Compusa (Systemax, Inc.)

Upgrading a NetBook with an SSD

One of my SSD upgrade projects was my Acer Aspire One netbook. There were two reasons that I had in mind when contemplating this upgrade. The most important reason at the time was to extend the time that I could run on battery. The netbook was also painfully slow to power up and an SSD would reduce the boot time.

When I thought about this earlier in the year primarily because I needed longer battery life. I use the netbook as a remote control for my live digital audio workstation. Sometimes I can plug the netbook in but often I use it on battery for my purpose. When I dug into the possibility at that time I learned that the battery run time was only likely to improve by about 10%. While SSDs are more energy efficient they are only a part of the power drain on the battery. In the spring I bought a high capacity battery for the netbook. Buying the battery solved the battery run time problem. The netbook was still painfully slow to boot up but I no longer had to power it down on the breaks so that it might recharge enough to make it through most of the day.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had my first direct experience using an SSD. I built a new host computer for my audio work. I used an SSD for this one in place of a conventional hard drive. The new computer is not a top of the line gaming box but it does incorportate the latest technological advances. With the SSD boot time is impressive. The computer is up and running ready to work in about 20 seconds from the moment the power button is pressed.

The netbook is a relative cretin and is also older technology so the gains from installing are less impressive. I did not put the clock on the boot time with the old hard drive, but the subjective feeling is that the netbook will boot up in less than half the time. There may also be some junk on the box that slows things down. On the clock the computer takes about 45 seconds to boot and can have the remote software open and ready in under one minute. That is significantly better than the 'forever' that it used to seem like it took. I looked at the Windows Experience numbers and the hard drive numbers improved from 5.7 to 7.4. Best possible score is 7.9, so this is good.

There are some special problems associated with upgrading or changing the hard drive in a netbook. The first of these that I encountered was getting to the hard drive. This took a significant level of dis-assembly in this case. The newer netbooks and most laptops have a handy access panel on the back. Because I had no access panel I had to dis-assemble the case. I found a handy YouTube video explaining the process. The keyboard needed to be removed to access six screws that held the bottom plate in place. It was somebodies better idea, no doubt, but it was an extra pain.

The second problem was unique to this particular job. One of the mounting screws that held the old hard drive to the bracket had loosened up and jammed the hard drive in the chassis. That one had to be pried out and then I had the old hard drive in my hand.

Since a netbook has only one drive bay the data migration needed to be carried out on another computer. I had chosen a Samsung 840EVO 120Gb SSD for this job. The SSD came with Samsung's data migration software. This software assumes that the data migration will be done on board. There is no option to select a source disk. Luckily the OCZ drive that I had selected for my new host system build came with a feature limited copy of Acronis TrueImage. The TrueImage software has a manual mode that allows you to select the source disk and target disks without problem. I used this to put the drive image on the new SSD.

After that it remained only to install the drive, reassemble the netbook, and test the outcome. It worked!! I have tested the functions, but I have not had opportunity to use it in a real life situation to this point. I don't know if there is a significant gain in battery life, but with the high capacity battery that is not an important factor. In my normal application I have over eight hours and a half hour on the charger usually gains at least an hour of run time.

I count this upgrade as a success!!

What do you think about this?

Please tell me here!

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