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Laptop Performance Quest - An affordable way to use SSD (Solid State Disks) in my current laptop.

By Andrew Pollack on 10/27/2007 at 08:22 PM EDT

Solid State Disk -- essentially big flash drives in the shape of and with interface level compatibility with internal laptop drives -- is here. They don't compete for size with traditional spinning drives, and won't soon for anything close to the same cost. But they can be used effectively.

What got me started this time was realizing that I had this modular drive bay in my Dell D820 that is currently filled with a CD/DVD that almost never is needed. I found a $50 unit that goes in the same bay, and is meant to house a second 2.5" IDE laptop drive. With some looking I found SSD drives in that configuration ranging from 2GB all the way up to 64GB. The sweet spot right now is at 4 or 8 gb which can be purchased for under $200.

So, what is the advantage if I were to plug one of these devices in?

Well, 8gb is enough to store my local Notes data directory, my windows temp directory, my windows swap file, AND the windows hibernation file. That represents about 75% of the disk activity I may use if I am working at the pc. I could probably also move my firefox cache directory as well and then need the regular drive only for program loads and big files.

SSD uses a tenth as much power, and provides throughput on large file transfers up to 40 times faster. There are some definite down sides to this strategy however. Chief among them is that you do NOT want to swap out the drive windows has its virtual memory or temp data on just to use a CDROM.

A shame I don't have a second internal bay.

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re: Laptop Performance Quest - An affordable way to use SSD (Solid State Disks) in my current laptop.By Nathan T. Freeman on 10/28/2007 at 10:49 AM EDT
Be cautious on this approach. I was thinking of doing something similar when a
friend pointed out that SSDs have low MTBF numbers, mostly because they have a
limited number of writes over their lifetime. I think it's something like
half-a-million writes to the same memory. (I could easily be mistaken about
the exactly number.)

That's probably not a big deal if you're talking about music or picture files,
but your windows swap file is extremely volatile, yes?
that's changing rapidlyBy Andrew Pollack on 10/28/2007 at 02:32 PM EDT
The number of write cycles is changing rapidly with these units. In
particular, those configured as hard disks are designed to combat this by
distributing writes to different locations and changing the address map on
writes -- which is invisible to the programs using it, and takes no longer
because there is no difference in read time across locations. NAND
manufacturing techniques are also improving.

Sure, plugging your basic compact flash card in isn't going to work, but a good
IDE or SATA replacement will be reliable for quite a while.

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