Sunday, 10 January 2016 15:02

It is crucial to have more speed – the mystery of the slow boot

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Does your computer – Windows or Mac - boot slower than swimming through molasses? Mine did, taking over seven minutes to being able to ‘do something’.

I had time over the holidays to methodically investigate and hopefully fix this. The patient was a four-year old Windows 7 notebook; Intel i7; 4GB RAM; a 2.5”, 256GB hard disk; and was pretty clean operating system wise. My aim was to prepare this system for a Windows 10 upgrade – I did not want to take any legacy issues forward.

First, I ran Wise Disk Cleaner and Wise Registry Cleaner utilities (highly recommended - use the direct download link) to remove system debris and tune it up. This bought boot down to just over six minutes but still too slow.

I removed antivirus and every unused program and still it took just over five minutes to boot. In part the issue was Skype loading and Microsoft OneDrive synching do I disabled these from start up. No real effect.

I then decided to do a clean install – just Windows 7 – and while that improved boot times to just under five minutes it was still too slow.

I tried adding 4GB more RAM – no effect.

Task Manager showed that memory usage dropped pretty quickly but the hard disk stubbornly remained above 90% use for most of this time. Read on for the fix!

A Windows 10 upgrade followed and appeared to give me a desktop very quickly – in under a minute. But, I still had to wait for about four minutes for the hard disk activity to reduce to usable levels. The upgrade process now meant the notebook was registered with Microsoft and I had an installation key (use Belarc Advisor to find the key) - I could experiment!

Crucial by Micron had sent me a BX200, 480GB, 2.5” SSD for review so I decided that the patient would get a heart transplant.

On most notebooks (PC or Mac) its relatively easy to access the hard disk by removing an access cover. Most notebooks will use a 2.5” SATA hard disk and the connectors are plug compatible with the Crucial. If you are upgrading a desktop it will likely use a 3.5” HDD and you will need a pair of low cost ‘rails’ or you can buy the Crucial adaptor kit (pictured above). . This also includes an Acronis True Image licence and a USB 3.0 to SATA dongle to move data and programs to your new SSD. I opted to back up my data (My Documents) to an external hard disk and do a clean install.

If in doubt about how to do this an internet search will usually show you how. Crucial has good PDF documentation on its site.

The Windows 10 clean install was done using an ISO image from here - you use this to create a bootable USB stick (needs to be at least 8GB) and you have the choice of keeping your existing programs and files or doing a clean install – the latter is best to get a clean slate.

By replacing the hard disk with a Crucial SSD and yes, doing a clean install (but I had also done this with Windows 7 so all is equal) the boot time was under 30 seconds and in total about a minute for system memory and disk workload to drop back to normal.

Why?

The Crucial SSD is about 13x faster than a spinning disk – 540MB/s read and 490MB/s write. Just changing to it would reduce the hard disk based 7-minute boot process to under one.

Importantly the time to copy from SSD to USB flash and vice versa has improved enormously. From about 20Mb/s to over 200MB/s (USB 3.0) – that is a 1000% increase.

Finally load times for applications are almost instant – I am very happy.

In part it achieves speed and value using a Silicon Motion SM2256 Controller coupled with Micron verified firmware – upgrades become more affordable.

Micron Consumer Products Group Marketing Manager APAC Mathew Luu explained, “The new Crucial BX200 SSD is an ideal solution for consumers whose computers are slowed down by an old or inadequate hard drive. This SSD is the perfect blend of performance and value. Installing a BX200 will help users enjoy their computers again.”

Robert Fan, vice president and general manager of Silicon Motion U.S.A., said, “We are excited about our latest partnership with Crucial on the new BX200 SSD. Our high-performance and low power consumption SM2256 controller combined with Micron 16nm TLC NAND helps make the BX200 reliable, fast, energy efficient and affordable.”

About Crucial

Micron is a memory manufacturer. It has set out to capture a larger share of the SSD market and being a memory maker can cut margins to the bone.

Available in 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB the price is A$159/289/539 respectively. If you shop online at places like Scorptec, JW Computers, mWave and Umart you will find some real bargains at 20-30% less.

For enterprise use Crucial also make the MX 200 series with hardware encryption and even longer endurance ratings.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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