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Maybe these are stupid questions but I should ask anyway, I think must people agree that SSD are a good investment for programming, although this question is two years old it has a lot of up votes. My laptop is getting stuck when I open a lot of programs, photoshop (taking 2GB RAM), visual studio (500MB RAM) and others... Firefox for example (500 MB RAM), sometimes I have 100MB free of my 4GB RAM memory and 4Gb page file used. That's why I am really thinking in buying an SSD, seems that hard drive is a bottle neck.

My questions is, since SSD are degraded with writes, should I put my solution on the SSD or in an external hard drive? Will Visual Studio benefit putting the data on an external hard drive? I am sure that must of you use SSD, how do you use it?

Edit

Seems the short answer is put everything in the SSD and ensure having Trim technology?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"SSD are degraded with writes" is now mostly a myth*

Windows 7 has built-in TRIM support and most modern SSDs practically eliminate these early issues (3rd party software or internal work to clear/garbage-collect unused pages). Anandtech and Tom's Hardware have some great articles and write-ups on the subject. The core issue is that "clearing" a flash page is a relatively long operation; if this is done ahead of time or in the background there is no appreciable degradation (the memory itself does not get slower over time). TRIM lets the OS tell the drive when a page can be cleared/recycled -- as far as the SSD (or HDD) is concerned, a page consisting of nothing but zeros is still valid data.

Put everything you want fast, INCLUDING OS, SOFTWARE, AND SWAP, on the SSD. (This naturally extends to Visual Studio projects and pretty much anything else except for large media or archives :-)

I would recommend an SDD based on the SF-1200 (or higher) series ~ $200 or less for 120GB. Except for capacity and cost, there is no reason to ever go back to spindles -- a good SSD is so fast at random access, that even under moderate-heavy load swap is "almost unnoticeable" or "minimized to the point where it does not bother me". (An SSD is still significantly slower at random access and throughput then main memory, however. Being good at swap is a stop-gap and not a real solution for a demanding user.) In this aspect there is absolutely no contest between an SSD and HDD in terms in of random-access performance and latency: a good SSD will win hands-down in every test/scenario that favors this usage pattern and even a good HDD will make a system chug under moderate-heavy swap. With everything else equal, I would get a good SSD over another 4GB of memory, but best would be to get both ;-)

Data read sequentially, like movies or large archives, will see the least benefit moving from platters to flash chips (but will still see a benefit) -- once a HDD gets going it has a pretty high throughput. In this aspect the role of HDD's is relegated to the task of mass storage and not every minute usage.

I will never willingly not have an SSD as a primary drive again. Even a "degraded SSD" (say, 80% optimal) is still much faster than an a conventional HDD -- but remember, that just like a traditional HDD, a SSD will eventually get old (and "slow" in relation to current technology) and fail -- use it while you have it and keep external backups. Also, not all SSD's are equal. Again, my recommendation is an SF-1200 (or higher) based device -- it is just a "consistently good" prosumer controller for a competitive price (throughput isn't everything, consider average/max latencies, etc).

Now, get to a techie site, read a few articles, and put in an online order for a shiny new toy :-)


*If it really is a myth depends upon the actual SSD controller/firmware, operating system configuration/support, external maintenance tools, etc., of course. Windows 7 comes with TRIM support and the SandForce (e.g. SF-1200/1500/2xxx) controllers are TRIM-aware; they are also fairly aggressive at internal collection and page-cycling. With good controllers and TRIM support the statement "SSD are degraded with writes" really does become a myth.

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My laptop is getting stuck when I open a lot of programs [...]

You need more RAM.

Buying an SSD to make your page file faster is simply ignoring that fact. It's a waste of an SSD, and doesn't even give you the same boost as RAM.

Also: Please do not say "virtual memory" when you mean "page file" or "swap file". :(

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Regardless of being able to benefit from more RAM, it is not a waste of an SSD :-) –  pst May 31 '11 at 2:08
1  
@pst: IMHO it is -- you buy an SSD to speed up file access, not to substitute for lack of RAM. Buying it for that purpose is just a waste. –  Mehrdad May 31 '11 at 2:11
    
@Mehrdad Yes. And as a side-effect, in my experience, it speeds of swap tremendously. –  pst May 31 '11 at 2:16
1  
@pst: Did you mean speed "up"? If so, then yes, but in my experience, RAM is even faster and cheaper. :P –  Mehrdad May 31 '11 at 2:31
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Interesting discussion, actually I am using my programs at the same time, so it made think in more RAM but my laptop only supports 4GB RAM, so I need a new one or get an SSD to solve my problem, I vote up both questions but finally select the one from pst, thanks for sharing, btw i edited my post to change virtual memory for page file ;-) –  k-dev Jun 1 '11 at 19:54

If the hard drive is truly your bottleneck, a SSD will definitely be of help. I have one of these:

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/internal_storage/Mercury_Extreme_SSD_Sandforce

The difference in this line of SSD drives is that they don't get slower over time. This helps me maintain my speed even though I use the drive as my primary system drive. SSD leveling also helps with the speed over time issue.

As for the speed difference, I use a Mac with VMWare Fusion running my Windows (I develop primarily in Visual Studio). My Mac boots incredibly fast. In fact, my wife has a similar Mac without a SSD (but she has a 7,200 RPM drive). My Mac can boot into the OS, boot Fusion, boot my Windows and be in Visual Studio before hers comes to the login screen.

In short, I find a SSD to be EXCELLENT for development work.

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