How To Install And Set Up An SSD

Solid-State Drives (SSDs) are becoming increasingly popular because they have several benefits over traditional mechanical hard drives. Because they use flash memory – like USB memory drives and the memory cards in cameras and phones – installing Windows on an SSD gives you much quicker boot times and noticeably faster read and write speeds. SSDs are also impressively resistant to shocks, knocks and
vibrations, because they don’t have any moving parts. This also makes them silent. The downsides are that they have a more limited lifespan, smaller capacities and are significantly more expensive.

What to buy

SSDs come in a range of sizes from 16GB up to 512GB. This is likely to be much smaller than the hard drive on your computer, so you won’t be able to perform a like-for-like swap. Also, the MLC (Multi-Level Cells) memory chips that make up an SSD can only be written to a set number of times (typically around 10,000), so you don’t want to use your SSD for storing data that needs to be regularly changed and updated, as this will shorten its life. The best arrangement is to have two drives inside your PC: an SSD for your operating system and installed programs and a much larger mechanical drive for storing data, such as documents, photos, videos and downloads Using an SSD in tandem with a mechanical drive also means you can get
away with buying a smaller, cheaper model.

A 64GB SSD (which costs you around £60) will probably be fine, but choosing a 128GB model (expect to pay around £80) is a more practical option that gives you plenty of leeway. If you really don’t want a second, mechanical drive, then 128GB is the absolute minimum you should consider for an SSD-only system. A 256GB model (which costs around £150) would be a better option. As with buying memory, it’s worth spending a little extra on a drive from a memory specialist like Corsair or Crucial,
to ensure you get something that’s reliable. Check our last Group Test of SSDs (Issue 299, for more buying information or check out our best buy on page 30.

Once you’ve bought your SSD, you’ll need to install it into your PC. Our Mini Workshop below shows you how. Perform a thorough back-up of your computer first, just in case you encounter any problems. Install Windows Once you’ve got your new SSD inside your computer, the next step is to get Windows installed on it. You have two options here. The easiest method is to use your drive’s cloning software to transfer your OS and any installed software from your old drive onto the new one (you can also use free thirdparty tools for the job). This ensures that all the software you use is ready and set up just how you like it. However, because of the smaller capacity on an SSD, you could find it fills up before everything has installed. To avoid this, you should install Windows from scratch, then add the programs you need individually and configure them as you go. Although this will take a lot longer, you’re less likely to encounter any problems.

Before you install Windows, you’ll need to check that the Advanced Host Controller Interface, which has all the features needed for an SSD, is turned on in the BIOS. Power up your computer, follow the instructions to load Setup and look for an AHCI option. While you’re in the BIOS, ensure that the SSD is set as the primary boot hard drive (assuming you have more than one hard drive installed).

Once Windows is up and running, you’ll want to redirect folders like Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos to your secondary drive. In Windows 7, click Start, type libraries into the search box and click the Libraries entry that appears in the menu. Right-click a library, such as Documents, and select Properties. Click the ‘Include a folder’ button. Browse to your second (mechanical) drive, create a new folder somewhere and call it ‘documents’. Select it and click the ‘Include folder’ button. Now select the existing Library locations, click Remove and click OK. Repeat this process for each of the other libraries (Photos, Music and Video) on your computer.
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