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how can I tell if a better drive will help on a win 8.1 laptop

Posted on 2016-11-20
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Last Modified: 2016-11-28
We got our son a laptop a couple years ago when he started college.  He brought it home for Thanksgiving and I was cleaning it up / checking things out.

it's an HP envy 15.  It has an i7 processor with 16GB ram.  Pretty good, I think?  but it doesn't seem to be as 'peppy ' I would think.

It has a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive with 8GB cache.  How can I tell how much the drive is a / the bottleneck?  Yes, an SSD would be better - but by how much?  and that's expensive for the same size drive (he's only using 200GB, so yeah, does he need that big a drive).

But I could get him a 7200RPM drive with 32GB cache for < $60 from newegg.  is it 'worth' it?  is there a n app / way to see how much of the cache is being used?  I turned off superfetch which seems to have helped keep the disk use in taskmgr much lower than 100%

we upgraded the wifi card last night - it was 2.4 ghz and we put in a dual band with bluetooth.  what a nuisance to get inside the machine - loads of screws on the bottom then lift up the top / keybard, deal with ribbon cables to get inside.  I'd rather not have to go through all that to replace parts without knowing for sure we'll see noticable improvements
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by:
NVIT earned 257 total points
ID: 41894980
Instead of wasting time, just get a 500 gb ssd drive. It's around $140. You'll both be glad you did.
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 27 total points
ID: 41895007
That laptop probably comes with a SSD MSATA slot ,so all you need do is plug a new SSD msata drive into the open slot and keep the old drive intact,run a copy program so that the new SSD is bootable,then set the new SSD up as the primary boot drive.
You then get the best of both worlds ,a fast bootable SSD and tiered  cheap storage with the old hard drive.

http://www.samsung.com/us/computing/memory-storage/solid-state-drives/ssd-850-evo-msata-250gb-mz-m5e250bw/?cid=pla-ecom-mul-27,000,002

And yes,there will be a very noticeable improvement in speed.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 27 total points
ID: 41895012
going from a 5400 rpm to a 7200 rpm will be faster but not noticeably faster.  Instead of 10 seconds to do something it will take approx 7.5 seconds..  Humans need at least a 2x improvement to notice a change.  An SSD offers at minimum a 10x improvement.  Buy a SSD and you will never want to go back to spinning rust.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 27 total points
ID: 41895026
I generally agree with the above and I am now using a 1 TB PCI-e SSD drive on my ThinkPad. But these are expensive.

If an ordinary SATA 500 GB SSD drive will do the trick.

But I moved from 5400-rpm to 7200-rpm drives several years ago and the performance increase was welcome.

SSD is the best if you can spend the funds.
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by:skullnobrains
skullnobrains earned 27 total points
ID: 41895067
my bet is that you'd see a great improvement by replacing the disk by an identical one. reinstalling would probably get you rid of a bunch of useless stuff that make the os feel slow.

you can monitor disk access and see if what is slow is actually the disk spinning

frankly such issues are quite often software based.
installing a fresh copy side by side and see how fast it runs verbatim could help in determining your next step.

--

loading time of apps that are not already loaded in memory would likely be much faster with an SSD but with that much ram, decently coded applications should mostly hit the cache pretty much all the time once they are running

also note that sticking your windows swap on a cheap ssd will worn the ssd out prematurely

--

then to be honest 8M of cache and 5400RPM with an i7 and 16GB of ram seems a little cheap

you may also consider hybrid drives that feature a small SLC or possibly MRAM cache. they are bigger that SSDs for equivalent prices, should not get worn out by frequent access, and should not be that much slower in terms of user experience except of course if you work with complex video or imaging software
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by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 27 total points
ID: 41895069
It depends on what he's doing, but spinning hard drives are one of the slowest major components AND a 5400 RPM drive is one of the slowest you can get. I strongly encourage the SSD  and if the others are correct about an MSATA capability, then adding an SSD via that while keeping the spindle for storage (music, videos, etc), makes perfect sense.
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 27 total points
ID: 41895101
>also note that sticking your windows swap on a cheap ssd will worn the ssd out prematurely
With more than 8gb of ram ,you don't need a swapfile on an SSD.
There's a how to tweak that pretty much shows you how to configure Windows for an SSD(no swap file,no index service,,no prefetch)all of those are geared toward a spinning disk.

http://www.thessdreview.com/ssd-guides/optimization-guides/the-ssd-optimization-guide-2/
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by:serialband
serialband earned 27 total points
ID: 41895338
Spinning disks need a bit of occasional defragmenting to make it seem as faster.   SSDs will generally make the system seem about twice as fast overall, because it only speeds up disk activity, but that may be enough to make a difference.

