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I have an Acer Aspire 7720-6604. It came with 3 GB RAM back in March 2008 and a sluggish 5400 RPM HDD.

I am using Ubuntu Linux with openbox and I constantly find myself crawling to a halt with RAM running out.

So my question is, should I upgrade to 4GB paired RAM (I can only go 4GB, and waste the modules I have) or should I get a 64GB SSD drive (Kingston with TRIM support) and keep my current HDD as backup as I do have a slot to put one more HDD in my laptop?

I just want to avoid going into the exhaustive out of RAM issues and in general increase the performance of my system to put one more year onto it before I retire it.

I could do both but I would prefer to do the sure thing first just to avoid the added expense.

By the way, it's been a very trusty system so far, I would recommend Acer if you can stand the ugly looks :P

Edit: I do a lot of heavy Java compilation which also does unit tests on db (I know its bad, I use RAM backed MySQL to speed up things).

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That depends on what you're doing with the machine. – Hello71 Aug 17 '10 at 2:19
I do alot of heavy Java compilation which also does unit tests on db (I know its bad, I use RAM backed MySQL to speed up things) – Shahzada Hatim Aug 18 '10 at 2:42
up vote 1 down vote accepted

First, I would verify where your performance issues are from. I recommend runing 'dstat -af' in a screen session and then doing whatever it is you normally do that results in slow performance.

Then see if there is a great deal of traffic to the disk, or the CPU is 100% 'user' or 'wait', or interrupts per second spike or ... The point is to identify the current bottleneck. If it is swapping or I/O access then an SSD will probably help a lot (assuming you put the swap file on the SSD if your issue is with swapping).

I would be a little surprised if the issue was with RAM. 3G seems low these days, but for a laptop running Ubuntu you could do a lot worse. Still, if you are running out of RAM and swapping isn't the source of the delays / sluggishness, I don't know why that would be.

SSD's are expensive, so I'm a little surprised you're considering one for a 1-year putting-off-a-purchase purpose.

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I agree that verifying would help. I can get a 64GB SSD for about 115$ and Laptop paired RAM for about 88$ ofcourse I can reuse my older RAM. Buying a 64 GB seemed a better value proposition (I dont loose any thing) by upgrading RAM, I have this 1 GB module going to waste. – Shahzada Hatim Aug 18 '10 at 2:40
RAM=4GB for 88. (and the usual shipping + VAT is extra for where I live) Overall there is a difference of around 50$, and new laptop would cost me atleast 10 times the price of SSD (old one wont fetch me a squat, even if its not bad) – Shahzada Hatim Aug 18 '10 at 2:47

Do not buy an SSD and put your swap file on it. SSDs have a limit lifespan and can only take so many writes and rewrites before it will stop working. The number of rights are rewrites are really high however, and in normal use they will last longer than a hard drive. But if you use a swap file on them, you are going to eat into that really fast.

So you should probably upgrade the ram, and upgrade to a faster hdd later.

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It is possible to modify the 'affinity' for the swap file in Ubuntu. Beyond that, support for the TRIM command has been part of the Linux kernel since 2.6.28, I believe. Which was released like late 2008/early 2009 or something. I wouldn't be against putting a swap file on it myself, and in fact already do, but maybe I'm playing with fire :) For what it's worth, though, running out of ram is never great, even if you've got some good read/write speeds on your HDD. – JBirch Aug 17 '10 at 4:15

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