Drive Speed Bragging Rights
by Alan German
Is the speed of your hard disk just too slow for today's
high-tech world? Perhaps you need a "Super-Sonic
Disk" actually a Solid State Drive an
The prices of SSD's have dropped dramatically in the past
couple of years. And, if you look out for sales, you can
pick one up at relatively low cost. For example, at the
time of writing, a 120 GB, SATA 3 SSD, with read/write
speeds of around 500 MB/s, is on sale for just under
$100, i.e. less than $1/GB.
SSD manufacturers will tell you that SSD's provide access
times 100x faster than conventional hard drives, consume
75% less power, weigh 90% less, and will last 2-3 times
So, with far superior performance, low cost, and high
reliability, what are you waiting for? Perhaps all you
need is a quick-and-dirty guide to SSD installation. If
so, read on for stories of instant success
and a tale of extreme caution!
If you have a desktop machine, installation of an SSD
either as a second hard disk, or as a replacement
for an existing drive should be child's play.
Opening up the computer's case will provide access to the
drive bays. If your machine is equipped with a single
hard drive, there will almost certainly be an empty drive
bay next door, together with unused power and data
The SSD has two electrical connectors that are different
sizes (number of pins) so that it is obvious which cable
attaches to which connector. Furthermore, the cables and
their connectors are keyed so that they can only be
attached one way round (Figure 1).
The SSD comes with a mounting bracket, and screws with
which to attach the SSD to the bracket. In my
installation, the hardest part of the whole job was
figuring out how to attach the mounting bracket to the
drive bay. None of the pre-drilled holes were located so
as to conveniently line up with existing holes in the
drive bay. The answer was to position the mounting
bracket, mark the location of two existing drive bay
holes, drill corresponding holes in the bracket, and
secure the bracket to the drive bay using self-tapping
screws. Not the most elegant solution but quick
|Figure 1. SSD for a desktop computer
||Figure 2. Inserting an SSD into a laptops drive bay
Replacing a laptop's hard drive
with an SSD was even simpler. On the laptop in question,
a single screw allowed the existing hard drive, mounted
in a carrier, to be slid out of the unit. The hard drive
was unscrewed from the carrier, and the SSD mounted in
its place (Figure 2). Sliding the carrier back into the
drive slot automatically made the electrical connections.
The retention screw was fastened into place and the
system was ready for use.
My experience with a netbook an Acer Aspire One
522 was a little more challenging. Fortunately,
there are a number of how-to postings on the web, in
addition to several YouTube videos (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJYcHrwE1ok), indicating specifically what is
required. However, knowing what to do is one thing;
actually doing it can be quite a different prospect!
The problem is that the hard drive is located under the
netbook's bottom panel. However, in their undoubted
wisdom, the engineers who designed this machine, placed
the screws securing the bottom panel on the top of
the computer but underneath the keyboard!
The first trick, therefore, is to use a small,
thin-bladed tool (I used a jeweller's screwdriver) to
push back the spring-loaded plastic retention clip at the
right-rear edge of the keyboard, slide the thin blade
down behind the keyboard and gently pry it
upwards. A hard-plastic card is then slipped underneath
the right-rear corner of the keyboard so that the clip
cannot re-engage. The procedure was repeated for the
remaining clips, sliding the plastic card along the rear
edge of the keyboard as I worked along. So far, so good.
There are two additional retention clips, one in the
centre of each side of the keyboard. However, rather than
being spring loaded, these clips are rigid. The second
(almost magical) trick is to very gently!
bend the keyboard so that the central portion bows
upwards and the keyboard can be slipped out from
underneath the clips. This is the most nerve-wracking
part of the operation. Bend the keyboard enough to be
able to remove it, but not so much as to snap it in half!
moving the keyboard, with its ribbon cable still
attached, away from the centre of the computer's deck,
the screws holding the rear panel can now be located and
removed. A Robertson screwdriver (or similarly blunt
tool) can then be pushed down a specific hole to pop the
rear panel off the computer.
The retention screw for the hard drive is removed and the
drive slid out of its electrical connector. Finally, a
wrap-around carrier is removed. The entire process is
then reversed in order to install the SSD. (Since the
machine's RAM is also located under the bottom panel, now
is a good time to replace the module and maximize the
The disappointment in the process came when benchmarking
the netbook's performance following installation of more
memory and an SSD. The machine's boot time for Windows 7
Starter Edition went from 70 to 52 s. This was nowhere
near as good as the result for the desktop machine where
Windows' boot time was reduced from 46 to 15 s. In
addition the shutdown time for the desktop under Windows
went from 15 to 5 s.
The fact that the netbook's boot time changed so little
led me to abandon the installation of the SSD in this
machine and instead use the device to replace the hard
disk in the laptop. The laptop benefited much more from
this change with the boot time for Vista going from 85 to
43 s and the shutdown time being reduced from 17 to 7 s.
If you are thinking about installing an SSD in an
existing machine, my advice would be to check the web to
see how easy, or how difficult, the process might be. And
if you have an Acer Aspire One 522 netbook
buy a new machine!
Originally published: October, 2013
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.