on April 12, 2012
I got the 120 GB drive expecting to just run games from there but I didn't realize how easy it was to migrate my entire existing C drive to the SSD.
Intel provides a migration utility that lets you clone existing drives onto this drive. So I cloned my C drive (my Windows installation and my main Program Files), which lets me boot directly to the SSD as if nothing had happened. It was a very simple process and the software and guides will walk you through it.
So now I am unexpectedly booting straight from my SSD without having to reinstall anything. What used to take a couple minutes to boot up and settle down is now done in seconds. Windows FLIES. So I kinda wish I'd gotten a bigger drive -- I went with 120 GB because I wasn't going to put Windows on it, but since it was easy, I did so ... but my C drive had about 80 GB on it so that was most of my space! If I'd known that cloning was going to be this easy (and good), I may have gotten the 240 GB instead.
One good tip, though, if you do this:
You can save yourself some space on your Windows installation drive by moving your Windows "Users" folders to another drive. In Windows 7, just open Windows Explorer, locate your "Users\YourNameHere" folder and right click on the sub-folders ("My Documents", "My Music", "Downloads", etc), go to Properties, select the Location tab and move the location to a conventional drive. Windows 7 will automatically migrate all the contents to the new location and delete the originals, freeing space on your SSD. Since I have a ton of music and some videos and so forth, this freed up 30 GB from my SSD. There's no reason to have My Music taking up expensive SSD space.
As for overall ease of install, if you're comfortable installing a regular SATA drive, this is the same thing. Only fancy thing I had to do was go into my BIOS to change the drive boot order, and according to the docs, you could just swap cables instead. Note that this does come with a mount, so you shouldn't need to buy anything extra (I want to say it was a 3.5" drive mount? Meh. I just screwed it in with the other hard drives. I'm only supporting it on one side but it's not like it's heavy or has any moving parts anyway.)
I guess I'll see how this is long term, but with a 5 year warranty, it may already be better than my conventional drives.
I went with Intel over other brands after reading reviews and comparing warranties. Intel's 5-year warranty was the longest I could find. I might consider a cheaper brand for less essential data if I decide to get a second one but if you're installing your OS, you might want top grade. (Failure in OS = bluescreen.)
I thought I was finally having a serious problem with the drive. Windows kept crashing and signs pointed to the file system. Turns out it was bad system RAM and not the drive. After finding the bad RAM with MemTest86 and replacing it, the problems went away. I now have a second, larger drive to play my games from while the original 120 GB mainly has Windows and other programs.
on May 28, 2012
No matter what your reason for considering this Solid State Drive (SSD) purchase, I definitely recomment this large Intel 520 Series SSD. Let's walk through the decision process.
If you are considering SSD vs. no SSD, you will find that all articles recommend SSD for performance reasons. It really makes that much difference. The cost-per-gigabyte equation can't touch traditional hard drives, so understand that this decision is really a matter of paying for performance. As of Spring 2012, you'll pay up to $2 per GB of SSD compared to perhaps 10 cents per GB of rotational hard drive. As any professinoal will tell you, the performance bottleneck on PCs is I/O, and most I/O is to/from you disk drive. Improving disk performance improves overall PC performance in all applications except perhaps scientific computating. Also, SSD's are less prone to failure because they have no moving parts. They similarly survive better in varying temperature, humidity, and impact (shock) situation. I've seen a Kingston video where they hit their SSD with a baseball bat and then drive a car over it. It still works.
If you are considering a small SSD in combination with a larger traditional drive vs. a large SSD alone, you'll want this large SSD if you can afford the price difference. Using a combination of drive technologies requires some means to manage which files are on which drive. This is cumbercome if performed manually, but that's the best practice recommended on Tom's Hardware (a site I greatly respect). General guidance: install your operating system (OS) on the SSD; install your most-used software on the SSD also; then store your large multimedia files (movies, music, etc.) on the slower mechanical hard drive. That advice works if you are using your PC for multimedia purposes. By contrast, game PCs require tons of large software installations that won't fit on a small SSD. I know some gamers, especially the train simulator community, who manually move game files back and forth between drives depending upon which one they are running that day. You should know about an alternative that does not require manual management of files: SSD caching. This intelligent caching algorithm is implemented *only* on motherboards containing the Intel Z68 chipset. The two drives then appear as a single C: drive to the Windows operating system. Write-to-disk performance is not improved because everything is ultimately written to the mechanical drive for permanent storage. But read-from-disk operations (like boot-up, starting apps, or loading new game levels) mostly runs at SSD speeds. Between the OS and the Z68 chipset, there's an intelligent algorithm that predicts which files you read-in most. Thanks to that intelligence, a virus scan that touches every file does not count toward the caching prediction. SSD caching is limited to 64GB of SSD, so larger disks do not help. Check Tom's Hardware again for benchmarks (which improves over time as usage behavior improves predictions) and for the reasons you don't realize full SSD speeds under Z68 SSD caching.
