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DIY SSD Guide

Discussion in 'Notebook News and Reviews' started by dietcokefiend, Feb 14, 2008.

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  1. dietcokefiend

    dietcokefiend DietGreenTeaFiend

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    by Kevin O'Brien

    Solid state disks (SSDs) are a flash-based memory storage device that carries an insane price premium in the current market. They will usually cost $600 to $1,000 as an upgrade from the manufacturer or computer parts store, making them outside the price range of many consumers. A new cheaper (slightly slower) option is available thanks to low-cost, high-capacity flash cards. This option is using a cheap compact flash to SATA adapter, and purchasing a moderately fast memory card that would fill your storage needs.

    For this review I aimed to keep the price less than $100 just to show how affordable this option could be.

    <img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30926.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="190" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30925','Picture',1094,960,'');">view large image</span>)

    Specifications of the SATA adapter and Compact flash cards used for this review:

    Addonics CF To SATA HDD Adapter

    • Enable Compact Flash (CFI/II) or Micro DriveTM to be used like ordinary 2.5&quot; SATA hard drive
    • Mounts directly onto notebook 2.5&quot; SATA connector
    • CF Card can be the primary bootable device containing the OS and applications.
    • Transparent to the operating system and does not require any drivers
    • Supports DMA and Ultra DMA modes (only on flash media card with such features).
    • Compatible with DOS, Windows 3.1, NT4, 98SE, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, Mac, Linux
    • Price $30 (<a href="http://www.addonics.com/products/flash_memory_reader/adsahdcf.asp" target="_blank">available here</a>)

    Trancend 4GB 266x Compact Flash

    • Capacity 4GB
    • Speed 266X (40MB/sec Max)
    • Support IDE PIO mode 6, Ultra DMA mode 4
    • Compliant with the CF4.0 specification
    • Built-in hardware ECC technology
    • Built-in ATA interface for easy Plug and Play interoperability
    • Lower power consumption
    • Price $60

    Kingston 4GB 133x Compact Flash

    • Speed - 25MB/sec. read, 20MB/sec. write
    • Standardized - complies with CompactFlash Association specification standards
    • Economical - autosleep mode preserves system battery life
    • Price $40 (Free after rebate)

    Sandisk Ultra II 512MB Compact Flash

    • Minimum of 10MB/second sequential read speed for ultra-fast image viewing and data transfer
    • Minimum 9MB/second sequential write speed lets you capture large image files faster
    • Low power consumption for longer battery life
    • Price Free, old flash laying around

    Setup

    One nice perk of these types of devices is they don't require any drivers to work on any system. There are a few requirements though; the system must have SATA, and the compact flash card must support DMA modes. Some older flash cards will have problems, but since 4GB to 16GB flash cards didn't economically exist a few years ago, this should not be a problem.

    <table border="0"><tbody><tr><td><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30934.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="185" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30933','Picture',1094,936,'');">view large image</span>) <br /></td><td> <img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30932.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="115" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30931','Picture',1094,650,'');">view large image</span>)</td></tr><tr><td><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30930.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="144" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30929','Picture',1094,770,'');">view large image</span>) <br /></td><td> <img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30928.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="177" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30927','Picture',1094,907,'');">view large image</span>)</td></tr></tbody></table>

    &nbsp;

    Installing the operating system was the only other setup required for this review, and it follows the same installation process as any other Windows XP install process. If you are wondering why I didn't pick Vista, our review budget limited us to 4GB cards that were fast enough to compete against a standard hard drive. If you move your budget up $50 or $100 more, you will open yourself up to 8GB and larger cards that would be fine for installing Vista.

    Performance

    Now you are probably wondering what the performance difference is between a standard 7200rpm drive, true SSD, and my DIY SSD. For this review I cover those three drives, as well as a handful of others to give you the best idea of what to expect.

    The first lineup of benchmarks comparison use the software PerformanceTest, and the included disk test. As you can see, the DIY SSD performs quite well, even outperforming a true SSD found in the Sony VAIO TZ.

