Saturday, June 9, 2012

SSD to Revive my PC

SSD to Revive my PC

My current primary home Windows PC is running Windows 7 on hardware from late 2009: a Quad Core Intel Core2 CPU, a variety of SATA and IDE hard drives, and 4GB of RAM (800 MHz bus).  It's still very usable after booting, but the time from power-on to having logged in and getting Chrome or Firefox open is 3 minutes and 5 seconds.  Here are a set of timings for the machine (all times are total from the point the BIOS recognizes the CPU):

To login screen visible: 40 sec
To Windows 7 desktop visible: 1min 15sec (75 sec)
To Chrome browser open: 3min 5sec (185 sec)

That's a bunch faster than it ran under Windows XP (I skipped Vista.... didn't everyone?), even with the addition of tons of drivers and startup processes that I surely only used once to play with a new gadget.  Still, after experiencing my recently bought Samsung Series 3 Chromebox (see more on that below), I thought I had to be able to do better and breathe some more life into this machine.

After doing a bit of research on consumer SSD (Solid State Drives), I found the Crucial 128 GB m4 SSD and thought I'd give that a try.  My prior boot partition was only 80GB, so I didn't need a bigger size (I use secondary drives for my data to avoid overfilling the boot partition and to make it easier to re-install/update OS).  I also ordered a StarTech 18in SATA Cable since it wasn't terribly clear whether the SSD would come with a cable.

A little more research later, I decided I should also use some disk cloning software to facilitate the transfer of the boot drive and the OS from the existing SATA drive to my new SSD. There are instructions for how to do this with only free software (e.g., ) but Paragon's Migrate OS to SSD tool seemed like a good deal for $20.

And it was... the cloning of the OS to the new drive went flawlessly (as had the installation of the SSD).  I did struggle for (far) too long with getting my complex mix of drives to allow me to consistently boot reliably off of the new SSD and learned more than I wanted to about BootRec.exe and BCDEdit.exe.  On the same night I started, though, I did get it working and was ready for the timing test.  The new numbers with the Crucial 128 GB m4 SSD were:

To login screen visible: 34 sec (down from 40 sec, ok)
To Windows 7 desktop visible: 44 sec (down from 75 sec -- wow!)
To Chrome browser open: 49 sec (down from 185 sec -- wow WOW!)

The PC now feels almost like a brand new high-end machine with a fresh OS install!

Again, though, remember that the original point of comparison was my new Samsung Series 3 Chromebox.  If all you ever want to do is get into a Chrome web browser, it's still the champ.  It goes from power-on to typing a URL into the address bar in only 7 seconds.  It took me longer than that to write this short sentence!