Friday, February 4, 2011

The Upgade to SSD

Or, as we call it in the company, "penis envy."

A coworker that I am positive reads this blog hit his new machine window a few weeks ago. We are all entitled to a brand new laptop, to our specifications, every 3 years and as a norm Dear Leader buys whatever the hell we ask for. My first to-spec machine was a loaded Mac Book Pro, the second one was a kickass (or so I thought) Dell. I already upgraded the Dell to 8GB through Dear Leader's very generous threshold for bitching about capital expenditures (if you request for something reasonable under a semi-classified dollar figure, he approves it on the spot).

My coworker simply followed instructions and asked for the most laptop he could wish for. And he got it. With a fricking quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM and SSD. He's one of the good guys, so I can't be a player hater, but that didn't protect me from penis envy about the SSD. So we came up with a plan: every X hours or so he would tell anyone that listened, and hopefully within earshot of Dear Leader, that everyone HAD TO upgrade to SSDs because the improvements were enormous.

And it worked! I had my performance appraisal yesterday, and right at the end I confronted Dear Leader:

"I am tired of dear coworker not shutting up about how awesome his new drive is. I have researched this, we can upgrade to one of those for right at $300 per machine, including the transfer kit."

His reply: do it.

Just like that. I ordered it within the hour and it was here by mid-afternoon today.

The actual drive is a Kingston SSDNow V 100 128GB and shipped overnight was less than $280. The drive came with:

  • USB 2 enclosure
  • USB 2 cable
  • SATA cable
  • Power cable
  • Drive rails
  • Drive cloning CD.
Installation was dead simple:

  • Put new drive in enclosure and connect to laptop through USB 2
  • Pop the CD
  • Reboot laptop from the CD
  • When the clone software boots, select the source and destination drives
  • In my case, wait 45 minutes to copy the 70 or so GB I had in my drive
  • Shutdown the laptop
  • Remove two screws and slide out the old drive
  • Switch the external cover for the drive between the old and new drives
  • Insert the new drive
  • Eject the CD and reboot
  • You can use the old drive with the enclosure and keep it around as an emergency spare, or once you are happy that the new drive is OK, nuke it and turn it into a portable drive. 
Now, in my particular case the very first boot up was very slow because the machine had to test the drive. Any other reboots after that have been dead simple.

  • NCP Secure Entry Client decided it was no longer licensed and made me rebuild its key. This took seconds and it wasn't actually surprising.
  • Silverlight got HOSED. The most obvious sign of trouble was Netflix complaining about DRM and today's date, which was 100% accurate. After two reinstalls and some research I learned that I had to delete a preference folder and force Silverlight to re-authorize itself with Netflix.
That's pretty much it, everything else works exactly as the old drive, except much faster. I know a lot of this is part of the placebo effect, but as far as the performance index testing goes, the machine DID move from 5.9 to 7.0 in the hard disk category:

Small problem: the graphics still drag it down as far as the performance index goes. I don't understand it because my machine handled Aero perfectly fine, with all options turned on, even before I switched to the SSD. 

That said, it does feel much faster, for example, reboots, opening Visual Studio, etc. I am starting to feel like this was a much more effective upgrade than bumping it to 8GB of RAM.