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SSDs vs Hard Disk Drives


Ray!
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I’ve seen a bit of excitement lately about SSDs vs Hard Disk Drives on many of the tech sites/forums, especially since the price of SSDs have been falling and capacities have been increasing, though nowhere near the $/GB factor of traditional spinning platters. I've also been hinting at backup and recovery options in some recent posts and noted Linux as being a good option should things go wheels up on your PC. However, that only provides you with a way to recover data and not your operating system (OS) and programs that you may have installed on your PC.

If your PC goes wheels up, you may be able to recover your OS, but you're usually going to have to re-install all of your programs from scratch. And if it's a complete hard disk failure, then it can be a painful process, one which I've experienced twice so far in 30 years, which is twice too many. So what can you do? The solution is actually quite easy and not all that expensive considering the pain that you can avoid. Hard disk drives are pretty cheap nowadays, so you can afford to have at least one spare, acting as nothing but an image of your working system. I did just that the other day with my PC hard drive, as I have several 1TB hard drives lying around, so rather than let them languish, I thought I'd use one of them to create and store a complete image of my main PC. There are many ways to do this and even Windows gives you an option, but they aren't quite the best. I also wanted to do the same with my Gigabyte tablet, as I'd hate to have to rebuild everything from scratch, but I didn't have a spare 7mm form-factor hard drive.

To that end, a search through the local PC hardware sites (http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php, http://www.cplonline.com.au) gave me some options. I could get a suitable 500GB hard drive for $100, which was way overkill as far as capacity went or a 128 GB SSD for $130. So I thought I'd try out the SSD, since it was more than enough for what I needed and wasn't that much more than a regular hard drive, but what to get? By the way, I did a search on eBay and no one had prices that could match the two stores. A lot of research narrowed down the selection to three options, an Intel 520 120GB, an Intel 330 120GB or a Samsung 830 128GB SSD. The Intel 520 was reportedly the best SSD on the market at the moment, ie speed and reliability etc; with the Intel 330 close behind, but with performance hobbled to some degree to keep the price down. The Samsung 830 wasn't as fast as the Intel SSDs, but not far behind the Intel 330 and all reports I could find gave it a very high score as far as reliability. The Intel 520 was about $50 more than the Intel 330 and Samsung 830.

One thing I found from my research is that consumers SSDs, then cheapest variety, have tended to have quite a record of failure compared to regular hard drives; surprising really, considering that there are no moving parts. What apparently is the Achilles ’ Heel of SSDs is the controller and most SSDs use a SandForce controller, Intel included with the 520 and 330, and the controller can cause all sorts of issues causing the dreaded BSOD and even complete SSD failure. The SandForce controller is a generic controller sold to many SSD manufacturers and it's up to them to make sure it works properly with their SSDs. But these manufacturers don't necessarily work closely with SandForce, so their efforts at solving issues aren't always effective. But what Intel has done is work very closely with SandForce and modified aspects of the controller to improve the reliability so that they are confident about its long term performance; only Intel has access to these modifications. Samsung, on the other hand, make all their own components and so they all work in concert and don't rely on third parties.

Another aspect of SSDs is the need to regularly ‘clean’ the drive of ‘garbage’ that accumulates during read/write operations. With the Intel SSDs, and just about all the others that use SandForce controllers, this cleaning is done on the fly, which may reduce the overall performance of the SSD, but keeps performance consistent all the time. With the Samsung, the cleaning is done during quiet periods, which means that in intensive operations, the performance can drop significantly if cleaning is not able to be done. This can be a concern in data centres and where you are really making the SSD work for long periods of time on intensive tasks; something to consider when choosing an SSD. However, since my tablet was not going to be used in intensive tasks, I decided to go with the Samsung 830 128GB SSD for some reason. Maybe I was just a bit worried that despite the work that Intel had done with their latest SSDs, and favourable reports, they haven’t really proved themselves regarding long-term reliability. Anyway, the SSD arrived yesterday and it was time to clone the OS.

