Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

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Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#1

Post by Reality Check » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:19 am

I have been looking for at least a year at replacing the drive in my 5 year old HP laptop with a solid state drive (SSD). It only has one drive bay so I could not just add one. I finally decided to do it this month. Here are a few things I learned.

They way the process works is that you connect the new SSD drive to a USB port using a SATA III to USB adapter cable. Most of the SSD's come with a link to download cloning software. You then clone everything from your existing drive to the SSD. In my case it took about 40 minutes. If my laptop had a USB 3 port it would have gone faster. This makes the new SSB bootable and all your date should be there.

The new SSD has to be big enough to hold everything that is on the existing drive including the OS. In my case the HP had a 1 terabyte drive but I only had about 250 GB filled. I bought a 500 GB SSD and figured that would last me for years. After the cloning operation is completed you have to open up the laptop to remove the existing laptop and replace it with the new SSD. In my case the existing drive was a 2.5" like the new SSD and the existing caddy worked fine. You have to know what you are doing here but you can find YouTube videos showing you what to do. I have done work on laptops including replacing fans and hard drives so I was comfortable with doing this.

When I rebooted I got a cryptic screen about the media not being recognized and my heart was in my throat for a second. I hit escape and it booted normally. I only saw that screen the first time. Man is it fast. I checked my time to reset the PC both before and after the SSD installation. It went from 1:27 to 0:26. Everything loads a lot faster. Even browsing the internet is faster.

Now some lessons learned. I first bought the cheapest adapter cable on Amazon which happened to be from Sabrent and a middle of the road SSD from Crucial. Crucial uses drive cloning software called Acronis. It is normally not free but you can download a free copy of Acronis that only works with Crucial drives. When I hooked up the drive everything seemed to work but when the cloning operation was almost done I got a message that it failed. I tried again and the same thing happened. After that the software could never even find the drive. I finally decided to send everything back to Amaazon (I love their return policy).

I had watched a video where another guy had trouble with Acronis and it failed to clone an HP drive. I decided to try a Samsung 500 GB SSD because they had their own cloning software and several videos said it was the best of the bunch. The drive was about $25 more. I bought a Startech adapter cable. This time everything worked as planned. I also disconnected from the network and killed my antivirus software while the cloning was running. You want to limit the number of things running and files open when the cloning is underway.

I also had to decide whether to move over the HP recovery partition to the new drive. I decided I didn't need to since I could always put the old drive back in and boot from it if the new SSD failed. That saved about 12 GB for data on the new drive. The Samsung software made it easy to do that. You just check or uncheck what partitions you want to move. There are other options for recovery like making a bootable USB memory stick or creating a drive image file and storing that on DVD's or another drive. I am going to look into those.

The drive and cable cost me about $100 with tax. It sure beats $750 for a new laptop.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#2

Post by fierceredpanda » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:24 am

SSDs are awesome. My Macbook came with one when I bought it, and I am never going back.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#3

Post by Mikedunford » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:25 am

fierceredpanda wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:24 am
SSDs are awesome. My Macbook came with one when I bought it, and I am never going back.
:yeah:
They're also a hell of a lot more drop- and knock-proof than spinning drives. Which is good, because I'm a klutz.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#4

Post by fierceredpanda » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:29 am

And no catastrophic head crashes ever! :happydance:
"There's no play here. There's no angle. There's no champagne room. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm a janitor. The math on this is simple; the smaller the mess, the easier it is for me to clean up." -Michael Clayton

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#5

Post by Reality Check » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:40 am

Now that I have upgraded the laptop I might install an SSD in my 8 year old desktop. I will probably just buy a 250 GB and use it for the OS and programs. I will set up the existing drive for data.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#6

Post by Somerset » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:05 am

My 2010 MacBook Air had a SSD, and I haven't had a spinning disk in a laptop since.

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#7

Post by Addie » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:23 am

Thanks, RC. I have an HP15 and I've wondered about an SSD replacement drive for it. I also have a closet full of desktops any one of which could use the boost. You've got me thinking. 8-)

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The perfomrance improvement is terrific

#8

Post by Mr Brolin » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:34 am

Don't forget to get (if you haven't already) a SATA to USB 3.0 external hard drive case, instant backup and storage media case.

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#9

Post by Reality Check » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:52 am

Mr Brolin wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:34 am
Don't forget to get (if you haven't already) a SATA to USB 3.0 external hard drive case, instant backup and storage media case.
I've got an older one. It was a 300 GB LaCie portable HD. It fell off the shelf where I had it hooked to my router as a network drive. The drive crashed but the case is still good. I took it apart and installed the WD drive I took out of the HP laptop and it works. I will use that for backups.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#10

Post by realist » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:58 am

I'm not in the I can do it myself category, but I am having my five-year-old Lenovo laptop upgraded to SSD next month. I was already really looking forward to it but after reading RC's post I'm even more so.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#11

Post by tek » Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:04 pm

Still do have to do backups with SSDs, of course..

