The Intangibles of an SSD Start-up Disk

Listening to the latest episode of The Talk Show with Dan Benjamin and John Gruber they mentioned something very interesting about SSD startup drives. Gruber explained the speed difference as intangible things that can’t be seen in benchmarks and as I posted a few weeks back I too upgraded my Macbook Pro startup drive to an SSD and I could not agree more with Gruber – the speed is insane and intangible.

However because you can’t all come use my computer to see it for yourself (nor would I want you to) I thought I would do my very best at describing just how different having an SSD drive as a startup volume is. The first thing that you will notice you you use an SSD drive is that everything becomes ‘snappy’ on the computer – Gruber described it aptly as a larger difference than switching from PowerPC Macs to Intel Macs was. When you click something, or open something stuff starts to happen immediately – there is no discernible delays.

As you start to use the computer more and more you will also notice that no longer worry about what apps are left open and which you close (except in rare cases where you have less than 1gb of RAM). That is to say that when I had a ‘normal’ hard drive and I was editing photos with Photoshop I would do everything in my power to leave Photoshop open until I was done. If I did accidentally quit it I would be frustrated the entire time while it re-opened. With the SSD it really doesn’t matter, Photoshop launches so fast that I don’t have time to get mad at my mistake.

The same holds true for apps you leave open that get put into Swap – thinking of you Safari – as it used to be over long periods of time Safari would be using so much Swap that it was sluggish and so was the rest of my machine. Since switching to SSD I have yet to notice any Swap related slowdowns, this could be the single coolest thing about SSDs.

Then there comes the habits that change with using an SSD. It used to be that I always tried my hardest to keep my machine from having to be restarted – I hated how long it took. Now I don’t care, I truly don’t care if I need to restart 3 times in a day, it is so fast that it is done while I check Twitter on my iPad.

The even larger came with startup items – the things that you assign your computer to launch when it restarts / logs in. I used to keep this to a bare minimum – then I changed and had it load up everything I normally used in a day before I changed back. I would agonize over waiting for Launchbar to get up and going when my computer restarted. With the SSD that all changes, I still don’t have any apps open at login, but all the background utility type apps I use (Dropbox, Launchbar) load so quickly that I no longer have to take a stroll when I restart.

I could continue talking about pointless things that are near impossible to understand without experiencing them, but instead I put together this little video to show you the speed of this SSD. I am doing everything as I normally would – launching apps with Launchbar.

Watch the video on Vimeo (I refuse to embed flash).

Originally posted for members on: July 29, 2010
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