Maximize your SSD’s capabilities as a boot drive

So you’re considering installing a solid state drive. You want all the benefits that SSDs offer, including increased efficiency, reduced power consumption and significantly faster boot times.

You’re not willing to completely part with your old, beloved hard disk drive just yet. You probably think some increased speed and a few other perks are all you can get from an SSD. That misconception is wrong.

Your SSD is more versatile than you might think. SSDs are also capable of being used as boot drives.

What is a boot drive? The answer is simple. When you start your computer, it loads and runs its operating system and startup files first. These are stored on the hard drive, but can easily be moved to an SSD.

Using an SSD as a boot drive has a wide variety of benefits. For starters, you don’t need much space to store your OS. Rather than shelling out a small fortune to purchase enough drive space to meet your storage needs, you simply need an SSD large enough hold your startup items.

Installing an SSD in your primary SATA drive slot will give you all the bootup benefits of SSDs. You can then use a traditional HDD as your primary storage drive.

“The important thing to note is the benefits that [SSD] brings,” UK tech blog Zath said in a comparison of HDDs and SSDs. “Even to the untrained eye the speed benefits and general feel of improved responsiveness when it comes to launching apps and the initial boot up time are undeniable.”

The report acknowledged the practical and aesthetic benefits of having a faster bootup. “It has to be seen to understand fully, but with boot times cut to just a few seconds and many applications loading up almost instantaneously, it is definitely worth it if you had the money.”

The money you will save is significant. Solid state memory is significantly pricier than traditional memory. Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates expects the price differential between solid state memory and hard disk memory to remain the same for several years.

Gregory Wong, an SSD analyst with Forward Insights, agreed with this assessment. "I think the issue with SSD adoption is that prices have not been favorable," he said. "And there's still going to be a gap between HDD and SSD prices, even five years from now."

By using SSD as a boot drive, however, the pricing gap is no longer an issue.

To make the switch, simply purchase an SSD drive in your choice of size. Be sure you have the installation disks for your OS on hand. The drive should be inside a SATA enclosure, which means it can be easily installed in your computer’s motherboard. Insert your operating system's installation disks and install the system onto the SSD.

Your computer should immediately load significantly faster at startup. Applications should also boot up more quickly. If you held on to your old hard drive, you will now have some of the main benefits of an SSD without the costs of a full-blown hard drive swap.

“It won’t cost you a fortune to keep a secondary drive alongside a solid state boot drive. And if you do go for both, it does mean that you may be able to reduce the capacity of the solid state drive, which may mean actually that you save money this way,” according to the Zath report.

If you can have the speed of an SSD and save money doing it, why wait? Using an SSD as a boot drive is a simple, inexpensive procedure whose benefits far outweigh its meager costs.

For more information on SSDs and boot time, visit our RAM and SSD news and information page. If you have additional questions on RAM or SSDs, visit our product information section or contact our support center. If you’re ready to take the plunge, you can use our Crucial Memory Advisor™ tool or Crucial System Scanner tool.