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Installing an SSD

Written on March 18, 2013

This fall I decided to spend a little (very little – $60) on a small SSD to act as my primary hard drive – for /, /tmp, /var, /usr – basically everything except /home.  I had heard a lot about them, and though my motherboard does not support SATA3, it does support SATA2, so I thought it might be worth a try.  At worst, I knew I could put it into an old, enfeebled laptop that would then be rejuvenated by the new drive and the installation of linux.

I put the drive in and started the installation process – I chose to manually partition so that I could specify a bigger swap partition.  I don’t actually have much RAM in the machine, so I thought that a big-ish swap might pay off.

The first thing I noticed was how fast the installation went – I haven’t installed on the same hardware in a couple of years, so I don’t have metrics, but it happened too fast to leave unattended.  I found myself staring at a root prompt on the rebooted machine in something like 10 minutes.

I install Debian, and once I get the stable distribution up and running I install a few key things (sudo, vim-full) and then I change /etc/apt/sources.list to use Debian testing and do an apt-get dist-upgrade.  I like the compromise between stability and recency in the testing distribution – most upgrades work perfectly, with perhaps one every 3 years that requires post-upgrade intervention.

I figured this upgrade, which typically involves hundreds of packages, would be a good test of the new hardware.  It was, in that it happened extremely quickly – downloads seemed to happen at the same speed (unsurprising) but the unpacking and installation of packages happened at blazing speed.  In an hour I had my machine set up with all the same software I previously used, from playing with screwdrivers and mounting rails to looking at the web in Iceweasel (Firefox).

Launching Firefox is particularly telling – it used to take about a three-count, but now it happens before I can exhale.

Installing an SSD in my desktop machine makes a *huge* difference – it is the best upgrade I’ve made to a desktop since I hooked up an LCD monitor.

One thing of note – I did not realize that Mushkin shipped their 2.5-inch drives with mounting rails, so I bought mounting rails with the drive, which was a waste.  Live and learn.

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