Revisiting Solid State Hard Drives

It's been almost a year since I covered The State of Solid State Hard Drives. Not a heck of a lot has changed, but the topic is still worth revisiting, because if you care at all about how your computer performs, solid state hard drives remain a life changing experience. Here's why:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Like you, I can’t justify replacing the hard drive in my wife’s older PC with an SSD, but I was really excited to learn about Seagate’s Momentus series hybrid option. Does anyone make an equivalent 3.5" form factor SATA drive for desktops? That might be an affordable way to breath a little new life into a still-capable but older PC.

This article has just convinced me to go get a SSD, is there anything better coming out in the next month before I go ahead and purchase this?

“OSX still doesn’t support TRIM!”

True enough. There is however some evidence to suggest it doesn’t really need to:

And if you doubt the 7 page article on respected tech site with graphs and everything, well, I’ve had one in my MacBook pro for the last 18 months or so and the thing feels just as fast as the day I installed it. The step up over (generally much lower RPM) laptop drives is even more dramatic.

@Lee Treveil
There’s always going to be new components that are faster than the previous generation, so if you like it, but it. For example,
the new bottleneck is going to be lag between user and keyboard.

@Neil Naidoo, yeah but I just got a HTC Desire about a week ago on a 18 month contract. Oh how i’m regretting that today!

Jeff, have you tried SSD from OWC ( MacPerformance Blog recommends this before any other SSD (

Check this out first!

I have one of the XT’s in my Macbook Pro (i5, 8GB). It’s quick, but it’s not THAT quick. I had a 7200 rpm 500GB in there before… Maybe I’ve just gotten used to it…

So if you have a 5200RPM drive, it’s a total no-brainer. Personally, I’d be tempted to put a proper SSD in the optical bay, and an hybrid in the drive bay, so I can have data/itunes/etc on the big disk, and the OS and swap on the SSD… ideal solution.

It’s a worthwhile update tho, I think.

@Josh: the problem is OWC sponsors MacPerformance blog, so the review might be biased. I just hope Jeff can concur the review on MacPerformance blog.

And the problem of RealSSD on Mac can also be because of unsupported TRIM operation on Mac. I don’t know. Need someone that has both Windows and Mac and both RealSSD and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro.

Are you paid by “Crucial”?

It is obvious you are doing it wrong: a 256Gb SSD is always faster than a 160Gb SSD (probably because everybody does some RAID-ing inside). This is how “Crucial” is ahead of Intel. I don’t know if “Crucial” at 160Gb is better than Intel, but why don’t you do that bench too - just for the sake of fairness?

If I was Borat, I would say that you compare how much milk does a goat produce compared with a cow :stuck_out_tongue:

Maybe the problem is using Windows. As an example, my current Linux installation (Arch Linux in an Acer Aspire One) eats 4.4 GB. Of course I need a little more for swap.

I guess that if my netbook had an SSD, it would weight less, and it would be a win… But for a 200€ gadget, I guess it is ok as it is.


I can’t second Jeff’s excitement about hybrid drives. I think they combine the disadvantages of HDD and SSD: seek penalty/shock sensitivity & short life-time/limited number of write cycles.

My SSD moment was when I bought a new laptop and I absolutely love it. But I installed a RAM disk, disabled Hibernate and spent some hours tweaking OS and application settings to relocate temporary files so I can sleep without worrying too much about MLC and write amplification.

The biggest problem for adaptation of smart storage (of which hybrid may be a part of) is that there is little available if anything for categorization of file persistence requirements.

BTW, would you enable defragmentation for hybrid drives?

@Flavius Chis, the C300 even at 64GB will make every one SSD look like pure crap on sequential reads and large block random access, as the read speed is not directly related to the number of chips (and for SandForce drives, not even the write, every size is just as fast). What it sucks at is 4K random access, where SandForce drives rule for cheap prices (still not even remotely comparable with enterprise 200K IOPS SLC SSDs).

@Jeff Atwood, it’s called a “Solid State Drive” (SSD), so drop the “Hard” - that’s a “Hard Disk Drive” (HDD), which is your magnetic platter storage medium; SSDs aren’t “Hard Drives”.

If you’re cheap and use a a 5+ years old computer, you can still get SSD-like performance without spending more money than what your computer is worth:

I bought a Seagate Momentus XT 500GB.

It is slightly better than a standard 7200RPM notebook drive in real world usage but my biggest issue with it was that it only lasted 3 months.

I replaced it with an SSD.

Life. Altering. Experience.

I seriously recommend avoiding the Momentus XT. It did not live up to the hype whatsoever for me.

(yes, you can get by with 64 GB, but at least with my Windows installs I find that I have to think about disk space with 64 GB, whereas with 128 GB I don’t have to worry – ever. Don’t make me think, man!)

Which is why I run linux all the time. I have a Lucid (32 bit), Maverick beta (64 bit) and Gentoo (64bit) installation all on one raid0 set of SSDs (2x60Gb thank you very much).

I have currently 25Gb dedicated for /home[1], and beyond currently allocated backup snapshots I have 56Gb free space. I mean, I had to look that up, or I wouldn’t have known. That is my definition of not having to think. Besides, having free space on SSD allows for best wear leveling success in the controller.

I was in shock when I found out on third attempt that Win7 really requires over 10Gb just for WinSxS cache on a fresh install. That does make me think. I love Win7 for the most part, but I’m just not willing to throw away my performance / resources at that price.

Of course, I have a largish NAS running opensolaris with 5 1.5Tb disks in two mirrored pools giving me all the storage I need; e.g. iscsi volumes for my virtual machines, my CD collection, pictures and more backupey stuff.

[1] which is more than enough to build all of opensolaris (RIP) in, develop several ASP.Net MVC2 applications in monodevelop and do other important stuff :slight_smile:

The sysadmins at my company have been looking into this thing

It’s not quite in the same bracket as the drives you mention, but it is an interesting comparison. Sounds like we’ll be getting some for our servers.

@Ruben: and who needs swap in a workstation? As soon as it needs swap, it ought to die!

I have 8Gb of RAM and it ought to suffice, IMHO. Badly written applications can go wreck another PC if they really need to :slight_smile:

@Rob O’Daniell:
I showed up unannounced on my Moms doorstep 3 months ago (screw-driver in hand) and swapped out here OS drive for a SSD (cheap one, 30Gb).

She has been thanking me ever since for making her (old) machine fly and she noted that it had become so much quieter (because the data disk is allowed to spin down most of the time).

So as far as ‘justifying the expense’ is concerned, my Mom will not have to consider upgrading her PC for the next 2 years, while she had been fed up with it for some time before the SSD…