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Real-World Performance: Windows And Mac Boot Times

Intel SSD 520 Review: Taking Back The High-End With SandForce

Measuring boot time is one of the best illustrations of how an SSD benefits your computing experience. You get a mix of random and sequential reads, along with some write operations attributable to logging. Queue depths during Windows boot can easily exceed four, as the operating system accesses multiple files in quick succession or at the same time. Overall, the differences between competing SSDs are very minor, but the contrast to mechanical storage is striking.

If you're using an older SATA 3Gb/s-capable system, you should read Upgrade Advice: Does Your Fast SSD Really Need SATA 6Gb/s? Our results here mirror what we saw in that article. In a nutshell, don't expect SATA 6Gb/s to get you any additional speed in boot times.

Testing boot speed on our PC is easy. We simply clone a boot drive using Acronis True Home Image. We've already done the comparison with a native Windows 7 DVD-based install and know the results are the same. So, cloning is a real time-saver.

The MacBook Pro isn't as easy, though. At first, we tried cloning with Carbon Copy Cloner. The results weren't good, though. When we cloned our hard drive onto SSDs, boot times actually increased, so we scratched that approach. It's also not possible to swap drives between the MacBook Pro 8,1 and MacBook Pro 7,1 without incurring a performance penalty. As a result, we had to perform native installations of OS X 10.7.2 from our Lion USB Key on each MacBook Pro.

The results speak for themselves. As with our PC, boot times don't improve from an upgrade to SATA 6Gb/s-capable hardware.

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