Fun with Solid State Drives

Solid state drives

So there is a bit of a quiet revolution going on in the computer world lately. Solid State drives (drives is a legacy term that needs to go – it is not a drive at all) have been coming way down in price over the past few years to the point where they may actually make sense for some normal power users.  Now I am not saying that you should take out your current hard drive and replace it with something marginally faster and about 10 times the price in terms of Gb/$.  That isn’t fun. 

80 Gb 2.5 inch  HD = $60

64GB 2.5 inch solid state >$600

Yes, MacBook hard drives are easy to replace, but,  last time I checked, it wasn’t that much fun to take the hard drive out of a MacBook Pro.  Plus that is kinda pricey.

So what I decided to do is get a Lexar Solid State Express Card from Amazon.   They happened to be having a sale on the largest current available size – 16Gb and I got it for $199.

They also have an 8GB version for about $100 for the lower budget minded.  Word on the street is that there is soon to be a 32GB version which should clock in at a relatively reasonable $400ish.

The first thing I did after inserting the Expresscard  was open Disk Utility and reformat it to HFS+ format (it came in Fat32).  I then did a disk image of Leopard boot disk which is about 8GB.  It only took a few minutes until it was done and popped up on my desktop just like any other drive would do.   I then went to the Startup disk system preference and chose the Express card partition.  Finally, I restarted.  So started the fun things you can do with an Expresscard:

  1. A Boot Drive -The restart seemed to take as much time as the hard drive overall but with noticeably faster “after login” speed.  The machine was very quick even though very few programs were installed on the machine.  I  was able to watch Quicktimes without any problem.  The machine seemed very quick.  I don’t have any benchmarks but I suspect that the battery used less power when the OS was running from a Flash Drive.
  2. A Backup Drive – The 16Gb Expresscard is an awesome backup device.  It worked great as a Tiger backup using Rsync and even better using Time Machine under Leopard.  It isn’t going to be able to save all of your music and photos if you have a big collection, but it is nice to know that my important docks are being backed up often and without my intervention.
  3. A Parallels Image – The Solid state drive comes formatted with a 16Gb Fat32 partition on it, but if you are handy you can probably fit a Linux and a Windows partition on the little memory card.  I simply moved a Parallels Disk image to the card.  I can now take this image between my two MacBook Pros without even having to reboot.
  4. Your Home Directory – The Expresscard file format may be the perfect storm between speed, size, cost and flexibility.  As the size of these drives goes from 16 to 32 to 64 up to 128GB in the next few ears, it is possible that this is what you will take with you to work and school as your mobile home directory.  The size is big enough that it could even be your mobile boot disk as stated in step 1.

Whatever the case these little guys are sure to be valuable, and could possibly be the next big thing...Here’s a link to Amazon’s store where I picked up my card which was very well priced.

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