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Video: Launching Applications With An SSD, And Then A Hard Drive

Should You Upgrade? From A Hard Drive To An SSD
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We created a script that simultaneously launches multiple applications in a repeatable fashion, and documented the differences in a short video. The script starts as soon as Windows loads up, but then waits for 30 seconds for all processes to load and the processor to idle. The script launches Internet Explorer 9 (an offline version of tomshardware.de), Microsoft Outlook with the same PST mailbox folder that SYSmark 2012 uses, PowerPoint with a large presentation, and Adobe Photoshop with a large picture file.

We ran this test four times. Caching improves the launch time of the fourth run slightly compared to the first run, but this only noticeable on the hard drive-based Watch the video:

Multitasking: HDD vs SSD

This test scenario tries to mimic what happens when you power up your PC and want to use multiple applications right off the bat, such as Microsoft Office components or tools like Skype, a browser, an instant messenger, and a picture viewer.

As long as the system has a sufficient amount of RAM (4 GB and up is considered standard nowadays), processor performance plays second fiddle to the storage subsystem. Give or take 500 MHz on the CPU; it's less relevant than you'd think. But switching from a hard disk to a SSD is, in contrast, very influential.

At this point, it's worth discussing whether or not a specific SSD model is really that important. Our opinion on this issue is that even a drive based on SandForce's second-generation SF-2200 controller, which sports a read rate of more than 500 MB/s, won't significantly impact the overall effect. Once you have worked on a SSD-based system, you will not want to go back to a hard disk.

An SSD Eliminates System Delays

We have to admit that this is a blatant and perhaps provocative call to enthusiasts who haven't yet touched solid-state storage: don't deny yourself the advantages of an SSD the next time you upgrade your PC. Although the benefits are hard to quantify in some of the benchmarks we run (the System Builder Marathon is a perfect example, and if you haven't yet entered to win this quarter's trio of systems, make sure you do), an SSD offers so many obvious advantages, even to average users, that this call to action seems justified.

We conducted this comparison with one of the largest, fastest and most expensive hard disks, Seagate's Barracuda XT 3 TB, and a similarly priced SSD drive from Samsung, the 470. By no means is that the fastest SSD you can buy, but our emphasis here is getting solid-state technology into your machine, period. Enthusiasts will probably go with something different. But at the end of the day, the message is the same.

At the same time, we have no interest in seeing hard drives disappear. To the contrary, when it comes to storing lots of data, be it in the form of movies, music, images, or documents, mechanical storage is still the only way to fly. With very few exceptions, an ideal PC nowadays consists of an SSD as the system drive and a hard disk for storing user information that isn't needed all of the time. A system without an SSD should really be relegated to the low end of the spectrum, while a machine with only solid-state storage is either going to run out of room quickly or cost an arm and a leg.

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Top Comments
  • 33 Hide
    Inferno1217 , October 7, 2011 4:36 AM
    looks like dial-up vs. broadband
  • 20 Hide
    Wamphryi , October 7, 2011 5:13 AM
    I was of the opinion that 10000 RPM Drives are enough. However since I went SSD there is no comparison. I have two Velicoraptors in RAID 0 and they just cant keep up. However they are ideal to store a couple of hundred GB of HD Video for Video Editing. Upgrading a Laptop from its HDD to a SSD is a real treat. It results in a massive improvement in performance.

    SSD for the OS and main applications is well worth it.

    10000 RPM HDD's make awesome scratch drives especially for HD.

    7200 RPM HDD's are excellent for reasonable performance combined with large capacity.

    5400 RPM HDD's are excellent for external / hot swappable solutions especially in the absence of active cooling.

    There is a solution for every situation now.
  • 20 Hide
    bratbretbrot , October 7, 2011 4:30 AM
    limited capacities and still-high prices, period
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    bratbretbrot , October 7, 2011 4:30 AM
    limited capacities and still-high prices, period
  • 33 Hide
    Inferno1217 , October 7, 2011 4:36 AM
    looks like dial-up vs. broadband
  • -7 Hide
    kurahk7 , October 7, 2011 4:37 AM
    The motherboard pictured is the MSI H57M-ED65 not the listed Gigabyte.
  • -1 Hide
    agnickolov , October 7, 2011 4:37 AM
    The answer is still: it depends on your needs.

    I just upgraded my boot drive - to a 450GB 10K RPM Velociraptor. Any lower capacity is simply insufficient to hold my Steam and other games.
  • 5 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , October 7, 2011 4:38 AM
    Great article. Enjoyed reading it. I was a little apprehensive when I purchased my first ssd. It was a low budget entry model that was on sale. Quite frankly the performance surprised me.

    Two days ago I purchased my second ssd - a Samsung 470 256GB ssd because of Samsung's reliability. In addition my motherboard is not SATA 3 6Gb/s capable and I did not want to upgrade the motherboard, cpu, and memory. The next upgrade will be when the new PCI-e 3.0 based components establish a reasonably good track record.
  • 2 Hide
    kurahk7 , October 7, 2011 4:38 AM
    kurahk7The motherboard pictured is the MSI H57M-ED65 not the listed Gigabyte.