In order to clone a drive, you need to be able to connect the drive to the main PC and what I used was a SATA docking station that I’ve had for some time. This device enables you to insert a 2.5” or 3.5” SATA hard drive and connect it via a USB cable to any PC, a simple and elegant solution. The cloning process is actually quite easy, depending on what you use and my recommendation is to use software designed for this purpose. The Samsung came with an option to download Norton Ghost, which I had some reservations about, but decided to try anyway, since it was what Samsung offered. I thought that Norton Ghost would be on the disk provided, but it was actually available as a download, which I accessed through the Samsung SSD Magician software that I’d installed (more on that later). After downloading and installing Norton Ghost, I started the cloning process only to discover that what I’d downloaded was a 30 day trial version, but with the ability to do the clone. Also, as soon as I opened the program, it wanted to make all sorts of changes to my tablet. My suspicions had been vindicated. So I did a complete system restore to get rid of Norton Ghost. That fully confirms all of my previous views that anything that comes out of Symantec should go straight into the bin.

Anyway, I had a program already installed called Paragon Hard Disk Manager (http://www.paragon-s...me/hdm-personal), which allows for the migration of everything from one hard drive to another, as well as many other functions, and is what I’d used to clone my PC hard drive. I should have used this from the outset, but then I wouldn’t have had my confirmation of the Symantec rubbish. I also have another similar product, Acronis, which came with a laptop that I’d bought years ago, but I never became wedded to Acronis, as it had what I thought was a very obtuse interface. A lot of people swear by it, I just swore at it. Anyway, I discovered Paragon and when I bought it in 2010, it was pretty inexpensive and even the latest version is reasonably priced.

When cloning an SSD, using a dedicated program designed for this can be important, as an SSD works differently to a regular hard drive so it’s important apparently to match everything from one device to the other, including sectors or whatever from one drive to the other (Google cloning hard drives to SSDs and you’ll find out). There are differences in how both work devices work and if they aren’t matched properly, you can get all sorts of problems. Anyway, the cloning worked flawlessly and when I swapped the two drives in the tablet, it fired up as if nothing had changed. And that’s exactly what made me wonder what was going on, things should have been blistering fast for start-up etc, but they seemed to be much the same as with the normal hard drive. So once everything was confirmed to work, I opened the SSD Magician software to see what it would do.

The SSD Magician offers a range of disk and OS management and optimisation functions, so I went through all of these and selected the recommended options. I also did another Windows performance test and all that increased was hard drive data transfer rate figure from 5.7 to 7.7, everything else obviously stayed the same. So with further testing by opening and closing programs, shutting down the tablet and restarting once again, I can say that the SSD hasn’t measurably sped up many of the functions on the tablet. Some programs do open faster, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, but these are really are the most intensive of programs one can use and are usually quoted when SSDs are compared to regular hard drives. One program that does work a lot faster is Memory Map, not so much when opening, but loading maps is significantly faster, so I guess in these types of operations you can see the improvements.

Why doesn’t the SSD significantly improve performance like you so often hear? Well, I think it’s due to several factors. Firstly, the tablet isn’t a speed demon from the outset, so the hard drive isn’t the performance limiting factor that it can be on very high performance desktop PCs. Secondly, the original hard drive wasn’t a complete slug and by using Ready Boost, I was able to get pretty good performance out of the drive and associated operations. Thirdly, some things simply won’t work faster with an SSD, as they are dependent on accessing stuff on the net or network.

So is an SSD worthwhile? In a desktop environment, all the indicators are that SSDs can be very beneficial, especially if you put your OS and programs on the SSD and data elsewhere, but in my example and similar situations, you’re not going to get mind blowing results by installing an SSD. Power consumption, ie improved battery performance may improve, but I haven’t had a chance to measure this. If you need a lot of hard disk space, then a regular hard drive is, in my view, the better way to go, especially if you have space in your device for only one hard drive. I certainly wouldn’t have contemplated this even a year ago, as SSD prices were incredibly high compared to regular hard drives, but in this case it was worth a try.

Cheers

Ray

Edited by Ray!
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Ive been exclusivly using SSD's in my home PC's for about 2 years now. I started with an OCZ Summit, then moved on to an OCZ Revo PCI based SSD. They scream - I would NEVER EVER go back to a magnetic disk again. They are slow and noisy.

One bit of advice, spend the money and buy an SSD thats fast - Currently OCZ Vertex 4 is where its at. If you put one of these into your machine it will transform it. There is simply no better upgrade you can do - no amount of CPU, memory or video card can match the overall speed increase that an SSD will give you.