    <table border="1" width="609" height="152"><tbody><tr><td>Disk Speed </td><td align="center">Apple MacBook Air <br />4200 rpm 1.8&quot; HD<br /> </td><td align="center">1.8&quot; SSD in <br />Sony TZ </td><td align="center">DIY SSD </td><td align="center">7200 rpm <br />2.5&quot; HD<br /> </td><td align="center"> Memoright <br />128GB SATA SSD<br /></td></tr><tr><td>Sequential Read<br /></td><td align="center">16.3 </td><td align="center">27.7 </td><td align="center">30.1</td><td align="center"> 40.9</td><td align="center"> 37.7</td></tr><tr><td>

    Sequential Write

    </td><td align="center">22.7<br /></td><td align="center">13.4<br /></td><td align="center">21.0<br /></td><td align="center"> 38.0</td><td align="center"> 60.3</td></tr><tr><td>Random Seek + RW<br /></td><td align="center">1.28<br /></td><td align="center">1.21<br /></td><td align="center">1.44</td><td align="center"> 2.97</td><td align="center"> 3.55</td></tr><tr><td>Disk Mark<br /></td><td align="center">145.7<br /></td><td align="center">153.0<br /></td><td align="center">189.9</td><td align="center"> 295.9</td><td align="center"> 367.2</td></tr><tr><td>PassMark Rating<br /></td><td align="center">29.1<br /></td><td align="center">30.6<br /></td><td align="center">38.9<br /></td><td align="center"> 59.2</td><td align="center"> 73.4</td></tr></tbody></table>

    &nbsp;

    For HDTune, we included more drives into the comparison, including multiple types of compact flash card to show you how much speed can vary between cards. (Note: Not all compact flash cards are made equal, and the old 512MB Sandisk card has very poor access times.)

    MacBook Air:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30938.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="201" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30937','Picture',770,638,'');">view large image</span>)<br />

    Sony TZ SSD:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30940.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="201" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30939','Picture',770,638,'');">view large image</span>)

    5400 rpm HD:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30942.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30941','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    <br />Kingston CF:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30944.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30943','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    <br />Trancend CF:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30946.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30945','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    Sandisk CF:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30948.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30947','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    7200 rpm HD:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30950.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30949','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    32GB Memoright SSD:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30952.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30951','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)

    128GB Memoright SSD:<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/30936.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="250" height="200" /><br />(<span style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer" onclick="displayWindow('http://www.notebookreview.com/picture.asp?f=30935','Picture',770,637,'');">view large image</span>)<br />

    PCMark05 benchmarks:<br />(Higher scores mean better performance)<br />

    • Lenovo T60 2.16GHz w/ 7200rpm XP: 4816
    • Lenovo T60 2.16GHz w/ DIY SSD XP: 3930

    I figure the main difference between these two scores is the 7200rpm drive has a much faster disk transfer rate. Still, if you violently shake a notebook with a standard hard drive while it's accessing the drive you will kill the drive. You can violently shake a DIY SSD and nothing will happen.

    Power Consumption

    With the DIY SSD, I was expecting at least a little less power draw, but nothing was found in my use. Idle power draw was around 15.3w for both the 7200rpm drive, and the DIY SSD. Chances are the $30 adapter has nowhere near the power efficiency levels that a true SSD would have.

    Conclusion

    With this review I was planning on showing a proof of concept that it was possible to make your own SSD and didn't expect that it would provide such great real world results. While many very pricey performance SSDs exist, the module I assembled had greater speeds than the SSD found in an off the shelf notebook at a fraction of the price. If you are on a budget and need an option for a notebook that sees very rough duty, or you just like snappy boot times you may want to check this out.

    Pros

    • MUCH cheaper compared to any other SSD solution
    • You pick the flash module you trust most
    • Very small overall size compared to 2.5&quot; drives

    Cons

    • Not as fast as a 7200rpm drive or a performance SSD
    • No gain in battery life
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2015 at 2:39 PM
  2. vespoli

    vespoli 402 NBR Reviewer

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    Interesting read.

    Any concern about read/write cycles using these type of cards as a disk?
     
