Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crucial M4 SSD

I finally pulled the trigger on a SSD for my Windows PC.  I have been struggling with bad reviews on NewEgg’s site with many brands of SSD’s from OCZ, Kingston and other brands.  Most of the reviews start out fine but over a 3-6 month period there is an alarming amount of failures. I finally stopped looking at the cheaper SSD’s and went higher up the scale and then I saw the light.  I settled on the Crucial M4 because it supports the SATA III interface and had a lot of solid reviews.

Installation was easy.  My first step was to update the firmware.  I downloaded v0009 from Crucial and burned the boot image to an ISO using ImgBurn.  The instructions with the update clearly stated you must disable AHCI in the BIOS for the update to work.  It turned out my M4 was already running v0009. But the update process looked to be simple enough for anyone that would get an older version.

I put the BIOS back to AHCI and loaded Windows 7 x64 Ultimate from scratch. It took 15 minutes to install the OS with an Intel Core i7 SandyBridge system.  I read many articles about SSD alignment.  Alignment must be multiples of 64, 128, 256….  Disks that are not aligned will span two blocks for read/writes which causes a significant slowdown.  The sad part is most imaging software like Acronis will not work well if you image your current HD to the SSD.  The alignment will be wrong which will cause major performance issues with your SSD.  Also if you don’t use Windows 7 you have to manually align the SSD.  There are many articles out there to cover this process.

So loading Windows 7 and all my applications gave the Crucial M4 a good test.  I was amazed how fast everything installed.  My only issue with the Crucial M4 is they don’t provide any rail mounts for a 2.5 to 3.5 case.  Right now mine is just hanging from the bottom of the case, it’s so light the SATA cables make it float. 

I installed AS SSD benchmark 1.6.  I made no tweaks to Windows 7 except to disable indexing on drive C:  Numbers are below:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SanDisk Cruzer 32gig keychain mount

I was hesitant to buy this drive after reading many user reviews that you cannot attach this drive to a keychain.  I saw a couple of comments that users did attach them which left me confused why most said you could not.  Well I decided to buy it and hope it worked.  I was able to finally attach it to my keychain.  My first attempt failed, I tried using a small metal ring from a LED flashlight.  The ring was too big to fit around the pin.  I than had an old lanyard lying around that uses a nylon string that fit perfectly around the metal pin.  In my opinion Sandisk blew it with the keychain mount.  The older Cruzers worked fine and they included the keychain ring. Why the later models do not is very bizarre.

When you first plug your new Cruzer into your Windows system you won’t be able to copy large files (>4gig) to the device.  Sandisk is still formatting these drives with FAT32.  I recommend reformatting the drive for NTFS.  It’s a much more stable file system to store our important files.

File transfers are still slow due to the USB 2.0 interface.  I copied a 4.7gig file in 14 minutes.  

What I have always liked about the Cruzer line is no cap is required to cover the USB plug.  The USB plug retracts into the drive using a slider control that is easily moved with your thumb.  The drive also has a light to indicate it’s on and blinks when data is being transferred to or from the drive.