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.
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.
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.
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.
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