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My work laptop runs windows 7 professional on a 7200rpm drive, which I feel is a bottle neck. Two programs I frequently use (they are always open) are Netbeans and Outlook, which seem to enjoy thrashing the hard drive on a regular basis (my Norton system monitor is constantly warning me about their high disk usage).

I cannot move or mess with my windows install, but I have the option of installing an ssd in place of the optical drive using an hdd caddy that sits in the drive bay. If I am running the OS on the spinning drive, but have my programs installed on the SSD, will the performance gain be worth it? Naturally I would rather have the whole system on an ssd but since that is not the option, would I see any real improvements?

How I would measure improvement

Netbeans will "hang" from time to time while performing a "background scan of projects," (which I imagine is analyzing all files in open projects and putting them into local memory for faster access for tasks like code completion) and outlook will do something similar while "updating folders." (Syncing mail on the server with the local copy on my computer.) This computer has 16gb ddr3 1600 and a dual core intel i5 3340m@2.7Ghz.

On my computer at home, which has the OS on an SSD, and uses a quad core intel i7 3740@2.7Ghz, does not have either of these problems; netbeans still does background scans, and outlook still updates folders of course, but both programs are completely usable during this time, whereas on the work computer they are pretty much locked up and I have to wait anywhere from 15 seconds to a few minutes to let them complete. I'm sure the quad core makes a huge difference, but to what extent I'm not certain.

So any "improvement" would be either: The ability to use either program while it is doing one of these tasks, or simply a shorter wait time until it is done completing one of these 2 tasks.

Thanks for reading!

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You'll see a small improvement in performance as there will be less content on the hard drive and therefore less fragmentation and less seeking for data, but the best performance will always be achieved by placing the operating system on the SSD itself.

If you can't transfer the whole system to the SSD, you should consider using the SSD as a cache, which will probably result in better performance than the setup you propose as the caching will include both OS and program data files. A commonly-used SSD caching solution is Intel Smart Response Technology.

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Thanks for the insight! MSaleter's answer makes sense to me...For my specific metric of increased performance, would you say that I would still be better off with everything on the hdd, and using the ssd as an SRT cache drive, than by simply making sure all of those data files are on the SSD? I do not know enough about the caching mechanism to know the answer. I know I could try both on my own and judge for myself, but I would like to have more info first before going through the steps of creating the raid setup for srt to work correctly. – chiliNUT Mar 19 '14 at 9:32

Yes, moving the data files to the SSD will give you a noticable boost in this case.

Moving the OS installation to SSD will speed up boot mostly. Useful but not what you're asking. NetBeans, when it scans projects, is accessing many files. That's a lot of seeks, exactly where SSDs excel. Note: you don't need to have NetBeans itself on the SSD for this.

Outlook shouldn't be that bad, you might suffer from disk fragmentation.

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Thanks for the answer! It makes a lot of sense to me... so to confirm, having my code files, and similarly the local copy of my emails, on the ssd would help those 2 issues, and having the software itself on the ssd vs hdd would not really make a difference? That sounds reasonable.Do you know how this solution would compare to using Dragon lord's caching set up? – chiliNUT Mar 19 '14 at 9:27
@chiliNUT: Having your software on SSD will make it start faster; it's less important to its runtime performance. Caching is unlikely to speed up project scans as much. That's why DragonLord's primary advice is to put everything on SSD. – MSalters Mar 19 '14 at 9:35

This is a terrible idea. Put the OS + important tools always on the SSD. Clone the Windows to the SSD, format the HDD and use it as storage device (Configure the libraries in Explorer to store the data on the HDD instead of the SSD). This is how I use a SSD + HDD in my Dell Laptop.

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As stated in the original question, "I cannot move or mess with my windows install" which definitely means no cloning to the ssd and wiping the hdd! Our IT guy would not appreciate that. Thanks for your input. – chiliNUT Mar 19 '14 at 9:34
tell your IT guy to allow replacing the HDD. Programs on the SSD will also load DLLs from the HDD, so they wait until the slow HDD reads them. So you have NO real benefit. – magicandre1981 Mar 19 '14 at 16:48
How can there be "no real benefit?" AFAIK, when it is looking at data files, like my source code files and emails, why would the speed it takes to load a dll affect the speed at which it looks at my data files? – chiliNUT Mar 19 '14 at 17:23

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