|Robert L. Blum, MD, PhD|
Intel 320 series 120 gb
Solid State Drive
Did I tell you? I've been watching Moore's Law unfold, since I was 12,
Nothing will convince you of the immense speed of solid state drives like this
This is my first SSD, and I absolutely love it. Very fast boot up and shut-down;
incredibly fast program launch - even monsters like Photoshop: blam - they're on.
Since my system worked reasonably well before, I worried about every aspect
of this project. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Why spend the $250, what if I have boot problems,
what if the performance increase is marginal or worse?). Incredibly the installation
was totally quick and flawless. Bravo, Intel! Now for some details.
I bought the retail kit ($10 to $25 more than the OEM version). The two cables
are handy (sata power and data), I used the bracket, and even the
tiny 3 inch CD with installation instructions was useful. Amazingly,
those instructions are not on Intel's website.) They worked flawlessly.
I installed it in my 2008 Intel desktop tower that runs Windows XP Pro
32-bit and that has an Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 processor. This system was top
of the line when I bought it, so I really wanted to wait another year before
upgrading to a 64-bit OS (to get > 4gb of DRAM) and a faster processor
(like Ivy Bridge). I love WinXP, and I have a lot of old drivers, so I was hesitant
to upgrade to Win7 now or to make any expensive hardware upgrades now.)
I think I made the perfect choice, but this decision was not without anxiety.
After reading all the reviews for Intel's SSD X25-M (it's Gen 2,
34 nano SSDs), it was apparent that most buyers raved about them:
their speed and their reliability, but, cruising the internet you
find all kinds of potential worries. I list them here, only to dismiss them.
(BTW, the Series 320 SSDs are from Intel's 25 nano fab in Utah: they are
even faster and more reliable than the X25-M series. Although they only
support 3gb/sec data transfer, that's all my old mobo can dish out, so that's fine.)
1) SSDs, WinXP, and TRIM. This was a worry, since WinXP was written a decade ago,
long before SSDs. My worry was that WinXP does not support TRIM, which is
a command to tell the SSD to overwrite deleted data. Without TRIM, the efficiency
of the SSD might deteriorate due to unavailable pages. The solution for WinXP is
to use a small, free program, the Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox, to perform this
drive optimization. (Win7 does it automatically.) So, a non-worry -
not a reason to upgrade to Win7. BTW, SSDs and TRIM are explained in a
well-written 2009 article on AnandTech "The SSD Anthology: Understanding SSDs."
2) SSDs and BIOS or other drive recognition problems. This was a huge worry,
since this has been a recurring catastrophe about every five years: having a
hard drive that simply does not show up either in Windows, or even worse, not in
the BIOS. I spoke to some professionals; they had never experienced this when
installing Intel SSDs on customers desktops. In fact, I did not have to touch the
BIOS at all. I just connected the sata power and data cables, and the drive
magically appeared on the BIOS list and in Windows (on the Device Manager drive list).
(The 'raptor HD is disconnected for now.)
3) Installing Windows (or anything) on the SSD. I need to mention that although,
I could SEE the SSD in the Device Manager, it does NOT show up on "My Computer"
along with the C drive. The reason is that it ships, of course, unformatted.
(I had hoped to just copy my entire mechanical hard drive (a WD 600 gb Velociraptor)
to the SSD using Norton Ghost.) Instead, I resorted to reading the directions that came with
the drive on that tiny little CD. Again, Intel to the rescue with their Drive Migration software
provided by Acronis. Don't be scared off by the minutiae of that program. In fact, you only
use one single command: Clone Now - the rest is automatic.
The bottom line is that this was a hugely worthwhile and easy project with a
thrilling result: incredibly fast performance. I think mechanical drives will go the way
of magnetic tape: for archival storage only and to museums. (I also write about
the future of biotech, neuroscience, and AI: see BobBlum.com )
PS: Don't stress about mounting the SSD. (See the YouTube