  3. neonlazer

    neonlazer Notebook Evangelist

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    Kind of useless me thinks?...its does not gain you any better life..yet it isnt faster than a 7200rpm drive, and more expensive($1/gb for top 7200 drive)...ssd more. Only thing good would i guess be less weight(i hope a 2.5in drive weights you down lol), sound, and vibration, I dont really see the point in getting this.. I think we will have to weight for real SSD's to come down in price.
     
  4. The_Punisher

    The_Punisher Notebook Evangelist

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    Nice guide. SSD on the cheap.

    The thing that bugs me the most about SSD's is the small size. You pay a hefty price for 64Gb or less when you shop by Dell for example. I know from experience 64Gb can be filled quite quickly nowadays if you have a lot of games, software and files.
    The DIY SSD solves the money problem for the most part, but the size remains the issue, at least for me. I like a roomy HDD.
     
  5. dietcokefiend

    dietcokefiend DietGreenTeaFiend

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    Less weight, less space, less heat, no vibration issues. It was a proof of concept really to show that it could be done, and it ended up having decent results. Car mounted notebooks for example would enjoy this type of setup.
     
  6. Teraforce

    Teraforce Exhausted

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    The only problem here is that the biggest flash-based CF card available is only 16Gb. I'm sure there are MicroDrives that are bigger, but they're much slower and less reliable (they're essentially Mechanical Hard Drives mounted in a CF Type II case).
     
  7. Les

    Les Not associated with NotebookReview in any way

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    The concern that might be had is the life of the flashdrive being used. The reason for the lifespan of ssds is held within the circuitboard/controller which assures equal wear levelling of each cell in use. This cannot be done with a flash drive.
     
  8. hp79

    hp79 Notebook Evangelist

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    Nice review! Exactly what I was wondering about. Did you install XP on these? How did the DIY-SSD feel compared to 7200rpm HDD? On my desktop, I have a SCSI HDD that runs 15000rpm, and the seek time is excellent, but transfer speeds are a little slower compared to regular 7200rpm SATA HDD. With your DIY-SSD, does the seek time help any at all for booting up, and running programs?

    I heard that running XP on a CF(or any flash card) drive will eventually kill the drive because of the virtual memory (swap) that keeps on writing and erasing, wearing out the media in couple days. Are you planning to do an extensive test to see if the media fails? I also have the Kingston 4GB, I think I got the same deal as yours ^^

    If one didn't care much about vibration or shock, would you still recommend DIY-SSD?
     
  9. Lite

    Lite Notebook Deity

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    Great idea , If you want a cheap adapter to try it out try:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.8466 for £7 with free shipping.

    But like the previous poster , This is gonna fail pretty quickly because of read/write cycles , If you put your pagefile on a seperate disk it should be ok for a while.
     
  10. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

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    You don't have to have a pagefile at all in Windows ... unless you're running a notebook with 256MB or 512MB of system RAM. That's a non issue.
     
  11. The_Punisher

    The_Punisher Notebook Evangelist

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    The size remains the dealbreaker for me. 16Gb isn't enough room for all my stuff. Even if I clean up alot. 64Gb could be enough. But at that premium I'd just buy a huge regular HDD and save some cash in the proces.

    SSD needs to age a bit more. Given a couple of years prices will come down and the size will increase. The same happened with memorycards. A couple of year back you'd pay a fortune for a 1Gb stick, now they're cheap and huge. At least for a digital camera or a PSP.
     
  12. dietcokefiend

    dietcokefiend DietGreenTeaFiend

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    "Endurance : 1,000,000 times or cycles"

    (1) 100,000 write cycles = (40MB/s * 60 sec/min * 60 min/hr * 24 hr/day) / (365 days/year) = 1.27 years

    (2) 1,000,000 write cycles = 5.1 years


    While it might not be as high as an SSD, we are still talking years before any issues crop up.

    EDIT: I should mention that I use USB flash sticks for ReadyBoost (really cheap noname ones) which is basically a swap file on the flash memory. I have been doing this for about 2 months now on a daily basis without problems.
     
