How A SSD Hard Drive Changed My Life

By July 25, 2014Technology

I work on computers for a living. Painters have brushes, easels and canvases. Stock brokers have cell phones and arrays of televisions. Teachers have chalkboards and red ink. I have my computer. Like Superman without the Sun, I am pretty useless without it.

The thing is, my computers have always been really bad. They didn’t come that way though. Whenever I first purchase one, I always lean toward the higher-end PCs. I spend anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 for machines with quad processors and capable graphics cards. But for some reason, they always begin to slow over time. Booting Windows takes about two or three minute at first. Four months later, I’m lucky if I can open Google Chrome after five to ten.

Windows Defender, MalwareBytes, CC Cleaner. I’ve tried them all. Every time I run a scan and purge, I’m not quite sure if anything happened to make my computing faster. One would imagine these tools aren’t around for nothing.

100% Disk Usage On Windows

It took me more than a few years to notice a commonality in all of my computers: 100% Disk Usage. When my computer began to slow, I would CTRL+ALT+DELETE, open Task Manager, check my computer’s health stats, and always notice that “Disk Usage” was glowing red. Not that I shouldn’t have known: my computer’s internal organs often sounded like a chainsaw cutting through ten feet of solid oak.

Never did I consider that the components might be the problem; surely it was a software configuration issue. I searched and searched, digging far deeper than I usually go on Google. Pages 1, 2, 15, 30. A lot of people had the same issue. Some claimed to have fixed it by doing this or that. I tested their claims to no avail. More than a few messages were sent to Microsoft tech support. Every single one came back with the same canned response: 20 steps that did absolutely nothing to solve my problem.

Maybe It’s The Hard Drive

Why would I ever suspect that a new(er) piece of equipment would fail so fast? I knew that computer disk drives were prone to going bad after many reads and writes. I didn’t know that sometimes they went bad after not so many.

These disk drive problems weren’t just annoyances. I would go into meetings to preview a design to a client, and the problems would strike. My computer would almost fully seize up for minutes at a time. Sometimes half an hour. Then, all of a sudden, it would pop back to life.

Working on projects was even more frustrating. Opening Photoshop took me at least three minutes. Saving a file would cause my computer to freeze, as well. Even the auto-saves that Photoshop does would cause a lockup. As any designer knows, instantly being “taken out of the zone” kills all creativity. My designs got worse and worse, as I tried to do as much as possible to squeeze in work between the seizures. Not only my creativity, but my ability to focus waned.

It wasn’t just the disk and memory hog programs like Photoshop. Microsoft Word eventually just stopped opening. My FTP programs began to stutter after ten minutes of use. Chrome would crash on any page that had a video and used the Shockwave plugin.

Last Ditch Effort: Try An SSD Hard Drive

I had been hearing good things about SSD drives for a while, but was always dissuaded by their pricetags. $500 for a 1TB equivalent hard drive, when my own HDD cost well under $100 made no sense to me. But I was delirious. Each day I debated either buying a new machine, switching to Apple products, or changing careers. Anything had to be better than this. Since all of those things sounded expensive, I decided to take the lower-cost alternative and get an SSD.

I bit down and bought the Samsung 840 EVO-Series 1TB 2.5-Inch SATA III. It was over $400, but the reviews were convincing. People seemed elated over the product and I had to find out if this little hunk of metal would change my life.

Installing SSD Hard Drives Is Easy

I always assumed doing anything to a laptop would require a professional. The boxes that laptops come in explicitly tell you not to open them up or you’ll potentially void your warranty. So, I never did — until I got the Samsung SSD. I had to go buy one of those micro screwdrivers and there were at least 16 screws that I had to spin. After I pulled off the back, I was actually underwhelmed by the interface. Laptop makers seem to keep all the important parts hidden, like motherboards and graphics card, but the hard drives are right there, stuck in their SATA ports.

There are about 10,000,000 guides to swapping out hard drives in a laptop, all the same few steps. I followed one and it was very easy. Samsung provided a disk with a program called Data Migrator, that allowed me to clone my current hard drive onto the new SSD via a USB 3.0 cable and an external disk mount (you need this if you want to maintain your current data — it’s about $30 max).

It took me about 20 tries to get the data fully migrated, since my computer kept locking up the entire time. Finally, it wrote to the drive at about 20mbs, and I got the job done in a few hours. Then, I simply turned the computer off, popped out the old HDD hard drive from the SATA port, and popped the new SSD in gently.

Salvation: My Computer Works

Everyone on the forums and product review sections said that the first time I booted Windows with an SSD, I would be floored. Floored isn’t the word for what I was. Windows booted in 8 seconds. I literally counted the ticks on my watch. My next test was opening Google Chrome. I clicked the icon in the dock and it instantly opened. I typed in Google.com and within half a second I was there. Everything was faster. Next: Photoshop. Photoshop booted in about 4 seconds. Microsoft Word came in at around 2 seconds. Videogames played 800% better. Saving anything happened instantly, no matter the program or size.

This is what a computer is supposed to do. I had been missing out on this all along?

I thought, “Surely, this isn’t typical. My computer will revert back to it’s usual slowness soon.” But I was wrong. A week passed — still fast. A month — no speed reduction. Now I’m at three months and still going strong.

Bite The Bullet: Get An SSD

Do it. I would have easily paid $1,000 for this sort of speed. If your main tool for work is a computer, which for most it is, then you need an SSD. I will never go back to a standard 5,400 or 7,200 RPM hard drive. I will gladly pay much, much more for the experience I’m getting now. My computer runs like one of those floor models at BestBuy, only with actual programs on it. When I’m around my Apple-convert colleagues, it even outperforms some of their brand new Mac Airs. Bite the bullet, spend the money. You’ll be glad you did.

Allen Gingrich

Author Allen Gingrich

Allen has worked on the web for over a dozen years. Like many young entrepreneurs, he began with a small workspace in his basement, where he eventually formed Ideas and Pixels. The rest, well, is history. Allen enjoys fine wines, weight training, and beautiful, semantic code.

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