I ended up taking ownership of my wife's Compaq CQ56-115DX laptop recently. The laptop was okay, but needed upgrading. In went Windows 8.1 Pro instead of Windows 7. Also going in was 8 gigabytes of RAM instead of the default, and quite paltry, 2 gigabytes. Still, while performance wasn't bad, there seemed room for improvement.
So, in went a Crucial MX100 Solid State Drive, replacing the default 250 gigabyte Seagate Momentum 5400.6 drive. The new Crucial solid state drive is 256 gigabytes, a good replacement match for the Seagate. I didn't need any more disk capacity, and at barely over a hundred bucks, the 256 gigabyte solid state drive seemed like a pretty good upgrade.
The drive showed up from Amazon in about a week, even in the midst the of Christmas mailing madness. The box contains a slip of paper with a link where you can download a stripped down of Acronis TrueImage (or whatever) to clone the existing hard drive to the solid state drive. I already had a copy of Clonezilla, an excellent free open-source drive cloning utility.
I got the solid state disk installed into a handy portable SATA drive case I had around the house. I highly suggest having one of these, especially since they only cost about thirteen bucks on Amazon.
The actual cloning took about an hour, but I wasn't really paying attention. After the cloning was done, I removed the original drive and installed the solid state drive. I fired up the laptop and got... Disk Not Found. Ugh. I rebooted the laptop, and immediately got the Windows 8.1 login screen. It was like ka-pow! I don't know why the solid state drive wasn't picked up the first time, but it has been no problem since.
Now before I pulled the original drive, I ran ATTO's Disk Benchmark. I remember ATTO being around 20 years ago as a prime supplier of SCSI II controllers for Macs way back when. Anyhow, here are the results:
To get the real performance difference, don't just look at the bars. Look at the index values. They're different. For the largest file transfer, the bottom value, the factory hard drive managed to transfer about 75 megs a second. The solid state disk transfers 256 megs a second. That's a 340% performance improvement. If you look at the chart, you can see the performance is a big improvement regardless of the file size being read or written to disk. For a hundred bucks, getting a 3x disk improvement is pretty impressive. I'm going to make picking up a solid state disk a "must do" for any laptop I own from now on. Well, that and cramming it full of RAM.
Even if you lump in needing to purchase an external SATA case for $13 to temporarily hold the solid state disk during the transfer, the overall process is pretty easy. Took less than two hours, and the laptop is noticeably faster. I'm totally stoked with the outcome of this upgrade. A huge thumbs up.