I have a Samsung notebook with 8GB RAM, i7 processor and 1TB HDD running Windows 10. With those basic specs, you might think that the machine would perform reasonably well, Nothing could be further from the truth. The machine ran like a dog
A closer look suggested that the system disk appeared to be the bottleneck. Here’s a screenshot of what the system was doing 12 minutes into booting.
The CPU is idling at around 2% and there’s only 30% RAM utilisation. However, disk activity has flat-lined and continued to do so until about 13.5 minutes into the boot sequence. Heavy disk activity continued until about the 16.5 minute mark at which point the system becomes usable though performance was still not great.
The solution to the problem is to replace the system hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are still expensive though. A like for like replacement, that is, replacing my 1TB HDD with a 1TB SSD would cost between AUS$400 and AUS$600.
I have about a 10% utilisation of the system drive as I keep files on the network rather than on the notebook. This meant I could theoretically get away with a 100GB system drive. What dictates the final lower limit though are immovable files on the system drive. My lower limit was around 140GB. How is this determined? Check out this article by Brandon Checketts.
Anyway, I was happy to spend around AUS$100 on an SSD. In the end. I settled on a Crucial 275GB SSD from PLE for AUS$122.
Before starting, I had to gather together the following items:
- Imaging software Clonezilla.
- An external 2.5″ USB HDD enclosure to hold the SSD while I clone the system drive. PLE has one for under AUS$20.
- The SSD that would replace the HDD.
Outlined below are the four key steps I took in swapping out the 1TB SATA HDD for the 275GB SSD.
- Do a bare metal backup of the existing system drive.This is a precautionary step in case the upgrade goes pear-shaped and you need to return to the starting point. My favourite tool for this is Clonezilla.
- Shrink the primary partition on the existing system drive.There are usually a number of partitions on the system drive. On mine, there were four including smaller system and recovery partitions. My primary partition (the C: partition) was around 900GB. GParted is my preferred tool for partition management. It doesn’t play well with Windows 10 though. I had to resort to the disk management tool within Windows 10 to shrink the partition. However, Windows 10 would not allow me to shrink the partition below about 500GB due to the presence of immovable files. The article by Brandon Checketts allowed me to squeeze another 350GB out of the partition.
- Clone the system drive onto the SSD. Install the SSD into the external enclosure and then connect the enclosure to the machine with the system drive you wish to replace. The Crucial SSD I purchased came with disk cloning software that made it dead easy to clone the system drive.
- Swap out the HDD with the SSD. You will need to get under the bonnet of the machine to do this, but it isn’t particularly difficult to do. The important thing is to be careful and methodical.
The performance boost was staggering. The machine completed its boot sequence within 1.5 minutes, down from 16.5 minutes. The screenshot below shows disk activity 30 seconds into the boot.
It’s like having a brand new machine. If you have a sluggish machine, whether a desktop or laptop, Windows-based PC or MAC, and you’ve tried everything software-wise to optimise it, the issue may be the HDD. Being mechanical, it is the slowest component in the system. Replacing the HDD with an SSD will turn your plodder into something akin to a Ferrari racer.
For an investment of around AUS$150 for an SSD and external enclosure, I have ended up with a zippy notebook. As a by-product of the upgrade, by housing the 1TB HDD, that was replaced, into the external enclosure, I now also have a 1TB portable drive.