  13. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator NBR Reviewer

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    I wouldn't call it "useless." You're forgetting this DIY SSD is technically faster than the "real" SSD in a Sony VAIO TZ. If you've got a cheap notebook that you want to use as a take-everywhere travel companion then this is a great option because you can beat your notebook up and not have to worry about HD failure. Plus, as CF capacity increases you can "upgrade" this DIY SSD just by inserting a new card.
     
  14. timswar

    timswar Notebook Enthusiast

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    the website linked appears to have a dual-CF adapter for those with an IDE harddrive connection in their laptop

    http://www.addonics.com/products/flash_memory_reader/ad44midecf.asp

    that plus some 32 gig CF sticks would get you up to 64gig. I'm not seeing any announcements for upcoming dual CF adapters for SATA, but it might be worth emailing them about.

    Does anyone know when Samsung will be mass-releasing the 64 gig CF cards? or if anyone else is developing them?
     
  15. ChristopherAKAO4

    ChristopherAKAO4 Notebook Nut

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    On a 17 inch laptop that had a option for duel drives, you use a DIY SSD and a regular HDD, putting the OS on the DIY SSD and files on the HDD. Of course you could just get two 7200 RPM HDDs run them in RAID. :)
     
  16. dietcokefiend

    dietcokefiend DietGreenTeaFiend

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    Well the thing with CF>IDE is its practically the same interface to begin with. Easy to work with, very little circuitry. With SATA you need the SATA to IDE interface for both cards, more space required, less likely to fit the same stuff into the same about of space.

    If you notice, it is also going as master/slave. SATA doesnt have the same dual drive per channel ability.

    Running a few additional benchmarks for the different drives, now with ATTO since that tests R/W a bit better. Here is the 128, I will add on the various CF cards in a couple of hours.
     

    Attached Files:

  17. Les

    Les Not associated with NotebookReview in any way

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    Nice work Kev. I guess it is a cheap alternative and something to play around with.

    SSDs are still in their infancy in the consumer market and I predict we may see some big announcements during this quarter, one to include price drops. As much as I believed the manufacturers were making tons, its not entirely true when they are still paying $10-12 GB for their memory before production.

    We need to also find resellers that arent relying on a 50%-90% profit in the resale to help out (hint hint)
     
  18. dietcokefiend

    dietcokefiend DietGreenTeaFiend

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    Yea when I spoke with the Samsung flash division leader, he commented on how price drops are going to be pretty insane with right now compared with this year christmas. Flash prices are dropping like a rock as they become easier to produce.
     
  19. AChufong

    AChufong Notebook Consultant

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    I did this about a month ago using my Thinkpad X40 following the directions over on this thread at the Thinkpad Forums. I highly recommend doing this mod if you've got an older computer laying around.

    A few very basic things to to think about from both the Thinkpads thread and my own experience...
    First, the ideal operating system for this deployment appears to be an nLite shrunk XP w/ the enhanced write filter (EWF) from XP Embedded. Using nLite to shrink your XP size is a no-brainer and has been well-covered almost every forum you look at :). The EWF prevents writes to the protected volume. Instead of writing to the disk, files get written to a RAM overlay, which is cleared after each shutdown. This does two things: (1) reduces the wear -read: limited writes - on the CF and (2) increases security by preventing malicious changes to the system.
    Second is stay away from Transcend cards. Many users on the Thinkpads thread have found them to be unreliable and their speeds to be well below the average. The general recommendation is to use either a Sandisk Extreme IV or a Lexar X300. While these cards may cost more, they naturally support UDMA-4, which is much faster than anything else. Also, if you plan on purchasing either of these cards, buy it from an authorized retailer b/c there are tons of fakes floating around eBay. There is a huge speed and quality difference.
    The last thing I've got to say is to have patience with the process. It took me a long while to get the nLite installation under 550mb, but it was well worth it :).
    I hope this post helps. If anyone wants some advice on doing it, just PM me and I'll try to help :D
     
  20. Nolan.Rivers

    Nolan.Rivers Notebook Guru

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    wait so the x-axis is how full the drive is?

    so a 7200rpm is actually slower when almost full than a 5200rpm that's equally as full (i guess on average...kind of generic graphs)
     
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