Sunday, 2 August 2009

Solid State Hard Drive for my developer machine

Solid state memory that makes up USB flash drives has quite recently become a real option for use in a system hard drive. The solid state disks typically come in sizes 30GB, 60GB, 120GB and 250GB, cost spiralling the larger you go.

I’m working with a number of large .NET solutions that I have to open, build and frequently chop and change between during the day. This gets quite frustrating waiting for the HD to spin up and load all those source files to do some work. Also all the code is controlled using SVN (and TortoiseSVN as a client) – which creates loads of small hidden files which are read a lot when moving around the code.

I read the blogs by Scott Hanselman and Joe Spolsky, two well respected developers on introducing SSD for their development machines. Further reviews and benchmarks on SSD drives looked like they would be a promising option for saving time on disk access during the day. I hesitate to say an “affordable”option because a 120GB disk costs around £260.

I found a 120GB OCZ Summit series on for £260, and got one in. The Summit series is the in the “professional” series on the OCZ website compare to the lower performing Agility series (which costs around £30 less).

The drive I’m upgrading was a 74GB Western Digital Raptor, a really good drive in its day. I’ve got another 250GB drive in my machine which as partition with the MBR and Windows XP. The raptor drive runs Vista Ultimate.

I installed the new drive onto a spare SATA channel and booted up vista. I picked Acronis Migrate Easy 7.0 to copy the contents of the Raptor over to a new 74Gb partition on the SSD drive. That would leave 50GB free for my frequent working files, like source code.

After a couple of reboots, Acronis started up and cloned the contents of the Vista drive over to the new SSD. After that I powered down and put the SSD drive on the channel where the raptor used to live.

This caused me to get an error message when trying to boot into Vista, which was solved by popping in the Vista DVD and doing a repair. I figure that is repaired something in the MBR that had gone slightly awry in the clone.

Rebooted and the system was up and running perfectly with the new drive in the old one’s place. My performance benchmarks are fairly rudimentary, timing a few long tiresome disk jobs using a stopwatch.

Boot, login and get IE to load the home page:-
Before: 2m38s, After 1m10s

Multiple .NET solution compilation:-
Before: 5m02s, After 2m22s

Visual Studio Load of a solution:-
Before: 1m46s, After 58s

From the results you can see that disk intensive things took about half as much time. Now I think that’s a good return on the investment, should save plenty of time over the coming weeks.