: If an audio geek is an audiophile, what do you call a computer storage geek?

    A: A petaphile.”

  98. Anthony,
    The Kingston is an ok drive, but only ok… there are much better choices in SSDs. I’d also suggest waiting for a couple of months before purchasing, as drives based on the new generation of Flash memory and related chipsets have been shown and announced recently, and should be available over this quarter and the next.

    On a more general note, while it’s fun to speculate about the future of storage, I don’t think any of us can say what the market is going to look like 5 years from now, much less later than that. The tech changes, often for reasons that we can’t see until it happens. Flash isn’t the only tech in play either (for non-volatile storage). But as for right now, over the next several months, the decision to have a SSD boot/app drive is a really good idea… as long as it’s a fast SSD.

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