Go for it!

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I think speed, reliability and longevity need to be considered together at the moment, mainly because of the cost of SSDs. All the reviews that I read gave a very big thumbs up for the Intel 520 series, for speed and reliability (longevity was more or less assumed) and hence probably why Intel gives them a five year warranty. I would have considered the Intel SSD, but the extra $50+ wasn't warranted, considering where it was going to be used. If I was considering one for my PC, I'd probably go for the Intel 520.

This site gives some pretty comprehensive reviews of SSDs: http://www.anandtech.com.

Cheers

Ray

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If you plan to use an SSD as an OS drive, get the Paragon Hard Disk Manager. With that, you'll then also be able to do a range of other useful things like backups etc, and it really is a very easy program to use. In fact, I'd recommend Paragon as a useful tool regardless.

Cheers

Ray

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If you have a laptop thats feeling a bit 'not-so-fast' anymore - Grab a decent SSD and whack it in - Not only will you safeguard your data from knocks which laptops can get but your laptop will feel almost new again.. Boot times will reduce significantly and eveything just works HEAPS quicker.

The speed improvement in laptops is usually more than that of a desktop due to most laptops having 5400rpm 2.5" drives vs 7500rpm desktop drives - They are simply slower therefore the speed bump with SSD is more noticable.

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That's what I anticipated with my tablet, but not what I actually achieved. There wasn't that 'Wow!' factor after installing the SSD and, as I said, I think there were many contributing factors. If I had a laptop with a fast processor and lots of RAM, and a fast graphics card, rather than an integrated one, then the SSD would probably have a much greater impact on performance. So I think you need to look at the entire setup before committing to an SSD in the hope that Clark Kent becomes Superman.

I might also point out that hard drives are incredibly resilient, especially notebook/laptop ones, and I'd never be worried about damaging one through jolts, dropping etc. I've dropped notbooks, laptops and even my current tablet and never had one problem. The Seagate Momentus 5400 hard drive, for example, can survive up to 1000G of shock when not operating and 350G when operating. No human being could survive even a fraction of that.

Cheers

Ray

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I've used Paragon a lot since Acronis went away from the simple interface of V9 and below. After that you need a degree to work it out and I found many bugs in the bits where you try and save 5 backups and then progressively delete.

Paragon is very slow, however, and the interface is also a bit obtuse, particularly when restoring.

Of late I've used EaseUS ToDo which pretty much gets back to a simple interface like early Acronis. It takes the image at twice the speed of Paragon, and does not need a reboot after installation. I've tested it in restore mode, and it's very simple and reliable for that most critical function - and it has an option to restore to SSD and also to dissimilar hardware. I haven't tested the last bit. Paragon P2P driver injection works fine, I've used that a lot, so if the Todo one doesn't work too well a quick boot into Paragon will get the job done.

I agree with you about Symantec stuff - Ghost worked perfectly when the NZ boys ran it, but when Norton/Symantec bought them out the product went sideways and then downhill. Symantec Antivirus again bluescreened thousands of XP users with a buggy update only a few weeks ago.

Go Bitdefender for AntiVirus/Security - the only clients I worked for that ever had virus infestations were those who specified Symantec. Those who took my advice and ran Bitdefender have never had even an hour lost due to virus.

One shop with Symantec got infected through their WAN (started in Malaysia from an infected laptop) late on a Friday - Symantec id's the threat but let it do it's damage anyway. We opened a Ticket with Symantec, then sent it to a contact at Trend who confirmed it for us but before he could write a tool for removal he had to fight the same battle for their own clients who were also attacked. It was late Sunday night before Symantec finally fixed it with a definition update - more than 48 hours !!!!! Trend had a patch out 2 hours after we sent them the files, but that didn't help us. Made a motza that weekend :)

Getting more performance from SSDs is indeed a lottery. Many systems won't boot faster or perform better with an SSD. I think it's to do with the SATA interface performance of the system - many are designed for SATA1 so installing a SATA3 SSD will leave you with the same bottleneck you had before. Only cached stuff will load faster, or stuff that can be prefetched (such as maps) when the program itself uses system RAM to load stuff, like an adjoining map on a moving map program.

