Every time we think about hard drives, we get all nervous. Hundreds of our favourite gigabytes sit on a silver platter that spins at thousands of revolutions per minute, and a tiny electromagnet writes our information onto the platter for safekeeping. But it doesn't feel all that safe, despite the fact that, in reality, it's very rare to suffer problems with traditional hard drives.
Solid-state drives should make us feel much more at ease then. They don't spin, they have no delicate moving parts and they generally feel more reliable than traditional hard drives, which have been around since the dawn of PCs.
So, when Kingston asked if we'd like to see its new range of budget SSDs, we were intrigued. How easy is it to move over to an SSD, and is it worth it? Will it speed up our system? We asked the company to send a cheap, low-capacity SSD so we could find out. The 64GB Kingston SSDNow V100 SSD is available for around £95.
Who should get an SSD?
This 64GB drive isn't aimed at people who want to store tonnes of data. Indeed, SSDs aren't really suitable for storing very large volumes of data at the moment. The largest capacity available, as we write this, is around 500GB. At a shade under £1,000, we can't see many of those being sold.
The 64GB V100 works in Windows or Linux systems with a small existing drive that handles only the operating-system install and your installed applications -- with games getting more and more enormous, we suspect the V100 won't be ideal for people who want to use it for gaming. Happily, our test PC currently has a 50GB Windows partition, so this 64GB drive is a modest improvement on that and a good replacement.
If you run your PC in this way, and you're happy to pay more for an SSD than you would for a 1.5TB HDD, then you're likely to be interested in this little gadget.
Kingston shipped this drive to us as a retail pack, which means you get a mounting kit to slot it into a 3.5-inch drive bay, even though this is a smaller, 2.5-inch unit. Aside from that, connecting this drive to your computer involves the same process as any other hard drive. If you're an avid computer builder, you'll have it hooked up within a few seconds. It took us a little longer, because our PC is stuffed full of traditional platter-based hard drives.
Every aspect of installation is a breeze, and our system found the drive immediately when we rebooted our computer. From there, we went into our existing Windows install to check the drive over, and then install a fresh copy of Windows 7.
Setting it up
Our Windows 7 build was working well, so we initially thought it might be best to move it over to the new SSD, and carry on using it as before. Sadly, Windows doesn't make this process easy.
Kingston supplies some software -- basically a Live CD of a Linux build -- that's intended to be used for mirroring the content of your current Windows drive onto your new SSD. We weren't able to get this to work. That didn't come as much of a surprise -- mirroring drives is a notoriously problematic process, and generally not all that worthwhile.
Instead, we just opted for a clean install of Windows. That will get rid of all those unused programmes you've installed that seemed like a good idea at the time. As space is at a premium on an SSD, it's almost certainly worth your while to undertake a clean installation, considering all the junk you tend to install and then just leave on your computer. There's also the alignment issue, which we'll come to in a moment.
Your mileage with the transfer-and-mirror software will vary, and we're sure it will work for some people. It's rather complicated, though, and it's really the sort of thing you'd need to be a true enthusiast to master.