Computers, How to Guides, Storage, Windows

How To: Speed Up Your PC With a Solid State Drive (SSD)

ASRock-ION-330-BD

The venerable 3.5” hard disk (or 2.5” on your mobile PC)  has been around for some time, and offers huge amounts of storage at ever decreasing prices. But with a number of moving parts, these drives can fail and need defragmenting regularly to maintain at optimal performance. Upgrading your hard drive, especially the drive from which your PC boots from, with a solid state drive (SSD) can dramatically increase performance in three ways – firstly, with no moving parts, your data is stored on flash memory meaning its less likely to fail than a standard hard drive. Secondly, SSDs use less power than standard hard drives, so your consumption is reduced. Thirdly, and most noticeably, you’ll notice a significant speed boost during boot up as well as running applications with an SSD, thanks to the use of that flash memory.

It’s not all good news, however, bear in mind that SSDs are far more expensive per GB than a standard hard drive (though the cost is slowly reducing), and the capacities available are smaller. The sectors on an SSD can only be written to a certain number of times, so they have a limited (albeit very long) shelf life. That said, an SSD is  great upgrade for a system drive and today, we’ll walk through the process of installing an SSD in our Media Center PC and check out the performance improvements gained.

The Patient

ASRock-ION-330-BD

We currently use an ASRock ION 330 in the living room for all of our TV and media viewing. Small and relatively quiet, the PC is powered by a dual-core Intel Atom 330 processor, and partnered with an NVIDIA ION GPU which handles 1080P video with ease. The PC ships with 2GB RAM, which we’ve upgraded to 4GB for an extra performance boost. That said, the PC currently runs a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, so we’re not seeing all of that 4GB available at the moment. We’ll install a fresh copy of a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 as part of our upgrade.

tv1prewei

As you can see above, the PC currently scores a Windows Experience Index (WEI) score of 3.7, with the Atom processor scoring the lowest. The current disk data transfer rate score 5.7, which isn’t bad at all, but I’m sure we can do better! Boot time is approximately 52 seconds from power on to the desktop, and for a HTPC, that’s the real-world number we’re going to try to reduce so we can boot the machine as quickly as possible.

The Parts

For the upgrade, we’ve selected a Kingston SSDNow V Series SATA 3 GB/s 2.5- Inch Solid State Drive with Desktop Upgrade Kit Bundle SNV425-S2BD, which includes a desktop conversion kit to assist the installation. As all SSDs are generally 2.5” drives, the brackets and cables which come with the V-Series can be used to ensure you fit the drive securely. Depending on your PC, you may or may not need the conversion kit. The ASRock 330 actually uses a 2.5” drive as standard, so we can do a simple swap out without the need for the 3.5” to 2.5” brackets.

SNV425-S2BD_expanded

In box, you’ll find:

  • Kingston 64GB Solid State Drive
  • Mounting Brackets
  • SATA Data & Power Cables
  • CD With Installation Guide and Hard Drive Cloning Software

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • Love my SSD, actually the single most noticeable speed up for me was the wake from sleep time. It's almost instant now, before with my mechanical drive it seemed like I was waiting forever. I let my desktop sleep after 20 minutes so I have to wake it up quite frequently and the SSD is a life saver.

  • Chris Cowles

    Logicsupply.com/blog refers to two different types of flash drive. One is not recommended for a system drive but that's more for industrial applications, rather than consumer. What type is the drive you tested, and did you consider those differences.

    Did you test resume from sleep? Is it improved?

    Chris

    • Chris Cowles

      Duh. I was commenting to the author but didn't read the comment immediately above mine.

  • autodrivel

    I'm running an Atom 330-ION setup similar to yours with the slightly older V series 128 GB SSD.
    The major benefits from my perspective are the quietness and coolness (temperature-wise) of the system since it's in the living room.
    It's also worth pointing out the the (relatively) small size of the SDD is offset by having the WHS/Media Centre integration setup – so any programs recorded are automatically moved out to the recorded-TV share that is created on the WHS. In effect the SDD is just used as a temporary store for newly recorded programs. If you work out the maximum number of programs that you would record in a single 24 Hr period, that is the amount of storage needed on the SDD – The WHS integration will take care of moving them onto the Server.
    In otherwords, the 60GB SDD should work very nicely.

  • woodp

    While I run an SSD on my desktop, I'm not sure I grasp why speed is important on a WHS system. All that system ever does is backup and stream, and both are constrained by the LAN, not the hard disk.

    But I do have two questions. One, does WHS support TRIM? I would think not, but perhaps Vail will, and second, is it possible to remove all of the shared pool from the boot drive? Can I configure the system so the drive C: makes use of the entire SSD, and drive D: occupies the remaining drives in the pool?

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