Adding a Solid State drive

I currently have a SATA Hard Drive and I want to add a SS Drive to be my new boot and C drive. Will that speed up my computer game, word and startup?
Richard BrownAsked:
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_Commented:
Basically, that's a big yes.
Which ssd you get has an impact, so stay with one that has the SandForce  controller for best results.

The OCZ Vertex is highly rated.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Absolutely.    An SSD typically has an access time of ~ 0.3 ms, compared to an average of ~ 12 ms for a rotating platter drive.    In addition, the SSD will have a transfer rate that's double, triple, or even more compared to your current drive (depending on whether you have SATA-2 or SATA-3 controller).

The drives I like the best are the Intel 320 series;  the OCZ Vertex-2 and Vertex-3 units;  and the Crucial M4's.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
all things considered, you're probably better off spending money on RAM.  You only startup once.  Word processing doesn't do any I/O once you grab the document.  But games go for hours.  They are also more sequential then random access.

RAM will speed up games a lot more then disk I/O.  
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DavidPresidentCommented:
But you can check it out for yourself.  Run perfmon while playing the game.  If it is getting pounded by I/O, then you know that disk I/O is the bottleneck.  (But remember numbers lie a little bit because more RAM means more caching, so you get less I/O.)

The trick is to look at what files are being hit.  You can download windows system internals at microsoft site, and one of the freebies will tell you what data files are being read/written to, and whether or not it is random or sequential I/O.

The proper place for a SSD is random I/O.  They really don't do much for throughput that you cant do a lot cheaper by getting another HDD and going RAID1. With windows software RAID1 it will balance reads so that you get 2 disks each handling half the load (in perfect world).  A pair of SATA-3 HDDs or even a pair of SATA-2 HDDS will provide greater throughput in a balanced load then a single SSD.  Plus you have money left over to buy more RAM if you want.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
Plus with RAID1,  your data is protected against drive failure!
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
No matter how many disks you add to a RAID array, the access time is the same -- whichever disk(s) is/are involved in an I/O have to seek to the appropriate track.    With an SSD, that time is practically eliminated ... so small transfers (e.g. page file accesses) are completed long before they would have even started with rotating platter drives;  game scene loads are well underway before they would have started; and programs load MUCH faster.

It's true that RAM is important -- but for any system with 2GB or more of RAM, moving to an SSD will make a FAR larger difference in the "feel" of the system than more RAM will.
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
I am currently running 4GB of RAM under a Windows 7 64 bit OS.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
As I assumed, you already have a good amount of RAM.    Switching to an SSD will make FAR more difference than adding RAM would.    With most applications, even doubling your RAM would make almost no perceptible difference;  but with almost all applications, you'll quickly notice the improvement in disk I/O -- with program loads;  game scene updates;  etc.    In addition, Windows' page file activity is FAR quicker with an SSD.

... as I said in the first word of my first post,  the answer to your question , "... Will that speed up my computer game, word and startup? ", is a single word:  ABSOLUTELY.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
I respectfully disagree. 4GB on a win7 gaming system isn't enough for most games.  sure a ssd does faster disk IO but only when you do disk io.  more ram means less io to begin with...

but you have power to confirm yourself.  use perfmon and see average queue depth and transfer rate during game operation.  if queue depth isn't always 2 or higher, th.en disk isn't a bottleneck.  go to gaming blog sites and ask users who have you favorite games and get their opinions.

don't throw money at a computer without knowing where to put it.

ssds have their place, but not just to save a few seconds for booting and loading programs that are memory intensive
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I've updated many computers in the last year for friends and clients -- either with SSDs, more memory, or both.    Doubling memory from 4GB to 8GB ... or even quadrupling it from 2GB to 8GB or 4GB to 16GB ... rarely makes any significant difference with any individual application.   It does help when you're running multiple windows, or especially if you're running multiple simultaneous virtual machines [i.e. anything that would otherwise generate a high number of page faults].    But except for very large file editing (e.g. raw photo files or video using Adobe CS5 and similar packages) there's rarely any "Wow" factor from the upgrade.

But in EVERY case that we replaced a primary drive with an SSD, the result has been a "Wow!!" about how much the performance improved.    

I've done BOTH a 4GB -> 16GB RAM upgrade and a system disk upgrade to SSD on a couple of systems where folks are heavy CS5 users.    In both cases the SSD made FAR more difference than the RAM ... although both were good improvements.    CS5 users are amazed to see CS5 load and be ready-to-go in 2-3 seconds; and if they set CS5 to use the SSD as their scratch disk the performance can be truly amazing compared to the pre-SSD state of affairs.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
agreed, but if you can double RAM plus get a 2nd HDD, go to software RAID1 (and pretty much double read throughput) vs get a SSD and have no redundancy and no extra memory, and still be bound by the limits of a single SATA channel..

