I managed to get $150 in Best Buy gift cards through work and decided to put them towards the purchase of a Solid State Hard Drive. After some research I went with the Intel 530 Series 240GB drive.
If you don’t know what a solid state drive is, it is basically a hard drive that reads and writes at roughly the speed of RAM; something like 3-10 times faster than a traditional 7200 RPM spinning hard drive, with the exact performance improvement depending on a lot of factors. The main appeal to me was that if you set the SSD HDD as your boot drive and main gaming drive you can boot windows and launch games a lot quicker. Since my gaming time is at a premium and is often in small chunks, being able to get things going quicker could be really nice. Not something I would shell hard hard cash for, but a seemingly good upgrade to target with the gift cards.
I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but installation wasn’t exactly trouble-free. Physical installation was quite simple, the drive is 2.5″ but comes with a 3.5″ adapter which I had no trouble installing. I then installed Windows 7 and was able to boot from the new drive no problem. The problems came in when attempting to switch to the new drive as my sole boot drive and format my old 700GB drive into a storage drive. Apparently not all Windows 7 installation partitions are created equal… since my original drive was still plugged in when I installed Windows on the new drive, it didn’t create a boot partition and other essential elements needed. So when I did eventually format my old drive I was unable to boot from the new drive and had to run repairs from the Windows 7 disk to make the new installation bootable. Fortunately there were lots of online resources to guide me through it.
Moral of the story is, if you are installing Windows on a new drive that you want to be your future boot drive you need to physically disconnect the old boot drive so that Windows doesn’t see it. Otherwise Windows won’t install everything needed on the new drive. It sounds weird, but that’s how it works.
Anyways, now that the drive is up and running I am pretty pleased with it. My boot time dropped from a couple minutes of grinding down to a mere 10 seconds from power on to Windows desktop which is awesome. Most games launch quicker also, though performance within most games seems largely unaffected except for things like loading save files or complex textures early on. So I think it’s a good upgrade for a gaming rig provided you know what it does and doesn’t do for you. I’m also still learning, and there may be some ways to leverage it that I’m not aware of yet.
240 GB isn’t a massive amount of space but I’m re-installing games as I play them and so far I haven’t even come close to capacity, though I haven’t installed any behemoths like EVE or WOW yet.
My next upgrade is likely to be my graphics card. My GTX460 was very affordable and has been putting in good work, especially considering I don’t play many graphic-intensive games, but it is getting a bit long in the tooth and there are some decent new options. I’ll probably look around this summer and see what I can find for my budget. My wife would certainly appreciate this as it would allow me to retire the GTX460 to her machine in time for the next Warcraft expansion.