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Solid State Disks


msawyer91
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OK I confess that I'm not as well-versed in the Home Server Show podcasts and do have some catching up to do. Dave inviting me to participate in yesterday's discussion about Drive Bender, StableBit, Storage Spaces and even my software (WindowSMART and Home Server SMART) was an honor, a treat and a privilege. Thank you.

 

One thing I thought might be worthwhile is to have discussions on solid state disks (SSDs). I was introduced to them last year--I knew of them, but never used them until last year. Since that time, I've tested dozens of them to improve WindowSMART 2013 and HSS 2013. As I went through my tests, there were some I liked more than others. I never had a bad experience with any of them, despite reading some sordid reviews about SandForce-based SSDs.

 

My favorites are the Samsung 840 Pro series, which I acquired most recently, and the Intel Cherryville series. My work-issued laptop and my personal laptop are both powered by Samsung 840s, and the Intel SSDs are powering an HP desktop running Server 2012 Essentials and a different HP desktop running Server 2012 with Hyper-V. They are incredibly fast and so far extremely reliable.

 

Also running I've got a Plextor 256 GB, an OCZ Vertex 4, a couple of Samsung 830s, a couple of Crucial M4 128s and an OCZ Octane 128 GB.

 

Again, very positive experiences overall. That Plextor is a star performer as well, despite it being installed in one of the oldest, slowest laptops I have. The Plextor gave that laptop a new life, although the Plextor will soon be powering the repaired EX487 and the laptop will be sold.

 

My biggest complaint is that SSDs are still pretty expensive--oftentimes still coming in at more than $1 (USD) per GB, although I cherrypicked the 2 Samsung 840 Pro SSDs (256 GB) off of Newegg for $200 apiece. If you find a good sale and are hankering to get your hot little hands on an SSD, go for it.

 

What is everyone else's take on SSDs? Too much bark but not enough bite? Worth it? Too expensive? A huge improvement? Disappointment?

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I feel there is no doubt that SSDs do improve performance very significantly.

 

I have noted some, at times, odd behaviour with my SSDs. For example, I have a couple of systems that seem to lock up more often than they did when they ran HDDs.

 

In particular, my main Win7 desktop has experienced difficulties booting up at times with an SSD OS drive. If I put an HDD back in, it works fine. I'm willing to put up with the eccentric behaviour because the system runs so much faster once it is up and running properly. I'm considering replacing the current Asus mobo with a Gigabyte.

 

   

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My first SSD was an Intel 120GB 510 Series.  From there I moved to a Crucial M4 128GB based on PCDoc's suggestion and later to 3 Crucial M4 256GB's.  When I built my Z77 I tried a cache SSD for the ISRT using a Corsair F3 60GB based on what Tinkererguy was using in his system -- since then I've installed a Corsair GT 60GB, 2 x Corsair GT 240GB's, 1 x Corsair GS 240GB, and most recently 1 x Corsair GTX 240GB.

 

All have performed reliably for me or the builds I've done for relatives and I could recommend them without question.  My favorite so far would have to be the Corsair GTX -- that thing is wickedly fast and is a pleasure to work with when doing video editing in Camtasia on the HTPC. The Corsair GS is my 2nd favorite.  I like the Crucial, the firmware is easy to upgrade, but if the prices are comparable I will lean towards the Corsair.

 

More recently though I've been thinking of the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB as something I'd like to try in the future on a new build or rebuild -- assuming I don't hear a lot of negative reports in the interim :)  I'm thinking that with it's performance it would make an interesting drive for VM's too as well as Video editing.

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Matt, PCdoc is the hardware guru master here. And host of the BYOB podcast, they covered SSD's on a few BYOB podcasts with DVN (Rich O'neil), so have a listen. Maybe PcDoc (Mike Faucher) can invite you as a guest on his podcast since you have done so much with SSD's. And you now have podcast bragging rights. :D

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I've caught a few of the HSS podcasts but haven't gotten around to the BYOB ones yet. I've taken on yet another endeavour--pursuing my SharePoint 2013 certification--which has a litany of certification exams. As if I needed yet another thing to put on my plate.

 

If Mike's done some SSD podcasts recently the last thing people probably want is another SSD podcast! Of course, if it's been awhile since the last one and there seems to be interest, maybe it would be worth having another one. Dave could certainly have one too because SSDs are becoming more and more common in home servers, not just the HP MediaSmart line but DIY home servers as well.