    Never Mind. Just refreshed the page and saw the "System Hardware for Real-Life Tests."
  • -1 Hide
    CorusMaximus , October 7, 2011 4:52 AM
    Is there still issues with raid 0 and trim on SSD?
  • 2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , October 7, 2011 5:03 AM
    i lolled on seeing the video. the hdd video is very familiar to me, specially the scrolling messages on the ms powerpoint oening splash scree.
  • -1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , October 7, 2011 5:08 AM
    Q: has anyone here used both a sf1200 SSD and a sf2281 based SSD? whats the "subjective speed difference" between these two? and please dont quote benchies. did you actually feel that the system is faster?
  • 3 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , October 7, 2011 5:13 AM
    mayankleoboy1Q: has anyone here used both a sf1200 SSD and a sf2281 based SSD? whats the "subjective speed difference" between these two? and please dont quote benchies. did you actually feel that the system is faster?


    If there is any subjective difference it would barely be noticeable. We've had veterans post here and at other forums that they could not tell the difference. It would be different for a complicated enterprise or scientific application.
  • 20 Hide
    Wamphryi , October 7, 2011 5:13 AM
    I was of the opinion that 10000 RPM Drives are enough. However since I went SSD there is no comparison. I have two Velicoraptors in RAID 0 and they just cant keep up. However they are ideal to store a couple of hundred GB of HD Video for Video Editing. Upgrading a Laptop from its HDD to a SSD is a real treat. It results in a massive improvement in performance.

    SSD for the OS and main applications is well worth it.

    10000 RPM HDD's make awesome scratch drives especially for HD.

    7200 RPM HDD's are excellent for reasonable performance combined with large capacity.

    5400 RPM HDD's are excellent for external / hot swappable solutions especially in the absence of active cooling.

    There is a solution for every situation now.
  • 6 Hide
    jwcalla , October 7, 2011 5:52 AM
    "Should You Upgrade?"

    This should have been a one-word article.

    srsly... once you go SSD, you can't go back.
  • 6 Hide
    DjEaZy , October 7, 2011 6:16 AM
    Should You Upgrade from A Hard Drive To An SSD? It's expensive, but worth it... speed increase is wow...
  • 6 Hide
    Wamphryi , October 7, 2011 6:41 AM
    Yeah my i3 Laptop feels like it has more snap than my i5 Lynnfield Desktop which runs a Velicoraptor.
  • 3 Hide
    Kamab , October 7, 2011 7:23 AM
    Definitely Agree.

    Purchased an Intel X25-M 80GB on my most recent desktop build and have since upgraded to SSD's on my personal/work laptops. Definitely improves the experience.
  • 9 Hide
    compton , October 7, 2011 7:28 AM
    To all the people who think that it's not worth it until they can get a 1TB SSD for $80, consider that Baby Jesus hates it when you're running your OS off a hard drive that hasn't changed since the pterodactyls roamed the skies. I'd take an $80 SSD over any mechanical HDD any day of the week. The great part is YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER! Not even in many laptops, with the advent of more mini PCIe SSDs. In the past year I've forgone more rapid upgrades to stockpile SSDs when I can get them cheap. You can get a gently used X25-M 80GB for not much feddy on the eBay the kids talk about. Agility 30GBs are going for $40 when there're in stock on Newegg. Every part of the price spectrum is covered. Just install Windows (Or OSX if you go both ways...) on the SSD, use the HDD for Steam or what have you. It's easy, it works great. Don't deny yourself the most effective upgrade you can get right now because you think you need at least 512GB. Many laptops with SATA II and III barely surpass SATA I in many instances, and you're still better off in a laptop with a SSD -- with some decent solid state storage in a Core2Duo lappy it will certainly feel snappier even if you're hamstrung with a bunk controller. And to top it off, a desktop system with no loud-ass HDDs whirring like a helicopter in a tornado? Worth every penny. I can't think of any system made after 2003 that wouldn't benefit from faster storage, but even if max transfer rates are lower, its the small size performance that really pays the bills.

    So don't act like you have to sacrifice mechanical storage to get a smaller capacity SSD. Don't act like it's too expensive... there are a ton of great choices between $80 and $129. Don't be a SSD hating asshat. That's all I ask.
  • 9 Hide
    Homeboy2 , October 7, 2011 7:46 AM
    "limited capacities and still-high prices, period"

    You don't get it. For less than a hundred you can buy a 64 gb SSD and use it for a boot disk and a few apps. PERIOD.
  • 7 Hide
    compton , October 7, 2011 8:10 AM
    haplo602I am still going for 5x250GB drives in raid 5 ... ssds are nice but have limited lifespan built in. that's one thing that keeps me away from them.


    HDD have a limited lifespan as well. At least with SSDs once all the PE cycles are erased the drive is at least read only...

    What if I told you could write 164GB a day for the next 10 years? With a 64GB Crucial M4? Or many other drives...
    Check of the XtremeSystems.org forum endurance testing at



    _Pez_No, I should not upgrade. I prefer more storage capacity than super speed and limited storage capacity. If I want speed I can put 2 or 3 WD 600Gb VelociRaptors in raid 0 and also have super High capacity speed for less money. I Think that would be and is for me the choice of smart ppl.


    Yes, but the 4K random writes don't scale. You could have 4 velociraptor 600s and only get 4MBs 4K random reads and writes. You'd be able to copy blu-ray rips from a ram drive at a hellified speed... but that's worthless. Small file random performance makes all the difference. Plus, the raptors are way overpriced for the performance.
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