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SSD selftest: I did it!

So finally I decided to updated my rig with a SSD. The reason? Well, although
my rig fired up in under one minute, I thought: Hey, can I give it some more
power? So the SSD was the next object to put on my wishlist. But wait, there
was something when I tried to give my netbook an update…

So what did I do? Whn updating my netbook (or tried to), I could not get the SSD to work together with the netbook at all. A bluescreen was all I got. DANG! so no quick bootup, looooooong boot times (over 2 minutes) and a sluggish behavour at top. The proessor may handle Win7 Ultimate well… No doubt there! However the HDD has a rather slow speed of 1.7 to 28 MB/s. These are speeds, conventional 2.5″ HDDs had 5 years ago. Okay… I should mention that the HDD in the netbook comes in 1.8″ form factor which is quite unusual these days. And a price tag of 340 CHF for 180GB is quite high, so last time I sttod aside from any attempt to give the netbook an SSD and profit from any speedup.

6 months later, a 240GB SSD from Corsair Force 3 Series has been coughed up by a local reseller at a bargain price of 239 CHF… Using SATA 6Gb/s (SATA III) and the newest SF2281 controller chip, I thought: “Hey, let’s give my big rig one of those and see if it can benefit of it). You see, I am often going for the maximum: So has my rig recently got a memory pile of a whopping 32GB (although ASUS stated that such a memory config won’t work on the board) and fired my rig up successfully. Submitting those data to Blizzard got me an odd mail back telling me that their games aren’t supposed to be launched on a server… (LOL!?)

Okay, so then the big moment came and I made an actual snapshot of my OS and forked all the HDD data over onto the SSD. Looked good, no error came up and after the image staging, the computer successfully launched up Win 7 as I knew it… with one big difference: The complete startup process took a mere 19 seconds and the Windows bubble is only visible for 2-3 seconds. Remarkable!

So I took the time to fire up the WPI and waited for the result to come up. But then there was a small disappointment: The SSD did “only” score 7.1 at the diskbenchmark, so I thought, hey, is my SSD running with handbrakes? So a benchmark program (Atto diskbenchmark – FYI) had to show me what’s going on. The disk is rated average at 550/490 MB/s read/write.

After the benchmark ran through, I got much lower values (270/190) and thought, it was the cables I used in the rig. So I also bought some SATA III certified cables. Just to clear out any possbile errors.

But also the exchange of the cables only gave a small speedup (340/260) and I again digged deeper into the system and used informational tools to read out in what mode the SSD is running. There we got it. While AHCI was activated in the BIOS and the MSAHCI driver was activated in Windows 7, the disk still ran in EIDE Legacy mode. So I thought: “Hey, what’s the matter?”

Digging into the deepest BIOS settings (boy, that thing is really subcategorized and complex!) I found a page where you could set up the transfr mode for the SATA ports one by one. And I found out that despite of the fact that AHCI was activated, the transfer mode for the ports have been configured to Legacy EIDE.

Switching those to SATA Enhanced, I put up my hopes and fired up my rig again. Win7 booted a bit faster (17 seconds)… not much of improvement though, I still wanted to bench the SSD.

Launching the tool, I let the test run through and the values have greatly improved: (545/490) are almost the advertised values (550/525). The SATA driver isn’t Microsoft’s own msahci.sys driver (which is remarkably stable, fast and reliable) but it’s AMD’s SATA driver which does also a good job in my opinion. So after some adventure I finally did the successful step into the SSD world and can tell you the following verdict:

When it comes to Memory/storage then Corsair is in my opinion still the first choice. The memory and SSD work flawless and the speed is crazy! So if you can snatch a Corsair Force series SSD at a good bargain price  tag, then you shouldn’t think twice!

Oh… and btw.: I made 2 partitions on the SSD. One for the system, one for the games!

Some values (Before/after)

Windows fireup: 39 seconds/19 seconds (-52%)
PS CS5.5 fireup: 14 seconds/6 seconds (-57%)
IE9 fireup: 6 seconds/2 seconds (-66%)
FF11 fireup: 7 seconds / 3 seconds (-60%)

World Of Warcraft: 32 seconds / 17 seconds (-45%)
SimCity 4: 18 seconds / 12 seconds (-33%)
CC5 Generals: 22 seconds / 10 Seconds (-54%)
CC6 RedAlert 3: 14 seconds / 8 seconds (-38%)

As you can see, the startup times have mostly halved. That’s great improvement over a HDD which has mechanical parts inside.

Yet there’s one backdraw: Using a SSD for temp/scratch drive is a BIG sin. Never ever do that! The memory cells are nowadays better protected against wearout (a memory cell can be written 500 to 1500 times) but yet you want that little beast to work as long as possibe in your rig! So until this issue is solved, my temp drive is still a good ol’ classical HDD with rotating platters as it is only sensitive to heavy shocks. But the magnet disks can be witten over one million times before there will be any issue. And a 3 TB drive is ways cheaper than a 1TB SSD drive (170 CHF versus 3300 CHF).

May 2, 2012 Netspark - 1594 posts - Member since: May 9th, 2011 No Comments »

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