Upgrading to SSD on a Dell D430: What to Expect?

I spend a good chunk of my day upgrading my Dell D430 to SSD. What was the expected outcome that led me to do this? Basically, I was fed up with the general slowness of the HDD, a 80GB 4800 RPM disk. Also, I suspect that since I have got this laptop for more than 4 years, the HDD would fail sooner or later and I didn't wanted that to happen to me, even if I do take backups regularly. The key factor was to be able to get rid of those pauses when looking deep inside my start menu program, speed up my Find and Run Robot (FARR) launcher, and all application launches. Just swapping the HDD for the SDD and be done with that. Not so fast! Indeed, not so fast. It all went okay at the end but it took longer than expected and there were several bumps on the road, namely:
  • The SDD wasn't recognized when I hooked it up to the system with the USB connector: this one was easily fixed, I hadn't pushed the ZIF cable far enough into the disk. But this was easy to fix.
  • I used the Acronis disk clone feature to get the HDD cloned to the SDD. Looks like easy enough to do it but... nothing was cloned at the end of the process. I had to redo the moves and then, bam, magic! And it took a hell of a lot of time to clone everything.
  • The HDD inside the machine was enclosed into a rubberized enclosure to protect it from shocks. I had to remove the enclosure of the HDD to disconnect it from the ZIF connector. Then the SDD wasn't fitting the space. So, SDD back into the rubberized enclosure and quite a while to get the whole thing to fit tightly into the space available. So, time to boot.
Getting to boot Booting the system was easy. Everything turned out working fine. But some things took longer than I tought. So, the SSD is no magic. The whole system feels a lot fasters. And is. But web browsing give me some hiccups. Pauses. I found a great utility to help, named Flashfire. This solved some issues. I am running XP SP3. This wasn't too great for SSD disks. So, I had to disable prefetching, boot time optimization and other funny registry settings. Well, this is done now and brought several good things with it. I got to know the fsutil command for disabling features of NTFS. Now, pauses are gone. I saw that Windows 7 would be better to SSDs. But not much more than what I do have now. HDTune gives me the speced speed. Which is around 90MB/sec. Which isn't what SSD should give on SATA machines, but this is a PATA UDMA Mode 5 chipset here and there is no way it is going any faster. I have rebooted quite a number of times to get everything in good shape and the battery wasn't drained as it was usual with the HDD. So, a good point here. How does it feels now? Well, pretty good actually. This SSD isn't delivering its full performance, being somewhat limited by the chipset of the Dell D430 but there are really great benefits that were worth the upgrade. Here is my list:
  • no more HDD noise: a great feeling, no more grinning of platters
  • more space since this is a 128GB SSD and I was moving off a 80GB HDD
  • much much snappier menus
I declare this to be a success. It is extending the life span of this little solid machine (even if it is not a superspeedy and superpowerful box, I can in fact achieve a lot with it. And that because the keyboard is very well built and has a decent size without a numeric pad shifting my typing to the left. And a 12” form factor is just what I need when moving around. It is just a bit larger than my iPad2. Any special things to mention? Yep, sure. First of all, my Nusphere's PHPEd editor is starting amazingly fast now. As a contrast, Sparx System's Enterprise Architect is only marginally faster. Go figure. So, an SSD isn't going to cut all times in 10 on this box. But the advantages are good enough to justify my investment in the RunCore SSD 128GB 1.8” ZIF PATA. Which was about $219. You can almost get a new laptop for that price but not as sturdy as this little Dell Latitude D430.
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