Hard Disk Drives versus Solid State Drives Benchmarks and Test software Before I put any newly purchased hard drive into service I perform benchmarks and about 9 hours of testing for a 1TB hard drive. SSD drives take considerably less time.
1) Utilities: Before I put any newly purchased hard drive into service I perform about 9 hours of testing for a 1TB hard disk drive. The test utilities include the drive manufacture’s test software (Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, Etc.). If the drive passed the manufacture’s test then I check the S.M.A.R.T. values, next I run a performance and read test using HD Tune’s free version and recheck the SMART values for any signs of degrading drive health conditions. Next I perform a “full” format of the drive and again check the SMART values. Finally I run Passmark’s BurnIn test software which on a 1TB drive performs over 2 trillion read / write operations and a good drive should not have any errors displayed after the test has completed. One final check of the SMART values and then the drive is put into service. Sounds like drive test overkill, but before I trust any drive with my data it should not have a problem passing all these tests.
Note: Most of this is unnecessary for a Solid State Drive. Just the manufacture’s test software, SDD Life to check the SMART values and HD Tune’s read benchmark are performed.
You will note that I've pointed to the S.M.A.R.T values (which should have a value of zero) that are the most critical. The power on hours (2437 hours) for this drive is normal for a PC that was used 8 hours a day for about a year or 2 hours a day every day for nearly 4 years.
The drive shown below was just put into service after testing, installing Windows 7, all the Windows Updates and a few applications. Again notice the critical SMART values still have value of zero. Should any one of these show something more than zero then the drive could be showing signs of an early failure.
Indicates the rate of hardware read errors that occurred when reading data from a disk surface. Sometimes a defective data cable can cause this problem but on this drive changing the cable did not help. Drive is ready for the scrap heap.
Drive surface scan test (HD Tune ‘Error Scan’): This is what a good drive should look, solid green from beginning to end.
This is what a surface test shows on a drive that is failing and has bad sectors. The drive should be replaced immediately. If this is a newly purchased drive then you should return it to the place you purchased it from.
2) Benchmarks: I like to see how my old and new drives compare performance wise. HD Tune’s free version include a basic ‘Read’ test, it’s not what is considered an extensive benchmark but it’s good enough to see the basic difference between various hard drives and hard drive versus Solid State Drives. The paid version of HD Tune Pro is more up to date and offers more options.
For comparison purposes I’ll show the SATA-II, SATA-III and Solid State Drives (SSD). As you will see later, Solid State Drives are not only faster but have no performance drop off from the beginning to the end of the drive.
SATA-II hard drive: This Desktop WD Black 640GB SATA-II drive (now discontinued) has a 7600 RPM drive motor resulting in access times more typical of hard drives for consumers. You can for all practical purposes divide a hard drive into 4 segments; the first 25%, 25 to 50%, 50 to 75% and the final 25%. The transfer rate for the last 50% (600GB) of the drive drops off rapidly.
SATA-III hard drive: Western Digital’s 3rd generation WD Black (SATA_III) transfer rates are significantly better at the beginning of the drive (more than 185 MB/s) and almost as good (88 MB/s) at the end of the drive when compared to the beginning or front of a SATA-II drive. This benchmark was taken using the Pro version of HD Tune but the free version would show the same results.
So for a new 1 Terabyte (1TB) SATA hard drive you could restore the image backup you created of your older disk drive to the new drive or initialize the drive and perform a clean install of Windows 7 if your original drive had a total failure and you have no backup.
Solid State Drives: If you are fortunate enough to have one or more SATA ports on your motherboard (preferably SATA-II or SATA-III) you can speed your Windows 7 computer noticeably. Not only will installing a Sold State Drive (SSD) make Windows 7 boot faster but applications will load almost instantly.
In the benchmark shown below this Laptop has a Samsung 320GB SATA-II hard disk drive, (120GB used, 200GB free) hard disk drive has a 5400 RPM drive motor. Notice the Access Time = 16.6MS (milliseconds) and a max transfer rate of 96 MB/sec. Compare this with a Solid State Drive’s performance and you can see why replacing the drive with an SSD. Just create an Image Backup of your original hard drive, remove the drive and install the SSD and then restore the Image Backup.
SSD connected to a SATA-II port: As you can see the transfer rate is flat from the beginning to the end of the drive. About 70% faster at the beginning of most SATA-II hard drives and 200 to 400% faster than a typical hard drive from the middle to the end of the drive storage area. Access time (0.1MS) is almost instantaneous.
SSD connected to a SATA-III port: If your computer supports SATA-III then you will see an even greater improvement (transfer rates are about 4 times faster than a typical hard drive) when using a SATA-III Solid State Drive as show below.
Notes about using a Solid State Drive with Windows 7: 1) Windows 7 supports a function called TRIM. Simply put, when you delete a file on a hard drive the disk space the file occupied is free to use again. With a SSD when you delete a file the page or block is marked as not in use but in reality still needs to be erased. TRIM does the house cleaning on an SSD in the background when the computer is idle.
Solid State / SSD disk drive (Desktop or Laptop) and larger Desktop Hard Disk Drive / HDD.
Solid State Drive (SSD): If you PC has a SATA hard drive then it will also function with any Solid State Drive that supports all 3 SATA modes (SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III). If you have an late model Windows XP or Vista based PC upgraded to Windows 7 that does have a SATA Hard Drive then all you need to choose a SSD that supports all 3 SATA modes as most likely that old but still usable PC only supports SATA-I mode.
The only down side that could prevent you from switching from a hard drive to a SSD is that SSD drives are expensive, about 3 or 4 times the cost of an equivalent size 1TB hard drive. Still if your Windows 7 (and some Vista based) computer has a SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III interface a 128GB SSD will cost you about $50.00 dollars, a 250GB SSD about $80.00 and a 500GB SSD about $150.00 or less when you find a bargain price sale.
You should check the amount of space still available on your existing drive. If your existing drive is more than 66% full then choose a new drive that is at least 50% larger in size. Example: Existing drive is 320GB and 200GB is used with about 100GB of free space, go shopping for a 500GB drive or larger SSD.
Do some comparative shopping and you may find a good price to drive capacity ratio. By contrast a 1TB hard drive may only cost $70.00 dollars, when a 500GB Solid State Drive (SSD) can cost $150.00 or more (that is a lot more money and a less capacity at today’s market prices ... February 2018). However if you want to increase the performance of your computer and if you have a laptop make it immune to shock, a new Solid State Drive (SSD) is probably the best choice. For a desktop that needs a lot of capacity/drive space a top of the line hard drive such a Western Digital WD1003FZEX would be my choice both for speed and reliability.
However, if you current hard drive is 250GB or less and only shows about 70GB of used space then a 128 or 250GB SSD may be just the ticket to noticeably greater performance.
So as you can see you can spend as little or as much as you want to keep Windows 7 running for years to come, especially laptops which can take a lot of bumps will in use and kill a hard disk drive.
If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series of articles do so now.