Then it comes down to apps. Word processing is not I/O intensive, and you only boot once when you fire up the PC.  That leaves gaming and multiple applications.  I did suggest actually querying the hardware and seeing if you have a bottleneck

IMO better to get redundancy, ram, and higher number of things to do at one time in this situation.  But you make a valid argument.  The problem is that every config is different, and we all must speak in generalities.   Certainly there is a benefit of having a RAID1 config because that prevents against data loss WHEN (not if) a HDD has bad blocks or fails.  If you use the native software RAID driver, then read traffic is balanced effectively doubling throughput.  In fact, 2 SATA ports doing reads will outperform a single SSD on sequential I/O, which is nature of games.  (But everything relative to specific hardware)

I submit you can't go wrong with either, but if it was me, and I did not have RAID1 protection, then that would be #1 on my list. I'm giving you a way to do that, and get performance increase for less than what you pay for a small SSD.  Up to the author to determine if the data is disposable and he/she doesn't mind losing it all WHEN a HDD fails.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
"... 2 SATA ports doing reads will outperform a single SSD on sequential I/O ..."  ==>  Not even close.

Consider:  Modern SATA drives typically have sustained transfer rates of at most 120MB/s.    Two of them acting in tandem will give you at best 240GB/s ... still well below the interface capability of a single SATA-2 port (and not even close to a SATA-3 port).    A good SSD can SATURATE a SATA-2 port ... and come close to that for a SATA-3 port.    In addition, the SSD will have an access time on the order of 0.3ms, compared to ~ 50 times that for the rotating platter drives.

The redundancy of a RAID-1 array is indeed nice ... but you can also create a RAID-1 array with SSDs if that's an important factor.     But notwithstanding that, SSDs are far more reliable than rotating platter drives, so as long as you have a good backup (i.e. an image of the OS partititon) there's not functionally much difference -- in fact I'd give the edge to the SSD.

I've done both upgrades numerous times ... and there's NO comparison between the perceived benefit of an SSD vs. more memory (except in cases where the initial memory was very low .. e.g. 512MB or so).
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DavidPresidentCommented:
If the computer is limited to the usage the author described, then it simply doesn't do enough I/O for the disk to be a bottleneck except during boot and program loading. Not worth the effort, especially when there is no hardware storage redundancy.

You have a 100% probability of getting bad blocks. You have a 100% probability of drive failure.  You have a much higher probability of getting bad blocks then catastrophic drive failure.  I've got a bunch of OCZ disks in the lab that failed. I'm not picking on OCZ, but just saying that everything breaks.   The system isn't doing video streaming or database.  It does word processing and games.  A faster HDD generally doesn't speed up game playing.

This isn't a benchmarking situation. If it was, then certainly a single SSD WOULD outperform most consumer desktop HDDs.  But if you are timing how long it takes for word to pull up a document on a SSD vs a pair of HDDs in software RAID1, then the difference is insignificant.   Better to have the document come up then get a read error.  With another desktop drive you get protection against data loss AND plenty of money left for more RAM which has added benefit of more caching and file system buffering, which means less I/O to/from the HDD.

Again, I am talking real-world consumer applications here, not benchmarking or real-world heavy I/O.  You could set up a ramdisk and run most games and they won't perform any differently.

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CallandorCommented:
I haven't seen too many games that need more than 4GB RAM, and running on a Win7 64bit OS means all of it will be used.  SSDs make a real world difference in response time mainly because textures and maps need to be loaded as the game progresses and I/O is the biggest bottleneck in computers.  It is not a case of only being a bottleneck during program startup, because most games have storylines and scenarios that causes pauses as they are read in (if you are a game player, you will experience this).

I am not sure which desktop has a RAID controller that will double your performance with a RAID-1 mirror setup, but RAID-0 will do that for sure, at the expense of safety.  If you frequent gaming websites, you will see that they do care about disk performance, and SSDs rule their universe.  It's a different world in servers, where other factors are more important.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
the native RAID1 that comes with the O/S will do load balancing on reads.  You do not need special hardware.  As for speeding things up.   Sure SSDs will make every individual I/O take less time, but as I maintain ... if you have money to spend, then more important to insure that your data will be there, and it costs less and you still get a performance bump if you get a second HDD, and mirror them.  

Even a $1,000 SSD is useless if it dies, and SSDs die all the time. Consider fast data vs no data.  Games don't generally use 4GB of RAM, but everything you load chews up memory, and more ram means more buffering.  More ram means you don't have to close all your programs, or you can use a virtual machine, or whatever.   But you can get more RAM, and insure your data will be there, and get speed for same or less than a SSD.

I don't care what you do, but just saying that if I had money to spend, then keeping my data is more important then accessing it quickly while I still can.

