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88 Minutes to SSD Nirvana.

A laptop SSD hard drive provides a number of benefits, namely, faster seek times, lower power consumption, and the kicker, no moving parts. Although contemporary laptops are much less susceptible to hard drive head crashes than in the past (my HP also comes with a 3D shock guard) the risk of catastrophic hard drive failure is always in the back of your mind if you are computing while on the go. Solid state drives are also silent, and the transition to an SSD is akin to the experience a new Toyota Prius owner has the first time he powers up his electric engine.

Like many laptop power users, I've had my eyes on an SSD-powered laptop for years, waiting for the day when the capacity was large enough, and performance stable enough, for every-day use. Last year, Intel launched a major volley into the consumer SSD market, releasing the X25-M at a price point of near $1,000. Even a year later, Intel's SSD is among the tops in performance, while maintaining a respectable premium (160GB sells for $619 on Amazon). If you have the cash to spend, the Intel drives are the best that money can buy. But what if you, like me, want the benefits of SSD without breaking the bank?

If you step down a tier from the Intel SSD drives, you will find yourself lost in a galaxy of brand-names. Corsair, Kingston, Super Talent all make respectable SSD drives. These companies have been in the memory business for a long time, and you may recognize those names. What if you want to find another vendor? How about PQI, Transcend, Ridata, or Cavalry? All of the brands listed above (and I can easily find another 12 or so) produce 128GB SSD drives that will fit beautifully into your laptop. Performance-wise, it is difficult to differentiate between so many brands.

With prices dropping in the past years, cracking the $300 barrier for 128GB drives, it is an opportune time to finally perform that dream upgrade. But the question remains, which one should I purchase? When I first took the leap to upgrade my computer to an SSD last month, I failed miserably. I ordered a 128GB SSD from one of the vendors listed above and the package finally arrived after a week of eager anticipation. With the new drive gingerly installed, I booted it up. But I got nothing, BIOS couldn't recognize the drive. My heart became a little bit smaller that day.

I sent it back and got the opportunity to review the Kingston SSD drive with disk-clone kit. The package is extremely easy to use, containing only the SSD drive, an enclosure with cable, and a bootable hard drive cloning CD. Although I am pretty sure the SSD from Kingston was similar to the one I had purchased earlier, the kit was intriguing. It promised to clone my hard drive perfectly over so that just by swapping out the drives, I would be computing along at SSD speeds. So before beginning the process, let me explain what I am running on my system that would need to get cloned:

&bull; Hardware:<br>o HP Elitebook 6930p<br>o 2.4 GHZ Intel Centrino 2<br>o 2GB SSD RAM<br>o 160GB SATA HDD (Separated into 2 partitions, 60 GB & 100 GB)<br>&bull; Software<br>o Windows 7 RC<br>o Adobe Creative Suite 4<br>o MS Office Professional Suite<br>o Quickbooks<br>o Smartdraw<br>o Kapersky Antivirus<br>o Various other random softwares

My computer setup is probably analogous to what many working professionals will have. Anyway, I plugged the SSD into the laptop, put the HDD into the enclosure, booted off the disk clone CD, and waited. Although the disk was detected, the drive clone failed. My heart skipped a beat, but I realized that my drivelock protection was on. So after swapping the SSD for HDD, and after unlocking the drivelock, the bootable hard drive cloning software worked like a charm.

The software created 2 new partitions on the SSD, same as the previous drive. Because I had been using less than 128GB on the old drive, it was able to move all the files over without any trouble. If your hard drive has more than 128GB of data, you might run into some problems with the disk cloning. The software told me that the entire transfer would take around 2 hours, but it was completed in less time than that.

Taking the newly cloned SSD, putting it into my hard-drive bay, I booted up my laptop. I saw the Windows 7 logo come on, and I realized that I was witnessing the fulfillment of a dream. I got into the Windows environment and refreshment poured over me, like the dawning of a new day. Although you know intimately every shortcut, every icon, and every program, it is different somehow, faster somehow. Everything, from Windows boot-up time to program start-up time, definitely ran faster as advertised. I did notice one change on my computer though, when I checked why my flash-drive readyboost was no longer working, I got the following error message:

<img id="1584" class="imgBox" src="" alt="" width="349" />

When Windows says that a feature has stopped working because your hard drive is too fast, that is a good error message. On my Windows experience rating, my hard drive performance jumped from 4.5 to 5.9. I have absolutely no complaints about the new drive, and am looking forward to a long relationship with my new SSD.

The entire time from the start of the migration process to the successful boot of the new SSD was 88 minutes. This includes about 10 minutes or so lost because of the initial hard drive clone failure. To see the fulfillment of this years-long dream, I would have been willing to suffer through an hours-long Windows re-install. But the disk kit hardware and software made it a breeze. For those who aren't looking for top-notch SSD performance, but want a very solid and easy-to-use SSD, the Kingston kit does stand out from its dozens of competitors.
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Aug 5, 2009
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