I Really Miss My Solid-State Drive

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Way back in July, I assembled a new computer to replace my old primary workstation, which was my laptop. I decided that the easiest and most economical thing to do was to transplant my laptop’s Crucial M4 solid-state drive into the new machine, and then put one of my spare 7200 RPM hard drives into the laptop.

How bad could it be? I hardly ever have to use the laptop. Who cares if it boots slower and applications open slower?

I’ve now been away from home four long weeks, and I’ve been using my laptop the entire time. Who cares if my laptop is slower? It turns out that I’m the one who cares, and it turns out that I care about it quite a lot!

The downgrade feels more significant than the upgrade

Upgrading to an SSD was very nice. Some programs open instantly instead of taking a few seconds. Some programs open in a few seconds instead of dozens of seconds. Your computer boots up faster. This is all pretty obvious, and it is quite exciting for the first few days or weeks.

Then you forget about it. This is how things should work. Programs should have always started this quickly. Wasn’t it always like this?

It wasn’t. When you go back to a spinning drive, it becomes painfully obvious. It is much worse than you remembered. You don’t get used to how slow it is, either. You get more annoyed as each day passes.

I think about buying an SSD every time I see one go on sale. I’m traveling, though, and I don’t want to deal with the drive swap here, but this line of thinking gets more and more tempting every day.

Mitigating the pain with preload

I installed preload last month. Preload is an “adaptive readahead daemon.” It monitors the files you often access and attempts to keep them in memory. My laptop has plenty of RAM, so I figured this wouldn’t hurt.

It did help with my most obvious problem. I am a terminal addict. I probably open and close hundreds of terminal windows throughout the day. It was sometimes taking over one full second for new terminals to appear on my screen. After installing preload, new terminal windows appear and are ready to use almost instantly.

I haven’t noticed much improvement anywhere else using preload.

Booting takes forever

I shut down and boot up my laptop a couple of times a day lately. I’m amazed at how long it takes to boot. With the solid-state drive, it would be ready to use within about ten seconds of entering my passphrase to unlock the encrypted drive.

I haven’t actually taken a stopwatch to it, but it sure takes a lot longer now. I almost always wander off to do things like empty my pockets and plug in my cell phone. Usually, when I get back, it is still booting up.

Some things just feel absolutely glacial

One of the first and most obvious improvements that I noticed after upgrading to a solid-state drive was how much faster the GIMP launches. The splash screen would pop up, the progress bar would fill up almost instantly, and you’d be editing images before you knew it. Now I can listen to the hard drive churn, watch the disk-activity light, and count up a few hippopotamuses while I wait.

Even with the “quickstarter” running, LibreOffice Writer can sometimes take forever to open. I can count quite a few hippopotamuses while I wait for Writer to open the first time. That’s almost twice as many as when waiting for the GIMP.


If you’re thinking about upgrading to a solid-state drive, you need to stop thinking and start shopping. You won’t be disappointed.

I almost ordered an SSD for my laptop while writing this post. I just don’t want to have to shuffle my data around until I get home, and by the time I get home, I won’t even be using the laptop anymore.