With 16 GB RAM, you should have already just turned off SWAP, if all you're doing is watching videos, surfing the web, or using Office products.  Swapping to a spinning disk slows everything down.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 27 total points
ID: 41895442
since the drive he's got is a 5400 RPM drive, he can just use a sata SSD - and best choose the 500 GB model from samsung, Kingston, or Intel
it's by far the best investment i made several years ago -  the difference is really great : boot up in less than 20 sec (from windows start); stop : about the same, and really fast opening of any applications

i have upgraded several much older laptops with an SSD -  and people are still using it now, even a core2 duo with 4 GB ram
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by:Gerald Connolly
Gerald Connolly earned 27 total points
ID: 41895715
An SSD will give you a nice 2-3X Throughput improvement (ie MB/s) over spinning rust, but the thing that really makes systems fly is the 100+X improvement in IOPS.

You can do all the other things suggested in this thread, but they will only make a few percentage points improvement,  Upgrading to an SSD will make you think you have got a new faster machine.


I recently upgraded my laptop that was virtually unuseable for 10 minutes after startup as the 1TB 5400rpm spinning rust disk was running at 100% utilisation. I replaced this with a Samsung 850 Pro SSD, the cloning was simple and quite speedy, and now i have a machine that boots quickly, is useable immediately and all the apps are snappy and load quickly.
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by:skullnobrains
skullnobrains earned 27 total points
ID: 41895790
An SSD will give you a nice 2-3X Throughput improvement (ie MB/s) over spinning rust, but the thing that really makes systems fly is the 100+X improvement in IOPS.

hmm... as far as i know, the number of IOPS is not that much greater, is os and driver dependant and IOPS are hardly an issue on a desktop.
the difference in throughput does make a difference when booting or loading apps ( and can reach magnitude 2-3 indeed ).
the difference in commit time is very huge (x1000-10000) but probably does not make much of a difference to an end user except for very specific operations that produce bulk commits on a huge number of files.
the difference in seeking times is HUGE, and this effect is multiplied when several applications read and write at the same time. this is usually why you'll get huge improvements like mentionned above but it should only be that impressive on a machine with a useless permanent disk load ( such as an antivirus scan sheduled on boot and a second AV scanning the files open by the first or just a bunch of useless programs running )

also note that you need AHCI mode if the drive is SATA. the performance improvement will be huge  both with an SSD or a classical drive. unfortunately, for some reason i cannot grasp windows does not handle changing from one mode to the other without hassle.

nb : my point is not you should not buy an SSD which is indeed consistent with the rest of your config but rather you probably should analyse a little further why the system is sluggish before cloning to an SSD, or if you decide to reinstall ( i probably would ) don't think the difference is all about the SSD.

my laptop has a similar config, with an SSD and a 7200 drive. i'm only using the SSD manually for time consuming operations such as compilation, or working on HUGE static indexes. the reason for that is the OSes are not actually that much faster.

that the SSD is probably more useful for your profile directory that the OS : the kernel is resident in memory, so are drivers and all running services, dlls are usually loaded only once... as far as the OS goes, SSDs will definitely make it load faster but are not that useless after the boot. not even mentioning how expensive it is to store service packs, uninstallers, drivers caches, system dlls that are in memory anyway... on an SSD.

most windows users think in terms of system drive and storage drives...
it is probably more meaningful to stick your user's directories on an SSD while redirecting all special folders to the slower drive.
as far as programs go, programs that often get loaded and unloaded such as shell extensions may have reasons to end up on the SSD, while programs that do preloading and/or stay open for a long time need not be.
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by:Gerald Connolly
Gerald Connolly earned 27 total points
ID: 41895909
Spinning rust
Throughput: 100-200MB/s
Bandwidth: 100/200 IOPS

The spec on my SSD
Throughput: 500+MB/s
Bandwidth: 10+K IOPS

I think you would agree that's a 100x
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Author Comment

by:BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelp
ID: 41895988
Thanks guys!

that msata idea is interesting. Does the user see 2 drives and-or is there a lot of config to point my docs, etc to the old drive

But realisitically, for simplicity of install and operation, replacing the existing drive with SSD seems to make more sense?

are all SSDs about the same in performance? or are the budget ones slower and possibly shorter life than the more expensive ones?
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 27 total points
ID: 41896027
SATA tops out at about 6 GBits/sec whereas PCI-E is about 3 times faster.

Cheap SSD's may not last as long as good quality SSD's.

Hard or SSD drives are just drives and configure the same way.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 27 total points
ID: 41896060
first verify if you have an mSata slot
but in any case i saw everybody was very happy when moving from a spinning drive to ann SSD
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 27 total points
ID: 41896085
Upgrading to SSD is always interesting and never all that easy.
If you not real familiar ,you may want to take it to a pro,but it pretty much works like this:

Install msata drive.

Use cloning software to copy old drive to new(Samsung has a freebie)
http://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/download/tools.html

Change boot order in system bios to that of the new SSD.

