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Archive for February, 2013

Crucial m4 SSDs — Breathing new life into my new laptop

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I bought a Dell Inspiron 17R (5720) in July 2012. It came with a 1 TB 5400 RPM drive. Despite having a 3rd gen Intel i7 and 7 GB of memory, and despite having removed all of the bloat that OEMs ship on their systems, this laptop was running dog-ass slow. It all boiled down to the 5400 SATA II drive being a total sloth. Why in the world would Dell ship 5400 RPM SATA II drives in this day and age — especially when the laptop supports SATA III? Most likely for reliability, but quite possibly because they are sitting on a huge abundance of 5400 RPM stock.

At any rate, I finally got tired of it and decided to go the SSD (Solid State Drive) route. I ordered a Crucial m4 mSATA 32 GB drive and a Crucial m4 256 GB drive. This laptop only supports one regular sized drive but has an mSATA slot. I figured I would first test the Intel SRT technology by installing the mSATA drive and using it in caching mode as an SRT. Installing it was a breeze. After the first bootup, I noticed a significant improvement in responsiveness as well as bootup speed. Definitely worth the price just to get a cheap mSATA (running at SATA II speeds) since I would get to continue using my 1 TB drive without doing anything.

However, the novelty quickly wore off since I had a 256 GB SATA III SSD in hand. I backed up the contents on my 1 TB HDD (which only came to about 100 GB total — I don’t store a lot of huge files). I then swapped out the HDD for the crucial m4 256 GB SATA and performed an image restore onto it.

I fired up the laptop, and it took 12 seconds for the desktop to appear, and at about 16 seconds all of the various startup programs were up and running. Subsequent shutdowns / reboots result in about a 12 second time from pushing the power button to having a fully operational desktop with all startup apps running. Very impressive.

Since I no longer needed the 32 GB mSATA for caching, I disabled SRT and repurposed the mSATA SSD for Ubuntu 12.10. Installation was lightning fast. I used EasyBCD to modify the Windows boot manager to add Ubuntu as a boot option during startup. When I boot up Ubuntu, it takes 8 seconds from the time I push the power button to the time the Ubuntu desktop comes up and the wireless connection shows as enabled. 8 F’ING SECONDS!

I’ll never go back to using standard hard drives in a laptop or any other non-server platform. SSDs are fairly cheap these days (It was about $230 for both of the ones I bought) and are extremely reliable. Even if I had to buy a new one every six months, I’d do it — the increase in productivity is significant. The increased joy in using a computer makes it worth it alone. Outlook 2010 (another behemoth) takes about 2 seconds to launch and start collecting mail. That’s just insane.

Written by Mike

February 11th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

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