Probably the major advantage in a laptop/tablet is better battery life, less heat, and silent operation. Some laptop drives make some atrocious sounds, not really loud but annoying.

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Thanks for the feedback.

From what I've found, installing an SSD really does seem to be a lottery. I thought optimisation was what was lacking, but after checking everything, even ensuring that I was booting in AHCI, there was nothing more that I could do to enhance performance of the SSD or OS.

It's been an exploration for me in the last five or so years trying to find an optimum system for backup, recovery etc and you have confirmed what I've discovered in that time. Mind you, I realised about 10 years ago that it was worse installing Symantec than having nothing whatsoever. It was easier to get rid of a virus than anything Symantec some years back.

Trend Micro was the last AV that I used, for well over 5+ years, but I've been using Microsoft Security Essentials for the last year + and it's proven to be as good, if not better than Trend Micro. When Microsoft said they were bringing out their own AV program, it was loudly lambasted by AV companies, but it's actually proven to be very good. Some suggest that the options are overly simplistic, but the fact is that it works.

Cheers

Ray

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The Seagate Momentus 5400 hard drive, for example, can survive up to 1000G of shock when not operating and 350G when operating. No human being could survive even a fraction of that.

Errr, you do realise that a hard object falling from a height of just 1 meter onto a hard surface is well in excess of 1000G's right?

Matter of fact it's over 2000G's.

The reason a human can easily survive that is they are not a hard object. When a body hits, the skin, muscle and fat move and spread the impact of the fall. A hard object does not and therefore all the shock is focused in a very minute area.

The 1000 G shock may sound impressive, that's probably whey they don't state it as a fall from less than 3 Ft! :D

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It's all relative, the height of the fall doesn't matter, it's the sudden stop. The actual effect will still be whatever G forces result and the impact on the internals (hard drive or human body). The biggest issue with hard disk drives is the arm hitting the platter, which usually causes instant destruction; if it can avoid that happening during significant G forces, then it has a good survivability rate. At least the measurement system gives a repeatable and standard way of measuring shock resistance, rather than saying it will survive a rough road in a 4WD.

Cheers

Ray

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It seems that Samsung aren't the only manufacturer that doesn't apply on-the-fly garbage removal, which can slow down performance. By pure coincidence, I came upon this review of the OCZ Vertex 4, which appears to work in a similar way to the Samsung SSD and experiences similar issues (partly remedied by the firmware update that this article discusses): http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/vertex-4-firmware-benchmark,3245.html.

Cheers

Ray

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Interesting thread!

I'm currently looking at building up a new Mac Pro (yep thats right), and have been toying with the idea of an SSD hosted OS and then all my data kept on the Ol' Skool tech 2nd drive. I want the SSD to hold no more than the OS and maybe applications, but all data, files, etc will be on a second drive.

I'm no comp tech, so not sure if my understand and proposal would be reasonable.

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The SSD usually stores the OS and applications, or the most used applications at the very least to gain the performance improvements. You also need to consider having an SSD that exceeds your OS/applications requirements, so that it has capacity for temporary storage during read/write operations etc, depending on application requirements. SSDs are typically much faster at reading than writing (and lots of writing reduces an SSDs life to some extent), so it depends on applications that require reading/writing as to where they reside or should reside.

Whatever your current OS/application's storage requirements are, I'd consider getting an SSD that has at least 50% greater capacity, but since SSD come in rather big leaps, you're likely to end up with one that is twice the size of what you may need. My current C:/ drive is 150GB, if I were to consider an SSD, I'd probably have to look at a 256GB drive.

Cheers

Ray

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Here's what I'm thinking....

I'd like to have an SSD running the programs as that will give me speed with them right?

Then I'm thinking have another SSD with the photos I am working on at the time with. Like an event or a school or whatever. These I only need to work on for a week or so till the job is done and then I can relegate them to Disk or a conventional HDD and wipe the SSD to make room for the next batch.

The files are opened, edited, printed, saved, Closed. I like to open about 10 pics at once and then work my way though them and let them sit on the print server while I work on the next files.

If I set up a workstation like this:

Is it going to be a lot faster running the programs and the image files I'm working on from SSD's?