They do wear out; you do want to keep an eye on the wear counters (though most users won't hit that problem for many years)..

and they are not immune to bugs:
- I had a Crucial drive that turned out to have a bizarre firmware bug where after some number of power-on time (about 9 months if I recall) it would run for about an hour and then just stop responding. Tore my hair out over that one.
- I had a Sandisk that just up and failed after a couple years. They replaced it under warranty, but again it was a pile of lost time.

I tend to run Samsung these days, they seem to be the best of the non-Enterprise drives based on what my storage-appliance clients have learned..
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#12

Post by ZekeB » Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:05 pm

I’m pondering building a new system. My old desktop is seven years old. The plan is to install an NVMe 500 gig M.2 drive. I’ll let you know how that works out.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#13

Post by Reality Check » Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:22 pm

ZekeB wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:05 pm
I’m pondering building a new system. My old desktop is seven years old. The plan is to install an NVMe 500 gig M.2 drive. I’ll let you know how that works out.
I was reading about those. Aren't they the small cards that fit right on the motherboard? They are supposed to be blazing fast.

I got the bug to install the SSD after I bought Mrs. RC a new desktop PC last year. It has a 250 GB SSD as the boot drive and a 1 terabyte mechanical drive. I finally got around to figuring out how to move the Windows Documents, Videos, and Music system folders over to the D: drive this past weekend so the data wouldn't fill up the SSD. If you are interested here is how to do that:

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#14

Post by ZekeB » Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:36 pm

They are fast. Your motherboard needs to be equipped with an M.2 socket. They can be purchased as PCI or SATA. The PCI version is considerable faster. Coupled with a motherboard and processor that uses unbuffered memory, you should get lightening performance.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#15

Post by tek » Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:54 pm

NVMe/NGFF PCI is pretty awesome.. that's what my current laptop uses (and a lot of not-bargain laptops use these days) ..

NGFF SATA is no slouch either, though. I've been using NGFF SATA in small USB housings for stuff I have to haul around for clients..

They either pop into the motherboard or into a PCI card ..

IANAYL, but for better or worse I have a LOT of recent experience in storage.. buy me a beer and we'll talk about non-volatile storage in your memory DIMM slots..
And I'm old enough to see that this is the same progression that's been going on since before I was born.. only the names have been changed to protect the ignorant..
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#16

Post by RTH10260 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:14 pm

Important note on the use of SSDs:

Don't use capacity past about 80% of nominal size!

A well written SSD firmware will reallocate bad spots and block them off for future use. After lengthy use with lots of rewriting you will notice the decrease of available storage.

Also the firmware needs sufficient free space to handle writes to the storage. They operate differently than harddisks. To rewrite some data the SSD pulls the target storage chunk (yuuge, relatively speaking, not aligned to any user data) and on the fly inserts / replaces the new data while writing the recombined chunk to a different area. Then the chunk gets logically spliced into the storage chain. The former chunk is then free for reallocation.

Disclaimer: only a qualitative, not a formally correct, representation of the process.

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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#17

Post by tek » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:36 pm

RTH10260 wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:14 pm
Disclaimer: only a qualitative, not a formally correct, representation of the process.
Yes. A good summary of the magic that happens.

Any reasonable drive is pretty well over-provisioned internally (has enough extra space to deal with this stuff, which is why they aren't power-of-2 sizes which the underlying flash is), but you1 need to keep an eye on the counters to avoid getting boxed into a corner.


1 not "you" specifically. non-enterprise SSD uses aren't likely to trip over this stuff before their spinning-rust drive would have failed anyway.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#18

Post by Reality Check » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:17 pm

Here are the results of a run using Crystal DiskMark. I think these match the Samsung specs.
Benchmark.png
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#19

Post by tek » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:27 pm

Reality Check wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:17 pm
Here are the results of a run using Crystal DiskMark. I think these match the Samsung specs.

Benchmark.png
Oh I can make those write numbers look a LOT worse ..
"Garbage collection" isn't just something that happens at 4am when you're trying to sleep in a NYC hotel.. ;)
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#20

Post by Reality Check » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:53 am

tek wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:27 pm
Oh I can make those write numbers look a LOT worse ..
"Garbage collection" isn't just something that happens at 4am when you're trying to sleep in a NYC hotel.. ;)
Are you talking about when Windows downloads all those updates?

Glad to find such expertise on memory here! I am still pleased with my laptop upgrade. I also have a 2011 HP desktop. It has two 500 GB mechanical drives in a RAID 0 configuration to make a 1 terabyte drive. I haven't opened it up yet to see what the drive bay and PCIe slot situations are but what is my best option to add an SSD? I am guessing a MoBo that old would not have an M.2 slot for an NVMe SSD. I am thinking of buying a PCIe card with 500 MB NVMe SSD. The alternative would be to buy another 2.5" SATA SSD and put it in a spare drive bay. I might need a 3.5" adapter tray.

After I install the SSD and clone the OS over I would reconfigure the existing 500 GB mechanical drives as a 500 GB RAID 1 and put the data on that drive. What do you think?
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#21

Post by tek » Fri Feb 01, 2019 3:15 pm

I'd probably go with a 2.5" SATA SSD.

Rather than doing a RAID with the other two drives, I might make one be the data drive and the other be a semi-automatic mirror (use something like syncback on a scheduler to update the mirror)..

