One of the questions we get asked a lot here at PC Advisor is what difference will an SSD make to a laptop. Well, in an attempt to answer that question, here is where we give a real-world example of what sort of a speed boost a SSD can bring to your laptop. See Group test: what's the best SSD (solid-state drive)?

To find out what sort of speed boost a SSD will make to an average laptop, we had the painfully simple idea of putting a SSD (in this case a Crucial M4 512GB SSD) into an 'average laptop' and then recording the performance before and after installation. See also Group test: what's the best laptop?

The laptop in question is a Dell Inpsiron 1545 that has been in use for three years and as such was getting sluggish. In other words, it is exactly the sort of laptop that's hard drive needs upgrading to a SSD.

For those who you who have a thirst for specs: the old hard drive was a Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 250GB 2.5-inch SATA 3Gb/s at 5400RPM. The new SSD is a 512GB Crucial M4 2.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s (SATA III).

How we test

In order to record a what difference will a SSD make to a laptop, we put the existing Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD through several tests to measure the previous 'sluggish' performance. Next, we cloned the hard drive and copied its contents to the new Crucial M4 SSD. We then put it through exactly the same tests, to accurately measure what difference a SSD made to our laptop.

The timed tests we put the two hard drives though were: Windows 7 startup; large folder with multiple files move (copy and paste within the drive), single large file move (copy and paste within the drive), small file move (copy and paste within the drive); Word/Photoshop/Chrome application launches; and finally we ran both hard drives through the Crystal Disk Mark benchmark program.

What difference will a SSD make to my laptop: hard results

Windows 7 startup times

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 1 minute(s) 49 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD:  0 minute(s) 58 seconds

Windows 7 startup times   

Large multiple file move (2.91GB)

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 7 minute(s) 10 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 0 minute(s) 38 seconds

2.91GB folder consisting of 6-8MB files.

Small multiple file move (230MB)

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 0 minute(s) 54 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 0 minute(s) 5 seconds

230MB folder consisting of 1-3MB files

Large single file move (1.99GB)

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 2 minute(s) 30 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 0 minute(s) 20 seconds

1.99GB single file move

Microsoft Word 2007 launch

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 39 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 9.8 seconds

Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 launch

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 51 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 18.2 seconds

Google Chrome launch

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD: 15 seconds

Crucial M4 SSD: 7.1 seconds


We used the program Crystal Disk Mark to benchmark the two hard drives. Crystal Disk Mark tests sequential read/write speeds as well as random 512KB, 4KB, 4KB (Queue Depth=32) reads/writes speeds. Here are the results.

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320 HDD:

Crucial M4 SSD:


Cloning and swapping the HDD for a SDD is a simple exercise for most laptops with a SATA connector. Simply plug in the USB data cable and let the cloning program do its stuff. Physically swapping the hard drives should be easy enough, providing you have an easy-to-access drive bay in your laptop, it should take no more than five minutes. Just unscrew it, put the new one in, and then boot your laptop. Of course, not all laptops will be straightforward, but most of the big brand laptops (that are compatible) will handle a SSD swap with little problems. See How to upgrade your laptop hard disk to a SSD for more information.

Once you swap replace the HDD with the SSD, the difference is noticeable immediately. While you brain is expecting the 'Starting Windows' screen to lag for a little while, you will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly Windows now boots compared to before and similarly how quickly you can launch the programs you need, after startup has completed.

In short, the stats don't lie. If you replace your old hard disk drive with a SSD, everything you do on your laptop will be a LOT quicker, just look at the chart above.

What difference will a SSD make to my laptop?

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