I’ve managed to get by for more than 3 years with the original 64G SSD in my laptop, but lately I found myself having to prune things to keep getting by. Pruning isn’t bad, actually good to do, but a pain to be forced into it. I decided to look at upgrading, both to have more space and to just take a look at the effort required to do it.
The original SSD added something like $500 to the cost of the machine. With SSD’s you can spend as much as you want. In very general terms right now a $128G SSD is about $200 and a 256G one is $400. I debated the 256G one, but knowing that I’ve gotten by this far on 64G I just went with 128G as my target. From there I did some quick reading on drives in that category. I wasn’t worried about cheapest, or fastest, just wanted something with – hopefully – zero pain.
Note: Picking the size is the hardest decision. I thought about buying something bigger with the idea that when I move to a new laptop I’d either move the drive to it, or repurpose it to some other machine. Spend now or later? I’m in favor of investing when it makes sense, but after thinking about it a 128G SSD would be entirely usable, not expecting Windows 8 to be that big, and certainly I had been doing just fine with less. Lots of ways to look at it!
My final pick was the Crucial M4 for about $190 from Amazon. I ordered a $7 USB enclosure to go with it as I planned to move everything from the current drive to the new one,not reinstall. I’m a fan of clean installs,but it’s work to get it all back in one place, and that was work I just didn’t want to do! I also wanted to give the cloning process a try, another reason to not reinstall.
After plugging the new drive into the case and connecting it with a USB cable, I cloned the original drive to a USB drive first (so I’d have a really good backup), and then restored it to the new SSD. Not fast over USB 2, not fast at all, maybe 30 minutes to copy. I used the bootable copy of CloneZilla and while the UI is not the clearest thing I’ve ever seen, it worked (and gives you the command line syntax if you want to repeat).
I removed four tiny screws on the bottom of the laptop, slid the tray out, swapped the drives, and replaced. Booted up just fine, the only problem was that I missed a step somewhere and the partition was restored as 64g. Windows 7 won’t let you extend the system partition, so I had to either re-clone, or find a different way to fix it. I looked at Gparted, but it required a Windows repair afterward, felt ugly. Looked further down the search list and found MiniTool Partition Wizard. Had not heard if it before, but with the original drive off to the size and another copy, wasn’t any reason not to try it. A quick download and install, easily resized the partition – clearly just a meta type operation.
HDTune shows it being about 3x faster than the old SSD, about 240mb/sec on the simple test. In practice I can’t say that I notice any difference. Boot times don’t see much different, and as I use the machine mainly for email and writing I don’t do much to tax it (which I suppose brings into question the need for the SSD!). I created a new Virtual Box image with a dynamic VHD and loaded the Windows 8 developer preview. My rough timing for it to expand that VHD to a full 8G as part of the install and get me to login was about 15 minutes. Not bad.
I’ve some space to grow for a while which solves the pain, and I got to try out some things. Nothing earth shaking about those things, but they were new things, new experiences, and never know when that will come in handy.