A couple of months ago I got a wild hair and decided to rebuild my PC: new motherboard, processor, hard drive, graphics card, power supply — the works. It was aging at around 3 years (5 years for the motherboard) so it was long past due, and now it’s shiny new and very zippy. Once it was all done, though, I decided to take it a step further and jump into the world of SSDs. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while because everyone says they’re amazingly fast, but I never quite committed to the idea. But some were suddenly on sale at New Egg, so I took the plunge. And once I got it set up, the speed is BLAZING. Boot time is cut in half, programs open damn near instantly (even behemoths like iTunes and Photosop), and things in general are snappier. Here’s a rundown of my experience, in case you’re thinking of trying this yourself.
I didn’t plan on reinstalling Windows fresh, because I had just done that during the rebuild (and before the SSD idea) and it took me days to get it set up the way I like it and reinstall my stuff. So I thought I could just image the C: drive and then restore that image onto the new SSD, which would solve the problem of a reinstall. The trouble was that my C: drive at the time used up about 70GB, and the SSD I bought was only 64GB because that’s what fit my budget. Luckily I had found an excellent article about SSDs and how to prep yourself for the switch, and it showed me how to strip my Windows installation down to the essentials and move everything else to another drive. It worked great, leaving me with a Windows drive at only 25GB. Niiiiice. (Here’s a forum thread which was very helpful as well.)
So my next step was to image my C: drive and restore it to the new drive. I use the free and excellent DriveImage XML on a weekly basis to backup C:, so I created a new backup image of my newly-slimmified Windows drive, plugged in the SSD via a SATA port, and restored the Windows image onto the SSD. Easy, right? So I try booting from the SSD, and…nothing happens. It says there’s no Windows installed. WTF!
More Googling. I figured out that the SSD drive wasn’t able to boot Windows on it because in the registry its drive letter was still set to something other than C:, which makes sense since I had it mounted as “just another drive” earlier when imaging it. So it was Paragon Rescue Kit to the rescue — it let me change the drive letter of the SSD to C: in its registry, and after that the drive booted just fine. Neato.
Of course, all this imaging and restoring and drive letter stuff could have been avoided if I had just reinstalled Windows from scratch, which is probably what most people do. So if you give one a try, I recommend a fresh reinstall if you can stand it. 🙂 But you definitely can go the image/restore route if you have a little patience and know-how.
The one thing I’m finding that I have to be careful of is setting any program which uses C: for temp/scratch space to use another drive instead. Some things were obvious (Photoshop), while others weren’t (Spotify). But I just checked any program that has anything to do with audio and video and made sure the settings didn’t use C: for temporary files, and that’s that.
Anyway, that’s my SSD experience for anyone who cares. I’m so used to the speed now that I can’t imagine going back!