See msata in manual,but the lap must use an Intel chipset.
http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/c03733656
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by:BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelp
ID: 41896115
Wait a minute!  you guys are talking about msata (which I was thinking would be in addition to the spinning drive and just have windows on it)

But I was thinking replace the existing drive with a 2.5" SSD rather than add the msata.  going completely ssd rather than the add on is a better move, right? or are msata performance better than 2.5" ssd?
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by:skullnobrains
skullnobrains earned 27 total points
ID: 41896118
that msata idea is interesting. Does the user see 2 drives and-or is there a lot of config to point my docs, etc to the old drive

2 drives, yes.
config should be a breeze : you can redirect the documents folder using a right click.
might be a good choice if you don't want to bother.

But realisitically, for simplicity of install and operation, replacing the existing drive with SSD seems to make more sense?
my answer would be no.
there is little point in loosing the corresponding storage space.
but this can be seen as an actual issue if you start storing your system on a drive and programs on another.
it is much better to have at least one admin account's home on the system drive.
if you only redirect documents and the likes, your system will be bootable and all programs will work without the second drive.

are all SSDs about the same in performance? or are the budget ones slower and possibly shorter life than the more expensive ones?

they can be VERY different.

SSDs come in at least the 2 following brands :

MLC are the regular ones. they are quite big in size, not very fast, and ware out every 10k writes or SO
depending on the brand, the number of writes varies.
depending on the brand, the amount of available replacement cells when you fry used ones varies as well.
differences can reach at least a magnitude of 10 in terms of longevity.

SLCs are much more expensive ( hence usually much smaller ), faster, and don't wear out that much. you can provably stick a pagefile or heavily used index on an SLC without destroying it.
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by:serialband
serialband earned 27 total points
ID: 41896154
While you're considering which SSD to buy, you should still turn off Swap on your system.  For most users, there really should be no need to swap to disk with 16 GB RAM on Windows anymore.  Windows likes to load part of the program that you are running into swap, even if you don't end up using it there.  Your swap file is probably fragmented on the spinning disk and further slowing things down.  Only turn on swap if you actually need or use more than 16 GB RAM.

Back with older Windows, I would turn off swap even with 4 GB of RAM and things remained fast and robust.  I never had issues with swap turned off.  It saved the system from a lot of unnecessary disk operations.  I only turned them on with systems that I knew were underspec'd for the operations they were used for and I only used fixed swap on spinning disks to keep it from fragmenting and slowing down even more.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 27 total points
ID: 41896156
just replace the existing drive with an SSD.  If the device supports m-sata then add the m-sata drive and use the existing hard drive for data storage.  Either way you need some way of cloning the existing drive onto the new drive. M-Sata is faster since it isn't limited to the SATA 6G interface speed but it is still a noticeable difference
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by:nobus
nobus earned 27 total points
ID: 41896258
i have Always suggested a normal SSD
you can just repalce your old drive with it - and keep only 1 drive in the sytem
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 27 total points
ID: 41896261
Yes - just get a large enough SSD.  I am not suggesting this here, but I have 1 TB SSD so I do not need to concerned with space.
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by:pgm554
ID: 41896293
If you just replace it with an new 2.5 ssd ,then you end up needing a SATA USB bridge to clone the disk which adds to the cost and complexity of the operation.
Keep it simple.
It's bad enough it's an HP product.
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by:skullnobrains
skullnobrains earned 27 total points
ID: 41896677
+1 regarding disabling swap : i've done the same for a long time on many machines with little to no issues, and quite systematically used as small a swap as possible on others ( which breaks hibernation but limits trashing quite effectively as well ).
but then some programs don't like not having swap space at all, and i have no experience with that since quite old windows versions.
but it speeds up the computer very effectively for sure.
you can do that with your existing drive. it is reversible so not very risky. just make sure you do not destroy your existing pagefile before you make sure it works because recreating the pagefile will most likely produce a fragmented pagefile which is bad performance-wise.

the rest is up to you and your decision and impressions are welcome.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 27 total points
ID: 41897051
i Always do my cloning on a desktop, so i can connect the old and new drive together on 1 system, and to the sata cables - which speeds up the transfer
but you don't need an usb to sata adapter, you can make a bootable CD to image, or clone the old disk, then remove the drive, and connect the new one, and put the image on it

you need an external drive to do this - but you should have one for backups already
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by:RobMobility
RobMobility earned 27 total points
ID: 41904135
I'd suggest a 500GB SSD which will accommodate the data used but offer a noticeable improvement in performance.

You could use a free partition copy tool back up the existing disk and re-image to the new one - many have SSD optimisations now or create recovery disks on the HP, replace the drive and re-install everything for the cleanest approach.

This should offer noticeable improvement whilst only costing $40.00 more than the mechanical drive you mentioned:

https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-MX300-525GB-Internal-Solid/dp/B01IAGSD68/ref=sr_1_1?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1480339779&sr=1-1&keywords=500GB+SSD&refinements=p_n_feature_three_browse-bin%3A14027459011
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by:nobus
ID: 41904319
Begentlewithmei need help - how is it going?
any feedback would be nice
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by:BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelp
ID: 41904335
looks like we'll just replace the hard drive with an SSD during christmas break.  Didn't get to do it over thanksgiving.  thank you to everyone!
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