The Great SSD Migration, Part 2: Migrating a Windows 7 Laptop to SSD

Earlier this week, I wrote about my experiences upgrading my primary desktop with SSD (solid state drive) storage. Today, I'd like to take a quick look at the experience doing so with a laptop, in this case my primary laptop, a middle of the road, Core 2 Duo-based ThinkPad SL410.

The basic gist is the same as with a desktop, however on most portable computers you won't have the luxury of using an SSD-based boot disk in tandem with a traditional hard drive (HDD). Instead, the SSD will simply be the only drive.

This is a simpler configuration because you won't have to think about any of the profile redirection or libraries work that we discussed back in part one. But it's also more limiting because you are pretty much stuck with whatever lowball amount of storage comes on the SSD. (Unless of course you don't mind carting around an external USB hard drive.)

For my first SSD migration on a laptop, I chose a 120 GB Intel X-25M SSD, which is a high quality affair, though I'd have preferred a more voluminous option. Indeed, the problem with the Intel laptop parts is that they max out at 160 GB, and that particular drive was quite a bit more expensive ($395) than the 120 GB version I did purchase ($223). It just didn't seem worth the price difference for an additional 40 GB.

(All things being equal, I'd like to get a 256 GB SSD for my laptop, because I use that as my master system for digital media content and device syncing for both Apple and Zune devices. But Intel doesn't offer such a drive currently. I will certainly try to acquire such a drive when I purchase a new ThinkPad this Spring.)

Installing an SSD in a laptop is about as difficult as doing so in a desktop: There's less space to work with, but the panel revealing the hard drive is generally easy to find. On my ThinkPad, it involved unscrewing several screws and popping open a big panel that also provides access to the CPU and RAM. The hard drive was mounted on a plate, so I had to remove it from that, affix the SSD, and then slide it back into place.

As with the desktop SSD conversion, the laptop experienced a serious performance boost. Not including the bits where I had to type in information, Windows Setup blazed by in less than 7 minutes, which is simply astonishing. And as with the desktop system, the Windows Experience Index (WEI) score for the primary hard disk went from 5.9 (out of a max of 7.9) with the previous disk (a decent Seagate Momentus "hybrid" hard drive) to 7.7 with the SSD.

With regards to the Intel SSD I used, I should also mention that it includes mounting hardware for using this drive in a desktop system (basically a 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch plate), as well as SATA cable and power cables, which is a nice touch. This is probably required because I don't believe Intel makes a dedicated 3.5-inch SSD drive. On the OCZ side, the bigger desktop parts tend to be a bit less expensive. (A 120 GB OCZ desktop SSD is $210 on Amazon right now, for example.)

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