I decided it was about time to upgrade my main system drive on my Windows 7 desktop computer with an SSD, here is how I got on.

Late last year I decided to take the plunge and buy myself an SSD (solid state drive). For those of you who are unfamiliar with SSD’s, they are smaller drives that don’t have any moving parts, unlike conventional hard drives.

Anyway, these drives also tend to be quieter, quicker, last long (because of the lack of moving parts) but are also considerably more expensive.

So after a lot of research, and looking around for the best deal, I settled on the OCZ Technology Vertex Series SATA II 2.5” 120GB SSD (I could have gone for a larger drive, but then I only really wanted it for my system drive and working files, so given the cost I figured 120GB would be perfect).

Here is what OCZ have to say about the Vertex drive:

The OCZ Vertex Series is the industry-leading flash-based storage solution, delivering the performance and reliability of SSDs at a lower price per gigabyte than other high speed offerings currently on the market. The OCZ Vertex Series is the result of all the latest breakthroughs in SSD technology, including the first model on the market to use the Indilinx Barefoot controller, blazing read/write speeds, and 64MB of onboard cache.

All Vertex Series SSDs come backed a leading three year warranty and OCZ’s legendary service and support, giving you added peace of mind for your high performance investment. Additionally, enthusiasts are put at the forefront of cutting edge technology with the available firmware updates and active online SSD community.

Perfect for notebooks and desktops alike, the Vertex Series is ideal for energy-efficient mobile computing to extend battery life, increase the speed of access time, and provide a durable alternative to conventional hard disc drives with superior shock resistance. High capacities and low power consuming NAND flash technology provide the necessary performance and battery life boosts generated by the proliferation of mobile gaming and new ultra-thin laptops.

The OCZ Vertex drives feature a durable yet lightweight alloy housing, and because OCZ SSDs have no moving parts, the drives are more rugged than traditional hard drives. Designed for ultimate reliability, Vertex Series SSDs have an excellent 1.5 million hour mean time before failure (MTBF) ensuring reliability over the long term.

I also knew that the SSD wouldn’t fit in my Dell computer, so I would need some sort of case for it, so I settled on the Icy Dock SSD & SATA HDD Converter, which was very cheap and on next day free delivery (I was planning on doing this upgrade to my computer last year, I finally got round to doing it on Friday!).

WHATS IN THE BOXES?

For the OCZ Vertex SSD, the only thing in the box is the SSD itself.

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For the Icy Dock SSD convertor, there is the convertor, four little screws and an instruction sheet.

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FITTING THE SSD INTO THE CONVERTOR

Fitting the SSD into the convertor was very simple, I just had to slide the top cover off, click the SSD into place and slide the cover back on. There were no screws needed (the four screws are for fitting the convertor into your desktop computer) and the drive was held in place without incident.

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All I had to do then was fit it into my Dell computer, plug it in, pop the Windows 7 DVD into the computer and perform a clean install.

Only it wasn’t all I had to do.

USING THE SSD

Prior to doing all of the above, I did some research on the OCZ website and found that there were at least 2 firmware updates that had been released since I purchased the drive last year. Having read through the release notes I found that I had to do them in order, I couldn’t just jump to the last one. So, I downloaded the small ISO images, burnt some CDs and proceeded to flash the firmware (twice) – all in all took about 10 minutes for both updates and then I was finally ready to begin.

One of the many things I had read about using an SSD for your system drive was that after installing Windows you had to do a lot of tweaking and turning off of services, such as the disk defragmentor service as this can reduce the life of your SSD.

But thankfully with Windows 7, Microsoft have set everything up for you, so Windows 7 automatically recognises your SSD and you don’t have to do anything else – well done Microsoft!

So, the install was very quick – exactly as I have come to expect from a clean install of Windows 7 (if you are not using Windows 7 yet, I highly recommend you do, and soon!).

The first thing I noticed was just how fast Windows 7 booted and shut down. Now to be fair, whenever you have a clean install of an OS you always notice this, then you start adding software and it eventually takes longer and longer, but this was noticeably faster even than that!

So, I figured I would check out the figures in the Windows Experience Index.

And the SSD came out at 7.1! In fact, it was the lowest score I had on my computer (not bad for a Dell I bought in December 2008)!.

Windows Index for SSD

For those of you interested in the performance testing, I used HT Tach :

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A few quick checks to make sure that Windows had disabled the services I needed disabled proved that it had – so I was very happy.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

What can I say, I love the SSD drive – if they were no so expensive I would get some more. I have also noticed how quick searching for files on the C drive is now compared to how it used to be.

If you have the money, I can highly recommend an SSD, you will wonder how you got on before without one. You don’t have to go for the 120GB drive either, there is a 30GB and 60GB if you want something smaller and less expensive.

For more information on the Vertex drive, including links to the firmware updates, click here: http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/solid_state_drives/ocz_vertex_series_sata_ii_2_5-ssd