"Garbage collection" is something that FLASH-based drives have to do.

Long discussion follows, more than you ever wanted to know:

The flash memory used in SSD (and usb sticks, for matter) has some interesting properties:
- it is internally organized into "blocks" (the OS usually makes the filesystem blocksize correspond to the size of these blocks, and I'll assume that is the case for the rest of this rant)
- the blocks are organized into groups called "pages" .. memory can only be erased in whole pages.
- filesystem blocks as accessed from the outside have a variable mapping to blocks in the flash chips. This is maintained by the Flash Translation Layer (FTL)
- any location can only be written once after an erase.
- if you write something into a (filesystem) block, what actually happens is the old block is invalidated and put onto a 'dirty' list, and the block is written into a new, virgin (erased and never written) block in some page somewhere. The block map in the FTL is updated to point to the new block.
- after you do this for a while, you end up with lots of pages with both valid and invalid blocks in them.
- eventually, you will have no virgin blocks left.
- So, "garbage collection" is run in the background to harvest these invalid blocks.

Garbage collection:
- moves (copies) valid blocks from pages with invalid blocks into other virgin blocks (essentially as if they were written as above).
- once all the valid blocks have been moved out of a page, the page is erased - giving all the blocks in the page their virginity back.

Note that for this to work, the drive has to have more more megabytes than it actually exposes to the outside world ("overprovisioning"). Overprovisioning is also used to deal with flash blocks that go bad over time (but I'm not going to discuss how that works here) (but this is where I point out that SSDs do indeed wear out..)

All this internal stuff gets exposed if you flood the drive with random single-block writes. This causes lots of pages with a few invalid blocks, and causes a lot of pressure on the garbage collection system.. eventually causing writes to stall waiting for a virgin block.. when this happens and how badly it affects performance depends on the internal architecture of the drive. Consumer SSDs will show this pretty easily; on other hand I just did some testing for a client on an particular new-generation SAS 'enterprise' SSD where, try as I might, I could not get garbage collection to slow things down..
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#22

Post by Reality Check » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:18 pm

Thanks, I knew some of that such as that SSD's wear over time and need for over provisioning but only a fraction of what you explained. There is a lot going on in those SSD's. I am running the Samsung Magician Rapid mode, which is supposed to use RAM to reduce the number of drive write cycles by storing some data in RAM temporarily. It's only recommended on laptops or desktops with a UPS since you could lose data on loss of power.

What I will probably do is go with the 2.5" SATA SSD. I think that will be the best bang for the $$. The desktop PC has an older processor, Core i5 760, 2.8 GHz and 8 GB of RAM. I can just leave the existing disks for data. I can set up a backup script to back the data folders up periodically to a network drive hooked to my ASUS router.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#23

Post by Reality Check » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:54 pm

I installed an SSD in my desktop yesterday. It was a little more complicated than my laptop. The HP desktop was a few years older and had two 500 GB mechanical drives in a RAID 0 array to make a 1 terabyte drive. I cloned the SSD using the Samsung cloning software while it was connected through a USB to SATA adapter. This was really slow and took over 3 hours.

I installed the SSD and changed the boot order to boot from the SSD first instead of the RAID drives. All worked out as planned. After I was sure everything made it to the SSD I reformatted the RAID array to use as my data drive. I then changed the storage locations in Windows for Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc. pointed to D: and moved all the existing files in those folders.

Today I got ambitious and converted the data drive from a RAID 0 to RAID 1 array. The reason to do this is for reliability. In a RAID 0 array files are striped in alternating blocks on each drive. This gives you double the capacity and speeds up writing files but if either drive fails you lose everything. In RAID 1 files are mirrored on each drive so if one drive fails you can most likely recover all your data. I had been wanting to do this for a while so this was the time to do it. The conversion wipes the drive so I had to write an image file to another drive and then do a restore. I used Marcrium Reflect for that. It is a great piece of freeware I found.

Thanks to tek who provided moral support in a few PM's.
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Re: Replaced my laptop drive with an SSD. The performance improvement is terrific

#24

Post by Reality Check » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:56 am

After two successful SSD upgrades I decided to tackle a third. We have a place in the mountains and I had bought an HP desktop at Coscto last year that had a 1 terabyte mechanical drive. I did some research and found it had a slot for the new M.2 NVMe SSD's. I found an HP 250GB M.2 NVMe SSD at Newegg for under $50. I figured at that price it would be worth a try.

The HP SSD didn't come with any cloning software so I downloaded the free version of Macrium Reflect. The installation of the SSD was really easy. I just had to remove the DVD writer and the drive cage to get to the M.2 slot. After installing and putting everything back together I booted up and cloned the existing drive, which only had about 70 GB used including the OS, over to the new SSD. I rebooted and changed the boot order in the BIOS to boot from the SSD and rebooted. The boot time is about 15 seconds now.

The only downside to the HP NVMe SSD is that it is DRAM-less. It instead uses a block of system RAM to stage data to be written. This doesn't seem to be a big issue for me. The sequential read speeds are at least 3X faster than my SATA SSD's. The write speeds are comparable.
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