Monday 23 June 2014

What A Difference A Drive Makes

One of the questions we get asked the most is "How can I make my computer run faster?" 

This is obviously a very open question as there are so many things you can do to speed up your computer.  Much of which depend on time and budget.

However, while a fast processor and ample memory is key to a speedy machine, often one of the factors that get forgotten is just how quickly that processor or memory can access your data.

Opening up a picture of Uncle Fred with his snorkel on his holiday in 1969 is hardly something we'd be concerned at when it comes to the speed of the hard drive.  However, when you drum your fingers on the desk after pressing the "ON" button, waiting for the operating system to fire up, or while you wait for your office suite to start, or your graphics software, it starts becoming a necessity.

In a recent machine upgrade at work, I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in speed in which my new PC got to the log in screen.  In the past, I would switch the computer on, go make a cup of coffee and return to it waiting for my password.  However, on the new machine, I am prompted for my password in a little over 30 seconds. Why?

Instead of the typical Hard Drive installed as drive "C", it has a SSD (Solid State Drive) installed.  This is a drive that takes similar technology from the USB stick, memory banks that can remember the information even without power.  The advantages are that the data can be retrieved in a flash, without waiting for the hard drive platter to start spinning, or the arm to whizz to the location where the first sector of data is stored.

While it can be argued that a standard hard drive is faster when it delivers a large chunk of data, strung together on the drive, fragmentation of the drive often means that this data is scattered around the drive thus slowing it down.

Fragmentation does not affect SSD, as the technology requires no moving parts at all, the access is almost instant.  This means that booting up windows, firing up office, and general opening of applications and writing away of data is lightning fast by comparison.

Downsides? Well, typically cost is the main set back. For £49.99 you can either get a 128gb SSD or a 1024gb (1TB) Hard Drive.

My answer was to keep a regular hard drive in my computer with my unique data on it. The O/s and all associated programs are on the SSD.  On my home computer, a slower machine than my work, I can still get booted up in under1 minute. I'm pretty impressed with that. 

So, how do you make your computer run faster? Get SSD when you can next afford it, and you'll see a speed difference almost instantaneously. 

1 comment:

  1. Wanted to share some findings for those that have considered whether upgrading to a SSD drive might be a good thing for SAGE users.

    We installed a SSD Drive into our server, and we've isolated it as a separate drive so it contains ONLY the Sage Data. We share this folder as per normal. Sage backups are saved onto a regular drive folder, not on the SSD.

    We had two identical work stations side by side, on a network. One logged into the original data path on a standard hard drive, the other was logged into the company on the SSD drive. Both companies were restored test data from one of our backups - both identical information.

    We timed the responses of updating the ledgers of 10 invoices. We ran 3 tests and the best performance difference was where the SSD Drive took 12 seconds to update, where the regular drive took 33 seconds on the same files. This is still over a network - not local data.

    We then did a maintenance check on the networked machines. The Company on the SSD took 2 mins 17 seconds to run the maintenance check where the company on a regular drive took 3 mins 6 seconds. Again, this was checked over the network.

    As a background to our company, we have 5 companies accessing their relevant data on the regular drives at the moment, I can only imagine the amount of dancing around the drive head is doing to keep up with the demand. However, considering the fact that the SSD has almost 0 ms seek time, I am seriously considering moving all the data onto the SSD drive and running from there.