Stephen was kind enough to loan me an old 60 GB OCZ Vertex 2 solid state drive so I could give it a try and finally see  what all the fuss is about.

Until now, people had always said that solid state was the way to go and they saw some great improvements in load times of various things but because I was never able to actually sit behind a computer before and after one of the drives had been installed it was difficult to visualise in my head if it would be worth while.

Having installed the drive, which came in a nice heat sink thing so it could be fitted in the bay smoothly, I installed Windows 7 Ultimate onto the drive. One of the first weird things I noticed was that the windows installer was much faster, although I was using a DVD rather than USB stick as I had given my USB stick away to a friend who uses it more than my once a year for OS installs. (Need to buy a new one sometime.)

Windows installer does not quite work right though. The progress percentage for copying files for example stays at 0% and then jumps to 100%. Because SSD’s are silent, there is no Hard Disk Drive noise… This feels strange. I expect to hear the HDD so when I don’t hear anything, I actually have to bend under my desk and check the disk activity light. Windows 7 now boots up and shuts down faster though.

C:\ is a 60GB SSD
D:\ is my old OS partition
E:\ is a large storage HDD

Now I don’t want all my games installed on the SSD as I would quickly run out of space. I also don’t want my generic documents, music, pictures and movies on my SSD.

So the first step is to move the libraries in Windows 7 to the E: which is fine as I am the only user, I can Cut and Paste everything in C:Users\Ross Stone into E:\ and Windows 7 knows to update the library settings so the default paths are in E:.

Next is installing Steam and Origin (I hate Origin) onto the E: so that by default games from those online services install to the E:\. The issue is that Steam by default only installs games into its own directory in steamapps folder. So all Steam games have to run from E:\. If you install Steam to C:\ by mistake like I did, you can move but its a pain.

Origin on the other hand only allows you to install applications to one location. You can choose the location, but all your games installed from that point have to go there. Changing it before each install works, but its a pain and there is no means to move a game afterwards. So I set that to default to E: too.

Moving specific games to the SSD as needed

With around 40GB free on my SSD, I can choose a couple of games that I play the most and run them from the SSD so I see the biggest performance gains. To do this smoothly, you install all games to E: as per how Steam and Origin like, and then create a symbolic link after moving files.

Eve Online does not really need to run off an SSD so it can stay on the HDD.
Battlefield 3 is retarded and the game launches fresh for each game, it also takes minutes to load a level for multiplayer so SSD would be great here.

Step 1: I created a folder here C:Symbolic
Step 2: Moved the E:\Origin\Battlefield 3 folder to C:\Symbolic\Battlefield 3
Step 3: Create a symbolic link in E:\Origin called Battlefield 3 that points to C:\Symbolic\Battlefield 3

This requires you to open up command prompt as Administrator and type either of the below…

mklink /J “E:\Origin\Battlefield 3” “C:\Symbolic\Battlefield 3”
mklink /D “E:\Origin\Battlefield 3” “C:\Symbolic\Battlefield 3”

/J is used for directory junction.
/D is for directory symbolic link.

PC Gamer for example advised using /D in its SSD articles which is what I used. Steam forums advised of using /J though. I would imagine both work well enough for this.

Anyway, Origin will think its running Battlefield 3 off E: so run fine, but its actually running off C: sort of transparently so you get the performance boost of the SSD without having to reinstall games.

If I want to clear some room as I don’t play Battlefield 3 anymore, I can simply delete the link and copy the files back onto E: where they started.

Now its all setup its great though. Windows 7 is quick and Battlefield 3 actually loads into a game before the round has already started.

Unfortunately SSD’s are still expensive, but I can see the benifit of them and my mind is made up… My next computer will probably have an SSD, although hopefully they continue to drop in price over the next year or two.

£300 for a 256GB SSD is crazy considering all it does is improve loading times, not actual game performance. £70 for a 60GB SSD is justifiable but its quite restricted as most games are 10-20GB now and while Windows takes up 20GB.