Scott Hanselman

Upgrading my Lenovo W500 to a OCZ Vertex 250GB SATA II Solid State Disk (SSD)

July 18, 2009 Comment on this post [23] Posted in Reviews
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It's an old metaphor I've used for years, originally stealing it from comedian Larry Miller, but it's time to use it again, this time in reference to Hard Drives and SSDs.

The difference between an SSD and a regular Hard Drive is the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.

Sweet wondrous universe, it is. Remember that Lenovo W500 from last week? It's a great machine, truly. The best laptop I've ever had.

Here's my Lenovo W500's Windows Experience Index (WEI) under Win7 RC.

Performance Information and Tools (2)

Note the 5.9 under Hard Disk. Here's that same machine using the PerformanceTest Disk Benchmark. My computer is the LAST one in each list, the green one, marked "This Computer." I've compared it with other people's results on the same Lenovo.

PerformanceTest 7.0 Evaluation Version

Looks like 68.6 megs/sec Seq. Read, 43 megs/sec Seq. WRite and 3.5 megs/sec Random Seek+RW.

Here's the same machine after I backed it up with my Windows Home Server, put in an OCZ Vertex 250GB Sata II Solid State Disk (SSD) and restored it.

Aside: Also available in sizes from 32 gig for $300 and up. The 256gig, while spendy, is the best deal. Others, however, prefer the 120gig for about $350 as the best price point.

The drive looks to your machine like an SATA II hard drive and it's already the same shape, so I just plugged it in and it was recognized as a Hard Drive. I didn't need to do anything special to get the computer to "recognize it."

Performance Information and Tools SSD

Notice the 7.3 (out of 7.9 possible) in the WEI now. Here's the PerformanceTest results:

PerformanceTest 7.0 Evaluation Version (2)

Now we see 110.8 megs/sec Seq. Read, 82 megs/sec Seq. WRite and 40.3 megs/sec Random Seek+RW. No physical parts to move around!

Joel Spolsky SWEARS by SSDs and told me it was the single most important upgrade one could do to take a machine to the next level. I hear he's bought new ones for his whole office. Expensive, a bit, yes, but it looks like my disk speed will be at least TWICE as fast, so you can do the math as to the number of minutes I'll save per day.

If you value your time at, say, $100 an hour, and you can save 10 min day total, that's $16. The $650 drive will pay for itself in about two work-months. It's worth your money, from what I can tell.

My Win7 laptop boots cold to password in 10 seconds now, enter password, then working desktop in 6 more seconds. Woot. I wish I had money to put an SSD on every machine. Here's hoping the prices go down.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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July 18, 2009 5:12
Scott, don't think the price will go down very fast. Back in March when Joel blogged about this item it was $760 ($4.75/GB). Almost 4 months later the price has gone down to $660 ($4.125/GB) or 15 cents per GB per month. That is way too slow. If we continue at this pace we are lucky if we can see a 160 GB drive at $500 in 4 months: still too expensive.

About 6 months ago I bought a 60GB for about $150 and the drive is now sitting at my desk cover with dust. For some reason my computer couldn't stop stuttering and the amount of tweaks I had to go through to get this thing at it's "best" potential is not worth the time. I think the problem was that I bought the "cheap" version. So based on my experience I would not recommend saving money on SSDs. At least at this moment.
July 18, 2009 5:24
Why 6 whole seconds after you enter your password? Mine (Windows 7 RC) does it in about 3.

And I'm with you on the prices going down part... I'd like an SSD but I maxed out my geek budget just buying a good PC without an SSD...
July 18, 2009 6:21
I'm waiting for the next Intel X25-M price drop, at which point I plan to replace a 300gb VelociRaptor at home with a pair of X25-M's in RAID-0 :) I have an 80GB X25-M in my workstation at work and it screams -- I can click on Outlook 2007 and it opens instantly even immediately after login.
July 18, 2009 7:12
I'm with you on hoping the prices goes down.

I was originally interested in the Disc on Chip in pc's to increase the boot speed but this seems more practical to me. It will speed up the other programs loading as well. Imagine the load speed of Photoshop.
July 18, 2009 11:46
I put a 128GB Samsung PB22-J in my desktop PC as the OS-and-applications disk, and it's unbelievably fast. An totally worthwhile upgrade for £250. Joel is absolutely right: the majority of PCs are currently hamstrung by their hard drives.
July 18, 2009 12:05
Well said, Mark. I have had my hard drives in a dozen machines thrash as much as the next guy, but as obvious as it has been, staring me in the face, you're right - PCs are profoundly Storage I/O bound.
July 18, 2009 12:14

Which cache policy did you use for the ssd device? Its a bit of a cryptic text there.


