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SSD for OS worth it?Follow

#1 May 18 2011 at 6:11 PM Rating: Good
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I've been doing some research into parts with the hope that I'll have the cash to build a rig this summer. Something I've noticed popping up is a trend to buy a smaller SSD for your operating system and getting a larger, cheaper old school hard drive for the rest of your needs.

Has anyone tried this?

Is it worth the price? I mean, SSDs (even smaller ones) aren't cheap. I mean, Newegg has a 3TB Hard Drive for sale right now for $120. They also have a 64GB SSD on sale for $115...

I'm just wondering what it will actually affect. I've heard that startup times with a SSD are 30 seconds or less, which is awesome. But that alone isn't tempting enough for me to spend the money for one. What will it speed up otherwise? Or, should I say, is the difference in speed in other places noticeable enough to be worth it? I know SSDs are way faster--what I'm wondering is if they are fast enough to warrant the costs if I'm looking to stay in the $600-800 range.

I've seen both claims--people claiming an SSD for the OS is the single best upgrade a computer can get, and people claiming that it will make no real difference. And I loosely understand the points about the random access speeds. I just don't know how to transform them into practical data...

I mean, I'd be looking at well over $100 for a good SSD large enough for the OS. If it's worth it, then I'd definitely consider investing...
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#2 May 18 2011 at 9:23 PM Rating: Excellent
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There are a couple options, and the answer to the "is it worth it" question is basically, "yes" but depends on your configuration and needs, and only if you will be running windows 7 or better.

The fastest 6GB / sec SSD's will dramatically improve your boot, program load, and operations on your computer. There is no spinup or seek time. If you are constantly writing large files (saving music tracks from recording, working with large cad files, etc) then a SSD may not be the best way to go.

First off, there are a couple different things to consider with SSD's. not all SSD's are alike or even close. Some are glorified flash drives. Others are very very fast. Here are the main criteria

3GB per second or 6GB per Second:
Most existing motherboards and older SSD's have a maximum bandwidth of 3GB per second. this is fast, and faster than most rotational hard drives, but its not a huge amount faster. Some newer, high end motherboards now have 6GB / sec ports and some of the newest SSD's have 6GB / sec controllers. If you can pair that up you get a very, very very fast drive connection. A 120Gb 6GB / sec drive starts at $300 from newegg.

MLC vs SLC:
MLC, or Multi Layer Cell, refers to how the drive itself is constructed. SLC drives use just one layer of memory material per area ont he chip, and are therefore much faster and somewhat more theoretically reliable. MLC uses stacked layers, and have a bit of a speed penalty. The problem with SLC drives is you can't afford one. No one can. They exist only to torment us with listings of their awsomeness, and are otherwise mythical, like unicorns, or chimeras.

TRIM:
most Intel and corsair, and even most of the hated OCZ drives support the TRIM command. Some cheaper ones (and some older ones) don't, and its a huge issue. Essentially, when you delete something from a solid state drive, there are remnants left over that you dopn't encounter on a rotational hard drive. Eventually those build up over time and render your drive about 30% slower on average. the TRIM command cleans up those garbage elements and restores the drive to its initial speed. Windows 7 supports it, Windows XP kind of does if you hack in support via Intel tools. The latest Intel and Corsair SSD's have trim actually built into the drive so the OS isn't as big of an issue. Just make sure the drive supports TRIM.

Then there is the capacity issue. For gaming, you want all your operating system, your game files and any log files, etc on the same fastest drive. Assuming you want each of your games ont eh same drive, capacity becomes an issue. I personally haven't switched to a SSD yet because I need at least 220GB to transfer my existing OS partition over. Early drives were also hampered by an issue that you could not run SSD's in a Raid 0 array because TRIM would not function over a raid partition. Intel at least has since fixed that issue, so assuming you have a good amount of knowledge about setting up automatic system backups and imaging, you could run 2 drives in a raid 0, spanned, configuration. The upside is you essentially double the already fast speed of the SSD. the major downside is that if one drive fails, you lose your data on both drives.

Something else to consider are the Hybrid SSD drives that Seagate makes. The momentus XT series. They have a 4GB SSD and a 200-500GB rotational HDD paired together as a single unit. It plugs in like a normal hard drive, shows up as 1 drive in the system, but internally, things that are used most often and known heavy access files are stored in the SSD portion of the drive. less accessed data goes in the rotational portion. They aren't as fast as a good SSD, but they are faster than a 10,000 RPM raptor drive. I have one in my work laptop. I actually replaced my SSD because it was filling up too fast. I do notice a bit of performance loss, but its not much and not having to uninstall programs every time I want to go off site for longer than a day has been well worth it.
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#3 May 18 2011 at 9:45 PM Rating: Good
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Thanks for all the awesome info Kao. :D

I think I'll pass on the SSD for now, then. Worst case scenario, I decide to update to one later on. Which would suck, but it isn't an irreparable kind of suck.

I'll definitely look into the hybrid drives though--they sound very interesting...

Thanks again.
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IDrownFish wrote:
Anyways, you all are horrible, @#%^ed up people

lolgaxe wrote:
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