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Can an SSD Save an Old Notebook?


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Two years ago, your notebook was young and speedy. It would jump at the chance to do your bidding. But now, as you endlessly tap your fingers waiting for programs to load, it seems slower and less enthusiastic about doing its duty. Though it may be tempting to give your system the old heave-ho, you may not have to spend money on a new machine. Adding an affordable solid state drive could add a couple of years to your notebook’s lifespan, and even out-perform a new notebook.

To find out just how much of a difference an SSD can make, we upgraded a two-year-old Sony VAIO VGN-FZ140E with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, Windows Vista Home Premium, and a 4,200-rpm, 200GB Toshiba MK2035GSS hard drive. In 2007, it cost $1,500 and performed admirably. But time and regular usage had taken its toll, slowing down basic tasks to a glacial pace. We tested the system both before and after adding a 120GB OCZ Vertex SSD. Read on to find out how much of a difference the upgrade made.

Getting Started

To transfer all the existing data on the VAIO, we used the Apricorn ADW-USB kit ($29.99; www.newegg.com). It connected from the notebook to the Vertex SSD via a USB port, transferring the operating system, programs, and other data—in this case, nearly 100GB worth of files—in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Our notebook uses a 2.5-inch hard drive with a Serial ATA (SATA) interface. The majority of solid state disks on the market also use SATA interfaces, and are 2.5 or 1.8 inches. Replacing the old drive was easy: we opened a panel on the back of the system, pulled out the old drive, and popped in the new one.

Note: Older systems use a Parallel ATA (PATA) interface, which isn’t compatible with most high-performance SSDs. Check your notebook’s instruction manual, your hard drive controller in the Windows Device Manager, or open the back panel and check the interface on the drive itself. PATA drives have two rows of pins, while SATA ports have a thin, two-part plastic connector.

Boot Time

The first test compared how fast the system booted up before and after our upgrade. Many factors affect boot time—BIOS, drivers, system devices, resident programs, and the operating system—so upgrading from hard drive to SSD doesn’t always make a huge difference. However, averaging the times of three cold boots on both drives showed a profound improvement on the VAIO, dropping from an unpleasant 68 seconds on the default drive to a palatable 50.9 seconds on the SSD.

Next the drives ran through two synthetic benchmarks, HDTach and Sisoftware Sandra Lite. These measure a drive’s read performance under ideal conditions. The SSD blew away the older hard drive with seek times at 1 second or less, and transfer speeds that were faster than the old hard drive many times over. Take a look below.


Read Rate (MBps)

Seek Time (ms)

HD Tach
Read Rate (MBps)

HD Tach
Seek Time (ms)

Orignal Hard Drive





OCZ Vertex SSD (128GB)





A few real-world performance tests helped distinguish the two drives. The first involved copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media (videos, photos, music, and documents) from one folder to another on the same partition three times, and averaging the results. The SSD was 6 times faster than the original drive at an average of 1 minute and 32 seconds. We also zipped and unzipped the same 4.97GB folder three times. Again, the SSD came out on top, beating the old hard drive by more than 3 minutes and more than 5 minutes, respectively.

We also tested the time it takes for applications and files to open using four popular applications: Adobe Reader 9.0 opening a large PDF, Firefox 3 opening to a blank page, Photoshop CS4 opening a 398MB TIFF file, and Microsoft Word 2007 opening to a new document. In all programs, when the system was not stressed by performing other tasks in the background, the Vertex SSD bested the internal hard drive by a wide margin, ranging from 4.5 seconds in Adobe Reader to a whopping 37.9 seconds in Photoshop CS4.

Finally, we stressed the systems by opening the same applications while zipping 4.97GB of files in another window. Multitasking was virtually impossible on the VAIO’s original drive, taking Photoshop nearly 5 minutes to open. With the OCZ Vertex SSD it was not only possible but easy to open applications while under stress.


For less than $350, the OCZ Vertex SSD saved a two-year-old VAIO VGN-FZ140E from the trash heap for at least a few more years. Assuming you’re willing to live with 120GB of storage, a simple and cheap SSD upgrade could help you save your system without killing your budget.

To watch us upgrade the hard drive of the VAIO VGN-FZ140E with a speedier OCZ Vertex SSD, check out the video below.

Source : laptopmag.com

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