Moore’s Law and the Great Upgrade

Since buying my MacBook Pro and my iMac in 2009, computer processing power has stagnated somewhat. My iMac has a 2.8 GHz processor, for example, while the hottest Intel processor sold today, three and a half years later, is 3.8 GHz. Processor speed isn’t the only benchmark of computing power, since new computers use stacked processors, faster bus speeds, faster memory, and so on. The basic processor, however, isn’t incredibly faster. Moore’s Law, it appears, is finally not sustainable.

An area that has improved is storage media, the part of the computer that stores data permanently. The most common type remains the spinning magnetic hard drive. They hold huge amounts of data and are very cheap now. I don’t really care that conventional hard drives hold lots of data. I think people who need huge hard drives just can’t keep their files cleaned out.

My interest in hard drive technology in the last three years has been in the advances in Solid State Drives, or SSDs. Until recently they were quite small in capacity for their price, which was expensive, but they have recently strayed into my comfort zone. To that end, I bought a Crucial brand M4 256Gb solid state drive and installed it in my laptop as a surrogate for my iMac, which is actually nearing the necessity of hard drive replacement. Testing using my laptop is easy, and points out exactly how I want to migrate my digital life. It also affirms what I already believed, from two years ago when we bought Abby’s MacBook Air with its SSD, that solid state was the future of data storage. The tablet/smart phone paradigm confirms it.

The actual installation in my MacBook Pro was about as easy as it gets: remove the battery cover, remove the battery (just to ensure the computer is actually off), then removing one screw in the center of the hard drive retention bracket. The drive comes right out. Reverse the process, and the new SSD is installed. Migrating my data was a little more complicated, but once I got it in the right order, it all fell right into place.

When it comes time to replace the drive in my iMac, however, it will be a different story, since the iMac is put together is a very different way, and I will probably have someone do it for me.

The actual new SSD in the MacBook not only seems to be performing flawlessly, the speed improvement is amazing. Startup time, for example is just 24 seconds from the startup chime to a ready desktop. Applications like Adobe Photoshop just take a second or two to load. I recommend it.

The hard drive on the 2009-era MacBook Pro is a cinch to replace. This shows the new SSD in place and ready to operate in about 90 seconds.
The hard drive on the 2009-era MacBook Pro is a cinch to replace. This shows the new SSD in place and ready to operate in about 90 seconds.
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  1. Fortunately for Moore, he wrote his observation in 1965 and expected the trend to continue for “at least ten years”. :-) He was smart enough to limit his prediction…

    SSDs are certainly the way to go for mobile devices, since one of the major advantages is less susceptibility to shock. And the lack of moving parts is a nice feature too.

    However (what follows is purely anecdotal and shouldn’t be relied upon by anyone), in my experience, the HDDs seem to reliable enough. In the two (desktop) computers I’ve owned, the hard drive was still fine when the computer itself failed. The first computer’s failure was in the power source, and the second was a combination of a failing video card and dust overload inside the tower.

    (I don’t expect two cents’ payment for this comment.) :-)

  2. Speed tests on the hard drive in my iMac reveal it is starting to fail. Not only is it slow, its read-write behavior is getting more and more erratic. I’ll compute with the laptop for a couple of weeks, and if it keeps behaving, I’ll upgrade the iMac.

  3. Ah. That’s one (hidden) advantage of the HDD, I guess — that it starts to *show* failure before it goes. :-)

    “Startup time … is just 24 seconds from the startup chime to a ready desktop”

    That prompted me to test the startup time on this new computer:

    29 seconds to the “Metro” page (which is completely usable/ready)
    15 more seconds to the desktop (because of my hack to load straight to desktop)
    13 more seconds for my designated apps to start running

    (I have several apps that I’ve told to start any time the computer starts, since I use them daily: Rainmeter, Ditto, Texter, Screen Capturer, and Launchy)

    So, about half the time is my own fault. :-)


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