ALL HARD DRIVES FAIL .... EVENTUALLY.
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
I am really enjoying the comments that I am getting. I am installing a new video card tomorrow. If I was going to install a SSD drive as my main drive and my current drive as a secondary drive what size, SSD would you recommend. Like I said I am just using it for gaming and Microsoft Office 2007 work plus maybe some photo editing.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Generally 80GB to 120GB is a good choice.    Look at your current C: drive and see how much space is currently used -- then subtract the size of folders you could reasonably keep on the secondary drive (videos, music, photos are typically the largest users of space).

You'll be pleased with the performance gain from an SSD.    I just installed a 120GB Intel 320 series in a friend's laptop two days ago.   The laptop has 4GB of RAM and a P8400 CPU, running Windows 7 x64.     Boot time went from about 1 1/2 minutes to 13 seconds :-)     And virtually any program he loads is ready in < 1/2 second.
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
Any recommendation on a SSD drive? I am currently using 160 GB, but I would want to leave most of everything on my current drive except my Microsoft office, a game or two, and adobe Acorbat pro.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
http://www.ssdreview.com  SSDs aren't all the same for any specific capacity.  You have wide range of performance differences, price, write cycles, compatibility issues with certain controllers just to start.  Best you look at a large number of them and see how they differ and match up with the things I just mentioned.  
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
For rock-solid reliability and excellent performance I really like the Intel 320 series.    My 2nd choice is the SATA-3 OCZ Vertex-3's.

I've also used OCZ Vertex-2's, Crucial M4's, and a few others that I wouldn't recommend.

The Intels are by far my favorite -- it's the only drive I buy for myself anymore.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
To each his own, when we were burning up a few hundred SSDs for a DoD project that requires SSDs, the first families of SSDs to be eliminated were Intel.  they locked up more than any other and were the first to die, OCZ Vertex Pros were #2.  (Micron won).   But we were running 24x7 at 99% writes at media saturation point in ovens, trying to make them fail.  The moral is everything dies, so buy two.
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CallandorCommented:
In general, Intel SSDs are considered more reliable, though they are not the top performers (but still good).  The top performers use an SATA3 interface, which you may not have, but SATA2 interfaces are close in feel and will be hard to notice as being slower.  OCZ Vertex3, OCZ Vertex2, Corsair Force GT and Force3, Crucial m4, and Kingston HyperX SSDs are all in the top consumer class.  The larger capacity drives seem to have better performance than the smaller versions.

http://www.hardware-revolution.com/best-ssd-hdd-december-2011/

It's true that all drives die, but in practical terms, they may last 10 years with normal use, so take that warning with a grain of salt.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
Actually top performers use a SAS-2 interface, because they are dual-ported, so the interface allows for BOTH 6Gb/sec reads AND 6Gb/sec writes simultaneously.  I'm under NDA so won't tell you who has what or when.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
As Callandor noted, you're very unlikely to notice the difference (except in benchmarks) between a good SATA-2 unit and a SATA-3 unit.    I've used both Intel 320's and OCZ Vertex-3's, and will continue to use both ... favoring the Intels for systems with SATA-2, the Vertex-3's for systems with SATA-3.     As for the "top performers" => they don't use any of the standard disk interfaces (SATA, SAS, SAS-2, etc.) -- they interface direclty through a multi-lane PCIe bus interface.   Not inexpensive, but definitely FAST :-)

... a couple of examples:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227770
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227774
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
What are the steps in converting my current drive to a secondary drive and making the new SSD drive into my primary boot drive under the Windows 7 64 bit environment?
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
If you buy an Intel drive, just download the free SSD migration utility and it will "walk you through" the transition.

Basically you simply clone the OS partition to the SSD (resizing as necessary);  and then change the BIOS boot order to boot from the SSD.
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
I see both the Intel 320 SATA II MLC and the OCZ agility 3 SATA III both 80GB on sell. Any recommendation on the best way to go?
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CallandorCommented:
The OCZ Agility3 is an SATA 6Gb drive, and it outperforms the Intel 320: http://www.anandtech.com/Show/Index/4346?cPage=5&all=False&sort=0&page=3&slug=ocz-agility-3-240gb-review

Intel drives tend to be somewhat expensive, relative to their peers.  Some think the higher reliability makes it worth it.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Both are excellent drives.

As Callandor noted, the Agility-3 is a SATA-3 unit;  but on a system with SATA-2 ports that's irrelevant.     The sustained read speeds of the two drives is almost identical, but the Agility-3 has faster write speeds than the Intel.

In actual real-world use, I seriously doubt you'd notice any difference between these two drives.     Since you're using Windows 7 with full TRIM support, the added benefit of the Intel SSD Toolkit isn't a big deal (it's important with XP) ... so either drive would be a good choice -- you may want to simply buy whichever one costs less with the current sales.
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Richard BrownAuthor Commented:
I purchased an Intel 320 and awaiting its delivery.
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
I'm sure you'll love it :-)

If you have any quetions r.e. installing it just post them here & we'll help.
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