Netbook Upgrade - SSD IN, Windows OUT

Netbook Upgrade - SSD IN, Windows OUT

Summary: My recent experience with upgrading the original 1GB memory to 2GB in my Acer Aspire One 522 involved figuring out how to open the case to get access to the internal components. Once the case was open, the disk drive was right there in front of my face...


My recent experience with upgrading the original 1GB memory to 2GB in my Acer Aspire One 522 involved figuring out how to open the case to get access to the internal components. Once the case was open, the disk drive was right there in front of my face... and that got me thinking about something I had been intending to try for quite some time - swapping a disk drive for a Solid State Disk (SSD). I checked around a bit, and found a Samsung 830 Series 128GB SSD for about 175 CHF (about £115). Samsung actually offers this SSD in at least three different packages - a "bare bones" of just the drive itself, a "laptop upgrade kit" which includes a 2.5" drive spacer bracket, a USB/SATA adapter cable and a copy of Norton Ghost, and "desktop upgrade kit" which includes a 3.5" mounting bracket, and SATA and power cables.

For my purposes, I could easily have used just the "bare bones" package, because the disk mounting bracket in the AO522 was a perfect fit for the Samsung SSD, and the drive thickness was not significant, so I didn't need the spacer; I wasn't about to use Norton Ghost to copy the original disk drive to the new SSD (or any other Norton product for any other purpose, to be honest...), when I could use Parted Magic, System Rescue CD, Clonezilla or various others to accomplish the same thing. In this case, however, I decided to simply reload the installed operating systems from scratch on the new SSD. I don't have the time, interest or patience to load Windows from scratch again, and fight for a day and a half with Windows Update again, so I ditched Windows and made this a Linux-only system.

I did some very simple timing of several different Linux distributions on this system before I changed the disk drive, and found that they all took about one minute from the GRUB menu to a ready.-to-use desktop. I repeated those tests with the SSD, and found that the average boot time had been cut to 30 seconds or less! The overall impression of using the system is faster with the SSD as well.

This is neither a "very low cost" nor a "very easy" upgrade, but if you have a bit of money and a bit of time, the payoff is very substantial.


Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • @jw

    Funny thing, I was thinking of doing just that last night. Saverstore are doing a Sandisk 120gb drive reduced to ~£70 which seems to have a good specification. Unfortunately, I'm away just now so can't order immediately. Hopefully there l will still be some left in a week's time.
    The Former Moley
  • @JAW--
    Ya done good, boy. After two years of sifting and filtering data, it seems that the two lowest-power-consumption SSDs on the market are Crucial's M4 series and Samsung's 830 series, with idle power in the 60-80 mw--that's MILLIWATT--range, and running power in the 150 mw range (Intel used to be competitive, but somehow managed to lose the recipe). Now you've got speed AND longer battery life.

    A quick check here in the Colonies shows that 128 GB SSDs from Crucial, Samsung, and Sandisk's 120 GB device are all priced equivalently. Sandisk running power is 430 mw. Can't find a spec for idle.

    If you know of any SSDs with comparable or better power specs, please jump right in. We all would benefit from your contribution.

    Warmest regards...
  • @zdnetukuser - Thanks for pointing this out. I must admit that the relative power consumption of different manufacturers and models was something that I did not research before buying the SSD drive. I didn't mention the improvement in battery life in the original post because I was in the process of running through a couple of battery cycles to get a good feel for the amount of improvement. In fact, another of the reasons I chose the AO522 to try the SSD was that it is a bit short on battery life, as it has only a three-cell battery rather than the 6-cell most of my others have.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, as always.

  • @JAW--
    There’s a better-than-even chance that, had you made another choice of SSD, you would have noticed no improvement in battery life whatever. There are many SSD manufacturers out there (you’ll have to fill in the blanks; and then keep it to yourself) who are using older generation flash chips--some of whom don’t even quote power figures; some of whom give (honest) active power figures of between two and six WATTS; and some of whom dance around the subject by stating that their device’s power consumption is “...lower than a comparable 7200 rpm hard disk drive...” [!]. Can you say “dissemble”, boys and girls?
    Refresher: your Samsung 830 has an ‘idle power’ spec of 0.08 watts, and ‘active power’ specs of 0.110 watts (64 GB), 0.150 watts (128 GB), or comparable for larger sizes.

    My take on the situation is that it’s no coincidence that the two lowest-power offerings come from two of the largest manufacturers of flash memory: Samsung is a world leader in memory production, and Micron, a leader in flash memory manufacturing (Crucial is owned by Micron). These people are manufacturing the latest, state-of-the-art, smallest--which equals lowest power--flash chips, which are at the heart of the SSDs.
    And, by the way, these two manufacturers offer a 3-year warranty on their product, and both have an MTBF of 1 500 000 hours: two important facts to consider at decision-making time.

    Mr Watson, please keep us informed as you acquire more information. Hope this proves helpful to all.

    Warmest regards...
  • Hmmm, I thought that with SSDs you could get to the mythical ubuntu 10 sec boot time? Is this not the case?
    duncan j murray
  • @duncanjmurray - At least n the case of the specific system I put the SSD into, it is not the case. The boot time improvement is substantial, but it doesn't make it to 10 seconds. Of course, there is also the issue of how you define "boot time", or how you determine the end of the "boot sequence", including whether or not a "Login" window has to be dealt with. The absolute fastest booting of the distributions I have installed on it so far is Ubuntu, and it gets from the GRUB boot menu (which I define as the "start" of boot timing) to the "Login" window (which is not really the end of boot, but it is what I have right now) in about 15 seconds.

    I just changed the Ubuntu configuration to auto-login my account, and it now gets from the GRUB menu to a usable desktop in about 20 seconds.

    However, keep in mind that this is a netbook I am dealing with, it is a long way from having a fast CPU. I wouldn't be surprised if a laptop or desktop system with a faster CPU could boot to a usable desktop in 10 seconds, more or less, but I doubt that I will ever be in a position to test and confirm that.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.