HP equips desktop PCs with SSDs for faster Windows 7 boots

HP Compaq's 6005 Pro desktop PC will sport a 64GB SSD

Addressing complaints about slow Windows startup times, Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to introduce a new business desktop PC that comes with a solid-state disk drive (SSD) to speed up Windows 7 and other applications.

The 64GB SSD on the HP Compaq 6005 Pro will be used to store and run Windows and commonly-accessed applications.

Available on Oct. 22 -- the same day Windows 7 is officially released -- the 6005 Pro will also come with a larger conventional hard disk drive connected via SATA interface for storing data and documents, said Martha Rost, worldwide product manager for business PCs at HP. HP calls the combo drive configuration its RapidDrive technology.

The AMD-based 6005 Pro with RapidDrive costs $774, about $200 more than the $550 starting cost of the 6000 Pro, which lacks an SSD.

As for just how rapid the 6005 Pro is, "We didn't run explicit tests. But it boots up pretty quickly," Rost said. "You'll definitely see a difference."

She said that the RapidDrive uses the Samsung PM800 SSD based on multi-level cell (MLC) technology.

The SATA-connected PM800 can read data sequentially at a maximum rate of 225.4 MB per second, and write it sequentially at 160 MB per second, HP said. Sequential data rates apply to large files such as movies or songs.

It is about twice as fast as the zippiest consumer (7,200 RPM) SATA hard disk drives.

However, the PM800's performance -- especially when writing small chunks of data -- is much less impressive. When doing random reads and writes, the Samsung drive is rated at a maximum of 27.4 MB per second and 4.2 MB per second, respectively, which is far slower than conventional hard drives.

SSDs are slower than conventional hard drives when recycling old blocks of data and doing other "garbage collection" tasks. And they inevitably get even slower over time.

Roger Kay, an independent analyst with EndPoint Technology Associates Inc., said this isn't the first time hardware makers have tried technology aimed at speeding up Windows. Samsung and Seagate both introduced hybrid drives for notebooks that combined a conventional spinning disk with a smaller flash SSD that would be used to run Windows and popular apps.

Intel also introduced a technology called Robson that placed a flash memory cache on notebook motherboards.

Such technologies haven't taken off, in large part because of lack of need. Most laptops can quickly go into sleep or hibernate modes and waking up from suspended modes is much faster than booting a PC.

Kay doesn't think RapidDrive, at least in its current form, will spread to laptops, since it requires two drives.

Microsoft has also tried to speed up Windows. A feature introduced in Vista called ReadyBoost allowed users to boot Windows off a flash drive. But performance gains were small, users said.

Microsoft has promised that Windows 7 will boot and run faster than Vista .

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
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