Tag Archives: SSD

Battle of the SSDs: Intel 330 vs Samsung 830

I recently purchased an Intel 330 Series 120GB SSD in order to improve my ageing PC’s performance. My post about migrating an existing Windows 7 installation to an SSD was based on the installation of that new SSD. At the time, I mentioned some issues I was having with waking up from sleep/hibernate on the SSD. The stability issues gradually became worse, resulting in the following intermittent problems:

  • The PC would sometimes blue screen and restart during shutdown.
  • The PC would sometimes blue screen and restart following fairly long periods of usage (after 2 or 3 hours).
  • Filesystem index corruption was detected (and fixed) on C: by Windows 7 chkdsk.
  • Resuming from sleep/hibernate would sometimes result in a blue screen and restart.

Many of you will recognise these symptoms as classic signs of an SSD built with a SandForce controller chip. Some SSD manufacturers such as OCZ have been experiencing relatively high return rates (up to around 9% of all SSDs sold) due to the reported instability of the SandForce controllers. Several firmware updates have been released to supposedly address these instabilities, but there remains plenty of forum activity discussing these problems. The reason I went for an Intel SSD in the first place was their reputation for reliability. They supposedly only see return rates of around 2-3% for their SSDs, which is similar to the average return rate for old-fashioned HDDs, so I would say that is pretty good. It should be noted that these are return rates rather than failure rates, which is a weakness in the statistics.

The previous 320 Series of consumer-grade Intel SSDs used a homegrown Intel-branded controller, which was very well received and by most accounts very reliable. The new generation of 330 Series and 520 Series SSDs uses a SandForce controller, but with an Intel-customised firmware that is designed to resolve any outstanding stability issues. So if that is the case, why is my new Intel SSD not behaving itself?

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Migrating an existing Windows 7 installation to an SSD

With the advent of affordable and reliable high performance SSD storage, the possibility of running Windows on an SSD for lightning quick boot times and highly responsive applications is becoming more and more attractive. But the thought of reinstalling Windows from scratch is not so appealing, regardless of how good your backups are and how organised you might be. There is a regularly cited argument that in order to get the best possible performance from new storage, you should reinstall Windows. I don’t disagree with that, but we don’t live in an ideal world where we all have unlimited free time. And in the case of migrating from a fairly old desktop HDD to a brand new SSD, I’m not sure how noticeable the performance improvement will be if you take the extra time to reinstall Windows from scratch, compared to just migrating your existing installation.

Lots of SSDs are now available in a “retail kit” or “reseller kit” form, which include a bundle of helpful accessories selected by the manufacturer. These usually comprise a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adapter for desktop PC cases, a standard SATA data cable, an adapter from a 4 pin Molex plug to an SATA power connector, and some free cloning software. Clearly the manufacturers expect at least some users to migrate their old operating system across to the new drive, and have tried to make this easy. Some of them (including Samsung), also provide a USB to SATA adapter cable, allowing you to connect your new SSD to any machine with a USB port in order to migrate data to it. These kits usually only cost a little more than the barebones OEM packs, making them excellent value for money.

The two main migration software packages provided in these kits are Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost, or a rebranded manufacturer-specific derivative of them. If you are trying to migrate data from your OS disk, these software tools usually provide the ability to create a bootable CD version which allows you to gain full access to your existing OS disk by booting into a separate self-contained mini operating system (usually based on Linux). From this environment, you can clone your main OS partition directly to the new SSD.

If you elect to follow this approach and migrate your Windows 7 installation to your new SSD, what are the main steps you need to perform?

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