Digital Curmudgeon

EEEPC-SSDThere’s a dirty little secret about computer performance that is hiding within plain sight. A solid state drive (SSD) will take almost any machine manufactured within the past five to ten years and give it a massive performance boost.

I have an Asus 1000HE EEEPC Netbook from four or five years ago. It came with a 160 gigabyte 5900 RPM conventional spinning hard drive. With the conventional hard drive, the computer was painfully slow to boot up and to use. It would take the better part of 10 minutes to completely boot up and become usable.

I installed a 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 SSD drive into it and restored the operating system (Windows XP SP3) from the original system DVD that came with the machine. After installing the software I will be using with the machine, including Adobe Audition 1.5 and MS Office XP, it completely boots up and is 100% usable within 30 seconds! Programs load immediately and windows snap to attention.

I use this machine as a handy backup machine to an older SSD-equipped white plastic Macbook. The Asus Netbook doesn’t take up much room when I’m traveling. I realize that XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft, but I want to hang on to the perfectly functional older software such as Adobe Audition 1.5 that really has no modern equivalent that I like nearly as well. I am not browsing or doing email with this machine, so it should be perfectly safe to continue to use well into the future.

The move to mobile has caused me to shift away from relying much on traditional computers. During the last year I have used my computers only to record podcasts with. Email and browsing are handled exclusively on mobile devices.

In recent years I’ve grown increasingly annoyed by the constant upgrade cycle drumbeat. It seems there is always some fix or some new supposedly “must have” version of virtually every piece of hardware and software. Why upgrade? “Better performance” and/or “better security” are almost always the answers that are either given or implied. Often I find that NOT to be the case.

Operating system updates end up destroying existing software and hardware compatabilities. Sometimes software that won’t work on a new version of an operating system is never updated or replaced, and the functionality is simply lost.

So, if you have an older machine, including both Windows and Mac, depending on what you are using it for, if you want to hold on to perfectly functional older hardware and software, installing an SSD into an older machine can give it an incredible performance boost that will blow away any brand new machine that is not equipped with an SSD drive. Also, SSD prices contine to go down. A 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 drive now sells for about $72 dollars on Amazon, making it one amazing inexpensive upgrade that offers the absolute most bang possible for the buck!

Upgrading An Old MacBook To An SSD

One of the machines I have is a 6 year old 13” white plastic Intel MacBook. In recent years I’ve used it as a backup machine just in case I needed it. It has a 2 gigahertz Core 2 Duo processor and is maxed out at 2 gigabytes of RAM.

Solid State Drive prices have been dropping lately, so I figured making the swap to a solid state drive and the performance boost it would bring would be worth it. I ended up buying a Crucial 128 gigabyte SSD for around $104 dollars with Amazon Prime picking up the shipping cost.

This evening I made the installation. I started out by installing the new SSD in an external Firewire enclosure and installing OS/X onto it first. After a very smooth, painless installation process, OS/X asked me what I wanted to transfer from the old drive to the new one, and though I left out most of the documents and other clutter, I did tell it to move the applications over, which to my surprise it did a stellar job of copying over to the new SSD drive.

After rebooting into the new drive while it was still connected via Firewire, I copied over a few miscellaneous files I needed and then shut everything down. Next, I swapped the new drive into the MacBook.

The results are nothing short of amazing. The old 7,200 RPM hard drive made the machine seem sluggish and non-responsive. With the SSD in the same machine, things seem to happen almost instantly. The conclusion I take away is that conventional hard drive performance has been a bigger performance bottleneck than we realized.

The days of the conventional spinning hard drive are numbered. The conventional hard drive will one day be going the way of the cathode ray tube monitor and floppy discs.

If you are tempted to shell out big bucks for a new machine just to get a performance boost, if you have an older machine that has otherwise good hardware, consider upgrading to an SSD for an incredible performance boost at a fraction of the price of a new machine.

Crucial Launches 1.8″ SSD

Lexar Media has added a 1.8″ range of SSDs to its Crucial RealSSD C300 product line.  These solid state drives (SSDs) are ideal for netbooks, ultrathin laptops and tablets or anywhere that 2.5″ drives are too big.

Amazingly, these 1.8″ versions perform just as well as their 2.5″ siblings,  with read speeds of up to 355MB/s and write speeds up to 215MB/s, natively supporting SATA 6Gb/s, while maintaining backwards compatible with the SATA 3Gb/s interface.

Behind the scenes, it’s the Micron RealSSD technology, using multi-level call (MLC) NAND and advanced controller technology to avoid the solid-state wearing.   The average access time is less than 0.1 ms with 60,000 IOPS for a random 4k read.

Available shortly in 64GB, 128GB and 256 GB, prices start at a penny shy of $150. The Crucial website doesn’t seem to have the 1.8″ versions on sale just yet.

SSDs aren’t an area that I’ve been able to explore so I’d be interested if anyone else has any comments on their experience.  Leave comments below.