A reasonable investment or two

I made a few upgrades today, this time in the X60s. It’s been about six months since I bought it, and I have yet to be disappointed in anything it does. Start to finish it has been a wonderful machine.

And an evaluation like that means it’s more than likely going to be around for a little while to come. With that in mind, I went ahead and spent US$100 or so on some upgrades: a 7200rpm SATA3G hard drive and the largest memory configuration it can handle, 3Gb.

Now the first thing I get to say at this point is, the machine didn’t run faster with three gigabytes of memory in it. I swapped the 512Mb out first, while I still had a standing Arch Linux installation in place. And you’ll probably be quite disappointed to learn that the boot times and the general “snappiness” of the machine were the same.

I don’t cling to the myth that dumping gobs of memory into your machine will arbitrarily make it run faster. I have in the past, but I never will again. Yes, under certain circumstances you will see improvements with more memory, but a clean boot to a lightweight desktop does not improve by sextupling a system’s memory. Not in this household.

Swapping out the hard drive, on the other hand, made a huge difference. The old one was an 80Gb 5400rpm drive, and while I bear it no ill will, there was a big improvement once I had an identical system in place. No comparison.

But that makes sense. The new drive simply reads and transfers faster than the old one could, by virtue of its technology. And subsequently, anything that relied on drive access (like boot times or installing software) was improved as a result.

The only downside — if it is a downside, which I suppose it isn’t — is that the smallest drive size I could find with those transfer and read rates was a whopping 320Gb. Good grief. I have no idea what to do with all that space. I’m not even using the first 10Gb of it, with system files and a home folder. 😯

Pricewise I think I did pretty good for myself. An online retailer sold me the drive for less than US$60 with a USB enclosure as part of the deal, and the memory was only US$40 for a 2Gb stick of PC2-5300, and US$20 for a 1Gb stick of the same. All in all, I think the total was around US$140.

Money well spent, I say. I didn’t truly need the extra RAM or disk space (definitely not the disk space). But I am in the habit of pampering the machines I like — like the maxed out memory and giant 120Gb drive in the Thinkpad, or the 80Mb of memory and the 8GB CF card in the Pentium I’m typing on now.

And so long as I intend to keep this machine, it’s worth the extra money put into it. And the speed I get out of it. 😈


16 thoughts on “A reasonable investment or two

  1. Reacocard

    More memory only really helps up to the point where memory pressure is mostly gone (ie. you have enough space for all your running apps + enough cache for the files they access), after that the benefit is pretty minimal, though on a system that tends to stay up a long time more memory means you can eventually get to a point where basically all the programs are cached in RAM and load near-instantly. Of course, you can get almost the same benefit by just getting a really fast hard drive, as you noticed. πŸ™‚

  2. JakeT

    The only thing I’ve found to do w/ all that extra space is to create virtual machines, mostly for the sake of playing around w/ new distros.

    I’ve found that uses up disk space pretty fast and makes me feel better about having way more space than I’ll ever need.

    1. bryan

      On my crux systems, I have my compilation set to utilize ramdisks so that it’s both faster and doesn’t kill my disk with i.o etc. Works beautifully to speed up compilation of, say, firefox or blender.

      1. K.Mandla Post author

        That’s one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and buy the extra memory. I’ve been wanting to try this properly for a while. πŸ™‚

      1. mulenmar

        It’ll probably work better in the newer machine — PC100 vs DDR speed, for example.

        I don’t know if you should use the highmem option or not when compiling the kernel, if you use a huge ramdisk. Probably . . . but I don’t know. 😐

  3. bram

    Do you recommend using a similar hard drive in much older computers (like a Pentium II)? I know bigger hard drives take longer to mount, but would that outweigh the benefits of having a faster drive?

    I’d be interested to hear your opinion (and any experience you might have had with this).

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Well, if we’re talking about an internal drive, then I would suggest the smallest but fastest drive you can find. If you’re lucky enough to come across a 10Gb 7200rpm drive (one of which, a Western Digital drive, I used to have :mrgreen: ), I would suggest using it until it fails.

      But remember that the internal drive on a Pentium II probably can’t connect to a SATA3G interface; the pins are completely different. You probably don’t need me to tell you that, but I feel obligated to mention it before you run out and buy that drive for a P2. 😳

      On the other hand, I’ve had pretty good success with quicker, larger drives just by managing the partitions differently. You can set up a system that boots from a partition or two in the first 10Gb of a drive, then manually mount the additional space once it’s up and running.

      And of course, there’s always this as an option …


  4. Gary

    If you don’t use 70% of your RAM on a regular basis then don’t upgrade it!

    I would guess for a little more than $100(US) you could have purchased the cheaper Intel 40GB SSD drive which would have given superior performance to the SATA you purchased and if you only use 10GB then a 40GB drive would do the job πŸ™‚

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I agree, and ordinarily that’s the advice I give. This machine has entered that post-cutting edge glow though, when the parts are cheap and will be for a few years, before they start to crawl back up again.

      So I figured so long as I plan on keeping it, I might as well treat it the same way I treat others. πŸ˜‰

      And those SSDs are still overpriced in my opinion. If they were about half as expensive, I might consider it.

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