You’ve decided to upgrade your PC’s boot drive from a hard drive to an SSD (Solid State Disk). Before you begin the upgrade process, there are two important steps you should take prior to installing Windows for the first time – and they’re not at all obvious. Skipping these steps can hobble the performance of your SSD, and in some cases even keep the new drive from performing appreciably better than a quality hard drive.
1. Update the SSD Firmware
Before you install the Windows OS (and you should choose Windows 7 if you’re using an SSD since the operating system has been optimized for their use), check to see if your SSD model has a firmware update. Updating to the latest firmware can help you squeeze more performance from an SSD, but wipes the stored data (if any), so it’s best to do this before installing the OS.
Visit your SSD manufacturer’s web site to check for newer firmware. I recently upgraded my office PC to the Crucial C300 128GB SSD, so before installing Windows 7 I pulled up Crucial’s support page to see if there was an update to the firmware. There wasn’t; the SSD shipped with version 006, which was the latest available:
If your SSD is a new model that hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for months, it likely has already been flashed with the latest firmware, too. If there’s an update available, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The process usually involves burning a boot disc, connecting the SSD via SATA, and performing the upgrade.
Once the update has been performed, or you’ve confirmed that you’re already running the latest firmware, you’re ready to install the OS.
Continue reading »
In 2009 I posted an article called Speed & Space: The Two Hard Drive Solution. In it, I laid out my preferred hard drive setup for desktop users looking to maximize system speed and storage.
In short, I recommended desktop users have two hard drives in their system: one fast drive – the 10000 RPM Western Digital VelociRaptor – for quick loading of the OS and applications, and a second, slower (or standard-speed 5000-7000 RPM) drive for file storage. I had used this setup with my office Windows desktop for years and found it very useful, not only for boosting general system performance (boot, app load time), but also for its easy system restores (the OS on the boot drive can be wiped and reinstalled without losing the documents, videos, photos, music library, etc. stored on the second storage drive).
But I stopped using the setup in 2010, or – more accurately – updated it.
This is an update to my 2009 Two Drive post. In 2011 and beyond, it shall be known as the SSD + Hard Drive solution.
If you have a home network with multiple computers and other connected devices (smartphones, tablets, game consoles, media players, etc.), you probably also have files you’d like to easily share between them. From music, video and photos to plain old data files like Word and Excel documents, data sharing can be an incredibly convenient tool.
Most home users access files between systems by sharing a drive or folder on one computer, then connecting to that shared location from another. And for light data sharing this is absolutely fine. But if you’re a more demanding shareoholic with gigabyte upon gigabyte of files to share across multiple systems, there’s a much better way:
Network Attached Storage, or NAS.
A Network Attached Storage drive is a hard drive like any other, except instead of connecting to computer via USB or SATA, a NAS connects directly to your network hub (usually a wireless router) via Ethernet cable. Once connected, this drive is accessible over the wired or wireless network by any computer or supported device on that network.
Say, for example, you have a large iTunes library spread across multiple PCs and/or Macs. Using a compatible NAS, you can forget trying to keep each computer’s individual iTunes library up-to-date with your latest downloads and CD rips; NAS allows you to centralize the data files so that each computer always has access to the complete library, and new additions are instantly updated and accessible for every computer on the network.
Continue reading »
We all know that wireless Ethernet connectivity, or Wi-Fi, is standard on modern notebooks, smartphones and tablets – but what do you do when you want to add a desktop PC to an existing Wi-Fi network? Few desktops ship with Wi-Fi onboard, and adding the technology can be confusing for the uninitiated.
But making your desktop Wi-Fi capable is actually pretty simple, with two primary hardware solutions: USB and expansion card.
Continue reading »