July 18, 2009 17:44
Well, one of the biggest problems still with SSDs is, that the performance degrades after time, because SSDs need to explicitly erase a block on the disc before they can use it. This is a time expensive operation. When you buy a new SSD, every block is already erased and the SSD can directly write to it, without performance degradation. After each block was used at least once, the SSD needs to erase a block before it can use it again, which will cost a lot of performance. This is also independent of the free disk space available, since the SSD doesn't know if a sector is still in use by the file system or not.
Microsoft and other Vendors have specified an extension to the original ATA protocol, which allows them to preemptivly erase blocks on disk, which are no longer used by the file system. AFAIK this extension is already supported by Windows 7, but I'm not sure which of the disk manufacturers also support it, especially because while there are many different manufacturers for SSDs, the controller chips that are in use are from the same few manufacturers and are often quite old.

It would be interesting to compare your results from now with the results in a few months. Of course you could also just fill the SSD with garbage once and see if you still get the same results, but I wouldn't recommend that ;-)
July 20, 2009 2:28
Thomas points out the issue with the current crop of SSDs - the controller chip. I've had - and loved - a 64GB SSD (Sandisk) on my Dell 1330M XPS for over a year now. I've been looking at the options for my desktop, and from the reviews sites it appears Intel and Sandisk are the only two with good controllers. And the price shows, but like Rick, when the Intel X25-M price drops I'll be there. It's worth the money.
July 20, 2009 3:39
I put an OCZ Summit 120 GB drive in my laptop last night -- restored from WHS and feels better than it did when it was brand new (it's an Asus R1F tablet -- about two years old). It's about 2.5 times the speed of my current 5400 rpm drive for transfer and not even in the same ballpark for random access, about 0.2 ms access as opposed to 14 ms.

A couple of months ago, I grit my teeth and put down $800 for an Intel 160 X-25...but for whatever reason, defective drive or incompatible bios or something, it didn't work, so I returned it.

Tech spec-wise, the Intel is a better drive but I picked up the OCZ for $340 after rebate so the price was a little easier to stomach.

It's all about finding and removing the bottlenecks and the prices are definitely coming down. The Intel X-25 three months later is $650...
July 20, 2009 6:27
We went through a similar exercise not too long ago, performance degraded noticably over a period of about 2 months. We are hoping the superior SSD support in Win7 might help out here but from what I've read the manufacturers are lagging behind in the stability stakes.
July 20, 2009 6:33
Oh, and if you install one of these -- make sure you turn auto-defrag off...
July 20, 2009 20:12
I came to the same conclusion a few months ago:

SSD is a must-have for every professional developer.
July 20, 2009 23:21
Nice post, Scott. I linked to your post from my SSD Forum. Even if compile time is not shortened, you can see that SSDs increase productivity in many other ways.
July 21, 2009 17:19
Have you also considered using a RAM disk? Jeff Palermo has recently implemented them and is pleased with the results. He's actually using them instead of SSDs, but I don't see why you couldn't do both. Developing off of the RAM disk should improve even compile time. Here's his blog about it...
July 22, 2009 3:14
See Intel announce their new X25M drives? 160 gigs for $440 Can't wait for benchmarking as the Vertex seemed to beat the old X25-M so who knows if the new one is any better or just cheaper

BTW the 120 gig OCZ Vertex drive is faster then the larger OCZ Vertex drive. Also its very important you use the latest firmware as firmware updates have increased the speed and added functionality like support for the Trim function Windows 7 uses to keep SSDs running fast
July 22, 2009 19:21
Looks like SATAIII (at 6Gbps) will get here just in time... :)
July 23, 2009 5:12
I upgraded my laptop HD from a 120gig 5400 rmp drive to a 30gig SSD. not have the storage is painful at times but i just can't go back... I love shooting bullets and not throwing them! :-)
July 28, 2009 10:56
which are no longer used by the file system. AFAIK this extension is already supported by Windows 7, but I'm not sure which of the disk manufacturers also support it
August 04, 2009 21:15
Being cheap AND space hungry (lots of virtual machines). I chose to take the DVD drive out of my laptop (MacBookPro) and replace it with a second 320gb drive and then create a RAID 0 array.

Not as fast as an SSD, but still a big performance improvement AND 640GB of disk space. :-)
August 06, 2009 2:40

Would be interesting to hear what you / Jeff think about Readyboost & VelociRaptor combination vs. SSD on a desktop.

Agree that for a laptop there's no better way to go - SSD for the win! I recently added a Western Digital Scorpio Black to my Dell XPS laptop and it chews through the power - battery life just over an hour if I'm lucky
August 15, 2009 0:30
Nice Scott, I got a Samsung SSD for my E6400. You boot from VHD?
Is this not a REAL problem with the SSD? The SSD need TRIM If you don't want to loose performance over time. On a SSD with a VHD a delete of a file dosen't realy delete a block on the disc? What's your experience with this?
February 03, 2010 1:52
I have the same laptop a W500, and it is actually one of the lower experiences that I have had with a new laptop. It only gets a 2.5 rating for hard disk, drammatically different than the 5.9 you get before SSD. I am running Windows 7 64 bits. Any ideas, why the HD could be so different on the same laptop model?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.