 

ikon - I found that I had some issues with my OCZ Octane drives in both my work-issued laptop, an HP EliteBook 8540w and my personal laptop, an HP dv7 something or other. Both have Intel RST AHCI/RAID controllers, and I would get intermittent lock-ups that would last about 4-5 seconds. I would get a corresponding error in the System event log. I don't recall the exact error, but Google was my friend and I found that the workaround was to apply a Registry hack to disable link-state power management commands and reboot. Problem solved.

 

Interestingly this problem does NOT occur with my Samsung 840 Pro series. It would appear that the OCZ Octane doesn't respond well to a command it doesn't recognize. As an example, if I manually sent the command to run the extended SMART self-test to the OCZ, even though I knew it didn't support the command, it should--per the SATA specification--return an error. The OCZ will lock up the whole machine, requiring a hard power down. It's well-documented in several OCZ forums that the OCZ drives don't respond well to the LPM command. Fortunately the fix was an easy one.

 

I am certainly happy to tip my hat to the OCZ Vertex 4, which powers on my EX490. It doesn't suffer from the same shortcomings as the Octane on an Intel RST controller. It boots up Server 2012 in just a couple of seconds. The other day I rebooted the server after some Windows Updates. I saw it say shutting down, turned my back for maybe half a minute and when I looked back it was sitting there asking me to press ctrl+alt+delete to log on. That was a FAST boot up!

 

I typically follow the mantra of putting the \Users folder on an HDD so high-write activities take place there. I do, however, keep the paging file on the SSD. Microsoft's official recommendation is to keep the paging file on the SSD and let the TRIM function take care of things. Of course I disable indexing/search on the SSD, as well as system restore (which I never thought worked very well anyway). Folks who are paranoid of writes on an SSD would probably want to put the paging file on an HDD, and that's fine.

 

However, on my wife's laptop--with the Crucial M4--the media wearout indicator still says 98% life remaining after a year, and she uses that thing a lot. It would take 50 years to kill the SSD at that rate so I'm not too worried about wearing them out excessively fast. If I get 5 years out of an SSD I'd be really happy and everything beyond that is icing on the cake.

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I checked the life on the Intel 120 (installed 2011) and a small Corsair (installed 2012) I had helped my son install and they were still at 100%. I don't bother with moving page files etc. to a HDD like I used to. The Corsair GTX has probably taken the biggest pounding from me with no impact yet on the wear indicator.

 

Nice to hear your comment about the OCZ Vertex 4 -- do you also use it for your hyper-v smart page files? I've done that with my Corsair GT (which is my OS Drive) in my S2012 box -- a big improvement having it on the SSD (IMHO) vs having the hyper-v smart paging on the VM HDD.

Edited by Joe_Miner
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I'm probably more reluctant to believe the OCZ wearout indicators, which after a year of what I thought was pretty heavy use, still say 100%. The Samsungs all dropped to 99% their very first day, as soon as the "wear leveling count" went from 0 to 1. They've all now had several wear leveling count increases, but the percentage is at 99% still, except for the most heavily used one, which dropped to 98%. It seems that Samsung takes the approach that a disk is only 100% when it's brand new--maybe it's a good way to prevent someone from trying it out for a bit and then passing it off as new. Although the power-on hours count and other indicators would show it's been used.

 

The Hyper-V VM files reside entirely on HDDs--one each on its own eSATA disk. So the OS and paging file sit on the SSD, the VMs each get their own disk and then there's a USB disk where I store weekly snapshots of the VMs. This setup gives me rock-solid performance, despite the fact the desktop was a budget machine I picked up at Walmart a little over a year ago. I upgraded the processor and the RAM, and even that little budget box makes a mean Hyper-V machine so I can do some SharePoint testing at home.

 

Definitely liking my SSDs. Of course, a good backup strategy is even better. SSD-powered Server 2012 Essentials for all my onsite backups and then CrashPlan Family plan (10 PCs) to safeguard against fire and lightning.

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Matt, getting back to your original proposition, i have not built or re-built a PC without an SSD for about 4 or 5 years. And invariably the users have been more than happy with the result.

The issue here in Australia is still price. Despite our $ being worth more than the US$ we continue to pay more for a variety of reasons which I wont bore you with.

 

Suffice to say that I have 30Gb drives (HTPC) 60 GB drives (3xProduction Desktops) and 128GB drives(server 2012E). I dont run any VMs (yet) but I find with a little discipline you can enjoy the benefits of SSD speed for a budget price on smaller capacity (cheaper) drives and I have never had one fail. Even my original ADATA drive with a barefoot controller is still kicking but a modern HDD drive is quicker.

 

In short, just keep often access programs and OS on your SSD and turn the less demanding apps and data over to a HDD or Raid of some sort and you are good to go on a budget.

Edited by Renny
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