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Upgrading Windows XP PC with Super Talent UltraDrive GX SSD Well Worth The Money

Aug 28 2009, 9:00am CDT | by , in News | Hardware & Peripherals

Upgrading Windows XP PC with Super Talent UltraDrive GX SSD Well Worth The Money
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I was waiting for the longest time for an SSD large enough to replace my Windows XP boot drive to become reasonably priced. Last week was the time. I bought a 128GB SSD from Super Talent: The UltraDrive ME SSD (UltraDrive GX Series FTM28GX25H) based on MLC.
This 128GB SSD sells on NewEgg for only $355 (Compare Prices on other stores).

The performance gains are well worth the money especially if you don't have to spend a day reinstalling Windows XP and all the apps. That's right, I dared to use Linux DD command to copy Windows XP from my old HDD to the new SSD. See instructions below on how to do that. The process is not straight forward, but it works great and takes less than 30 minutes.
My Windows XP system is 4 years old and still has an Asus P5AD2 motherboard with SATA and not SATA II. So I am reaching only 140MB/s on the ATTO Disk Benchmark tool. If you have SATA II you should reach read and write speeds of about 260MB/s with the UltraDrive ME SSD FTM28GX25H.

I will upgrade to a new hardware to install Windows 7 later this year, as for that I have to re-install everything anyway.

Even without reaching the maximum throughput with the FTM28GX25H SSD I still boot up more than 2x faster to the login screen. I had to wait over 5 minutes before Office, browsers and other apps loaded on my old HDD. Now I am up and running in about 2 minutes. Additionally the darn Microsoft Desktop search index job is not bothering me anymore. Yes, I know Google Desktop search is less annoying, but Google is not completely indexing my Outlook Inbox anymore. All apps load almost instantly and of course there is no hard-drive noise.

There is still some early adopter pains with SSD drives. Super Talent for instance requires formatting the SSD when upgrading its firmware. This means you have to reinstall everything after the firmware upgrade. Additionally Super Talent just pulled back the new firmware 1711 due to issues users encountered after upgrading. My UltraDrive ME (now actually called UltraDrive GX to confuse consumers) is on firmware version 1571 and it is actually working well at least in my SATA setup.

Also not to forget is the issue of trimming. Super Talent offers a tool (Performance Refresh Tool) to run trim to keep the SSD up to speed. I have been running my SSD for 2 weeks now and haven't seen any degrading performance issues yet.

Conclusion
If you want to speed up your PC dramatically an SSD as boot drive is a must. The latest generation of SSD, like the UltraDrive ME SSD or the more expensive Intel X25 SSD Series are meeting the performance promises of SSD. Still SSD is not completely fool proof yet and you need to know what you are doing when upgrading.

Instructions on Copying Windows XP (NTFS) to an SSD without install
Back to upgrading an existing Windows XP PC with a SSD without reinstalling. I researched quite a bit to find all necessary instructions to make sure I can copy my exisiting well aged Windows XP setup without the need to rebuild everything.

The basic issue is that Windows XP can only be copied to an identical partition. You can at the end of the process extend the partition to use the full available space on your new SSD.
There are many disk image copy programs out there, but I found the free way the most straight forward path. The powerful dd linux command does everything you need to copy Windows XP to your fast new SSD. High attention is required using dd though. Some also call it disk destroy.

First you need to boot your Windows XP PC in Linux. I did that with the SystemRescueCd Linux system. This Linux system is designed to be used to solve PC issues. You just create a CD with a disk image of SystemRescueCd and you have a live Linux system with all tools needed that boots from CD. More details on that on the System Rescue CD site.

Once booted in Linux follow these great instructions from Ed Anderson on his site Nilbus. These detailed instructions are the only way to go. I have seen many other instructions to copy Windows XP, but they always seemed to be too simplistic.

In short you have to run fdisk on the SSD to create the exact same partion. Then you copy the MBR (Master Boot Record) with DD and then the complete NTFS partion also with DD. After that you are almost done. You can run either qtparted or ntfsresize to extend the partion on the SSD to use all of the available size. I had to use ntfsresize as qtparted did not work on my system. Before running ntfsresize you need to run fdisk to adjust the partion.

With the instructions above I was able to copy my 70GB Windows XP partition in about 20 min. So after just 20 minutes I was able to boot my old Windows XP system on the SSD with new dramatic speed improvements. I was grinning all day.

If you want to try for yourself, the Super Talent UltraDrive ME 128GB SSD sells on NewEgg for only $355 (Compare Prices on other stores).

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