Is wipeing the 2nd SSD going to be a pain, cause issues or bring about any other Hassels?

Which SSD brand/ type would be best for what I want, over the top priced " Gaming" units aside?

Aside from the actual printing speed mechanics of the printer itself, will SSD's speed up the time in getting the data to the printer and make the pool faster through getting the info out quicker?

Oh, and one last thought...

Does anyone make an adapter so I can Stick one of these SSD"s in and have 128GB of RAM?

:D

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Given that everything else on your PC is at its fastest, then an SSD will provide substantial gains in work performance. Check out your Windows performance index first and see which components are the slowest and that will determine to what extent an SSD will improve overall performance.

The main thing at the moment is that SSDs are still bloody expensive, so you might be better off with a hybrid system like the Seagate Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive, which is like a combinatiion of a hard drive and SSD. You'll get excellent transfer and operational speeds and large storage capacity. I would have bought one of these, but they don't come in 7mm form factor. It comes in a 2.5" form factor, but caddies are a dime a dozen. http://www.pccasegea...oducts_id=14722.

SSDs are really designed to be written to constantly. I haven't really looked into why this is the case, but it seems to pop up all the time in reviews etc; however, I believe that they are significantly bettter than what they used to be only a few years ago. If you were going for an SSD, then the best consumer model available is probably the Intel 520 series. Printing speeds won't improve with an SSD, but increasing the RAM in the printer will. You can't use an SSD as a substitute for RAM.

Update: This is a good rundown on getting more out of your SSD and also gives some insights as to write issue: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-performance-tweak,2911.html.

Cheers

Ray

Edited by Ray!
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Interesting thread!

I'm currently looking at building up a new Mac Pro (yep thats right), and have been toying with the idea of an SSD hosted OS and then all my data kept on the Ol' Skool tech 2nd drive. I want the SSD to hold no more than the OS and maybe applications, but all data, files, etc will be on a second drive.

I'm no comp tech, so not sure if my understand and proposal would be reasonable.

My pc at work is setup like that and works a treat. Boots fast. Loads outlook real fast. U won't be disappointed!!

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Ok. In guessing SSD's are primarily based for laptops and tablets.

If I was to purchase a smaller tablet (8G), is it easy to increase the size?

SSDs are suitable for any device that supports a hard drive, unfortunately, every tablet that I know of, other than my Gigabyte, will not support a 2.5" hard drive. Anything Android or iPad will have no upgrade ability. Anything Windows based may have upgrade ability. The thing is that Android and iPad have been designed as social networking devices, as is the forthcoming Windows 8 RT, so there's no need to support system upgrades of any of these devices.

Cheers

Ray

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I've currently got a SSD with the OS and not much more on it and an internal normal 2TB for storage.

The problem I've got is the SSD is only small (50gb) so after factoring in partition table loss, Windows and a couple of bits and pieces it's about 90-95% full. I've already had to move the virtual memory to the other drive because with photoshop it was maxing out the SSD.

I was thinking about getting another bigger SSD to replace my current as the primary drive, them use the smaller SSD as a virtual memory/photoshop scratch drive

Do you think this idea would be beneficial/work ???

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I've currently got a SSD with the OS and not much more on it and an internal normal 2TB for storage.

The problem I've got is the SSD is only small (50gb) so after factoring in partition table loss, Windows and a couple of bits and pieces it's about 90-95% full. I've already had to move the virtual memory to the other drive because with photoshop it was maxing out the SSD.

I was thinking about getting another bigger SSD to replace my current as the primary drive, them use the smaller SSD as a virtual memory/photoshop scratch drive

Do you think this idea would be beneficial/work ???

You definitely benefit from a larger SSD, I can open Photoshop on my tablet as fast as I can on my PC (which doesn't have an SSD). The Samsung 830 and Intel 330 are reasonably good value for 120GB drives. Here's a link to some interesting stats about SSD failure rates (it doesn't include the Samsung) and the overall rates may appear small and it's only collected, but they can still be significant: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4202/the-intel-ssd-510-review/3. This is the original source: http://www.hardware.fr/articles/810-6/taux-pannes-composants.html, with interesting figures on regular hard disk drives.

Cheers

Ray

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