At the time I write this, a "good" 120GB solid state drive will cost you $200; such an example is the Intel SSDSA2CW120G3K5, a.k.a. "320 Series".
Generally speaking, nobody really needs more than 120GB for a host drive. In fact, you could get away with an 80GB easily. Remember, Windows 7 does not take up a lot of space on its own, and one of its selling points is that it is much smaller than Vista’s footprint. In reality, Win7 is really close to XP’s footprint (assuming Service Pack 3 with all updates). A common misunderstanding about Win7 is "it’s newer so it must be bigger". Wrong. Microsoft took out a ton of chunk from Vista to 7, just like Apple took out a ton of chunk in OS X from Tiger to the present Lion.
Big apps are things like modern games, the Adobe Photoshop suite, certain video editing suites, Microsoft Office and so on. Just about everything else is on the small side.
The big data is audio, video and super-large images, and most people already use dedicated big-drive storage for that anyway, so again, there’s really no reason to have a huge host drive.
If the idea of SSD sounds like a good idea to you (and it is, which I’ll explain in a moment), there’s a standing rule when it comes to this technology: DON’T GO CHEAP. Don’t do it. With SSD, the memory has to be built in a way that will stand the test of time. Safe bets with SSD are Intel, Crucial and Samsung. And yes, you can go by brand here to determine which you should get. If you decide to go bargain hunting with SSD, that’s a bad idea, because at some point your SSD will simply stop working and it will probably happen in less than 2 years.
Granted, you can get a 120GB SSD for under $100, but I wouldn’t. This is your host drive we’re talking about here, so it should be a good one. If you don’t, you’ll appreciate the speed of your cheap SSD, but it will have a short life, and that’s no good.
The worst use of SSD?
Any SSD setup with Windows XP as the operating system. Now I’m sure I’ll get a comment or two from people that say "I’m running XP on my SSD and it runs great!" You got lucky (and your luck will run out), because the Microsoft kernel for XP simply doesn’t ‘agree’ with SSD. Ever try to run XP off a USB stick? Then you know how difficult it is to get working with Flash-based memory, and once working the stability is ‘shaky’ at best.
All it takes to destroy an XP setup on SSD is one bad pagefile write to the drive, and that’s it – dead operating system; it will happen with absolutely no warning at all. You’ll be in the middle of doing something, and.. crash. Go to reboot, and… nothing. The SSD will still work, but you’ll have to completely "blow away" the partitions, reinstall the OS and start all over again.
At bare minimum for the Windows environment, Vista is required. Win7 is obviously better because there’s not nearly as much bloat. Regardless of which you go with, you need that modern Windows kernel to run SSD correctly. If you don’t and use XP, eventually you’ll have a dead OS because XP’s kernel doesn’t handle SSD the way it’s supposed to.
As for Linux, it is suggested you use a bare minimum kernel version 3. While 2.6 can handle SSD very well, you’re better off with 3 to take advantage of newer technologies. In fact, the latest Linux kernel 3.4 was literally released less than two weeks ago.
Where will you see the most improvement with SSD over HDD?
Undoubtedly, you will see a tremendous speed increase with laptops. The vast majority of laptops come equipped with 5400 RPM 2.5-inch HDDs. Going from 5400 RPM HDD to SSD is a night-and-day difference. You’ll think you just gave your laptop an upgrade from a single-core CPU to an 8-core; it’s that fast. When you eliminate the 5400 RPM bottleneck in a laptop, the difference is amazing.
On the desktop side of things, yes there is a notable increase in speed for pretty much everything. While not as noticeable as it would be on a laptop, you’ll still see significant speed improvements.
Does spending the cash on SSD now save you money in the future?
There’s a good chance it will.
Most people blame computer slowness on not having a fast enough CPU, not having enough RAM or not having a fast enough video card. But more often than not it’s the HDD which is the thing making your computer slow more than anything else; that’s the bottleneck.
As long as things continue to run quickly as expected, that’s all that matters and you won’t have to upgrade as often. When things are running fast, you won’t see any need to upgrade for a good long time, and that’s where the savings comes in.
In the end, yes it’s totally worth it to pony up the $200 for a 120GB SSD host drive. It’s most likely true you’ll have to reinstall your WinVista/7 or Linux-based OS, but the speed after going through that hassle is well worth it.
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