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I'm a programmer, and I use Eclipse for Java development. Recently I've installed an internal (SATA) SSD drive on my home machine, transferred Eclipse installation and project to it and noticed a significant improvement in Eclipse performance.

I'd like to do the same on my work machine, but it's a laptop, so I can't install an internal drive. Would a USB drive yield a similar performance boost?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'd like to do the same on my work machine, but it's a laptop, so I can't install an internal drive. Would a USB drive yield a similar performance boost?

There is no reason you could not install a SSD in your laptop provided the one you currently have has a SATA disk interface. If it was bought within the last 5 years it is. If your using a laptop that is older then that, the amount of performance for the money you will have to spend on a SSD is not really worth it.

As to answer your question...The USB interface will be a HUGE bottleneck and is not worth the investment.

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IMHO USB throttles a SATA drive massively, look at the difference between an internal SATA and a USB one. Getting a USB SSD would be like pimping up a mobility scooter. – Joe Taylor Feb 23 '12 at 13:08
You could potentially look at using a different external port instead of USB 2 (60 MB/s) if they are available. For example eSata (300 MB/s), Firewire (400MB/s), USB 3 (625 MB/s) and possibly even Thunderbolt (~700MB/s) depending on exactly what the laptop is - you can get Sata based caddies for all of these. – Turix Feb 23 '12 at 13:27
Edit: You may also run into the problem of Windows/Linux/Whatever not passing TRIM commands out to the SSD because its not on the internal SATA bus, meaning the performance will degrade with time more steeply. – Turix Feb 23 '12 at 13:50

You don't mention the type of laptop so the ease of the upgrade will vary. Some laptops like the MacBook Air can not upgrade the internal SSD. For other laptops it's as easy as flipping over the case and unscrewing a couple of screws.

I've upgraded a number of laptops from development laptops to aging ones and a SSD is one of the best ways to increase the performance and extend the life of a laptop.

You mention this is for Java development. ScottGu has a great blog post about HD speed and Visual Studio performance and I think the same factors would apply to Java.

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I have installed an SSD into an 8 year old laptop. The speed increase was phenomenal. I use the SSD for multi-booting into various Windows and Linuxes. If you go for a 128GB or 256GB SSD it will not cost that much. Most laptops with upgradeable drives are very simple to upgrade. In my case I had to remove a single screw, pull out the drive bay, pull out the old drive from the drive drawer and replace with the new SSD.

I only have the various OSes installed on multiple paritions on the SSD, and whatever applications I use with each OS. Permanent data is stored on external drives connected via USB3.0 or eSata connections which are also extremely fast.

My old laptop only had USB2.0 ports, but I have an Expresscard port in which I have a USB3/eSata adaptor connected to a USB3.0 hub and an eSata port multiplier hub.

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