If you are considering a large SSD vs. a small SSD, go large. One obvious reason is the undeniable truth that you always fill up your hard drive eventually. But there is a reliability factor in this decision also. SSD technology can only re-write the bits a limited number of times. That limit is long enough not to affect most users for the typical life of a PC, and reaching that limit just means the disk can't write to that spot anye more - you don't lose data already written. But the time to reach that limit is shorter if you re-write sectors more often in your PC. That's the reason you *never* defragment an SSD. But it's also the reason why larger SSDs last longer, even if you never come close to filling it. An SSD's built-in controllers actually force new write operations into the next sequence of unused space, avoinding tmpy space that has been previously used. When write operations reach the end, it starts the sequence over (obviously not overwriting areas with data). Note in the previous two sentences that "unused" is different from "empty". This is an over-simplified summary of the algorithm, but they all aim to avoide re-writing the same section too many times. In a small disk, there is less empty space so it must be overwritten more frequently. In a large drive with vast empty space, it takes much longer before a once-used section needs to be used again.
If you are considering the Intel brand and the 520 Series specifically vs. other brands and models, definitely choose the Intel 520 Series. For performance reasons alons (more reasons to follow), any brand of SSD is a significant improvement. According to Tom's Hardware benchmarks, the improvement going from mecahnical drive to the slowest SSD is huge compared to the improvement between the slowest and fastest SSD. So why does it matter which SSD brand? Two reasons: performance *and* reliability. Intel - always - has offered the most reliability among all SSD brands. They include additional storage used transparently to ensure recover from erros (this 480GB drive actually contains 512GB internally). Also, Intel get first pick of the most reliable memory chips from the same foundry all the vendors use. Since SSDs first hit the consumer market, it's been a choice between Intel's reliability vs. other brands' speed. The 520 Series changed everything. Even though all SSDs are faster than their counterparts, you're paying that higher price-per-GB to get that performance. Among SSD brands, those with an internal SandForce controller always top the performance benchmarks. Intel's 520 Series is their first line to use the SandForce controller. Now, there is no SSD on the planet that can beat the Intel 520 Series in *either* performance or reliability. and nobody comes close when considering the combinatino of the two.
One final note: Don't implement RAID-0 or any form of RAID striping for your SSD. RAID is a performance technique by which you install multiple hard drives in an array and split the I/O load among them. This is still an excellent performance improvement for traditional mechanical drives, although the simple striping of RAID-0 makes every disk a failure risk that takes out all of the data stored. However, when impleemented for SSDs, RAID forces TRIM support to be turned off inside each drive. Readers can research the impoerant of SSD TRIM elsewhere. Just accept that TRIM was the technology answer that made the new generation of SSDs effective, fast, and reliable. When it comes to SSDs, performance hounds like me must go against our natural inclination toward defragmentation and RAID and simply accept the new drive in its purest form.
OK - another final note: Update the SSD's firmware *before* installing the OS. This is so importnat for any SSD regardless of brand or model. SSD vendors fix issues with firmware updates the same way software developers publish patches. But you can't flash your SSD firmware safely without risking the software and data installed there. You need to install your new SSD inside your PC and upgrade firmware before actually using it. Several web sites discuss how to perform this functinos, and it's not for the casual end-user. I recommend following instructions from your SSD vendor's site, but in general it involveds three steps. First, use another PC to find and download the latest firmware for your specific model SSD. Second, create a bootable CD containing that new firmware. Third, boot your new PC from that bootable CD and follow instructions. In my 3 latest PC builds, I have to change a motherboard setting about disk drive connection to allow the bootable disk's utility to perform the firmware installation. Again, just follow the SSD vendor's instructions.
on November 2, 2012
So I wanted to put a review out there just to clarify some of the information on the warranty support for the "Drive Only" version.
I purchased the Intel 240GB 520 series drive just before heading out to sea for an extended period for use as an external media drive for my laptop.
(I can hear many of you saying I should have bought a conventional drive for such a purpose, but at the time I made the decision, I had no need for one or more Terabytes of data and speed was more desirable)
Anyway... I'm out to sea for 45 days or so, with another 45 remaining and the drive stops responding. Doesn't work via USB to SATA adaptor, Laptop BIOS doesn't see it on boot, mechanical agitation did nothing to change the symptoms. My drive was a paper weight and I had no means to return it using Amazon's super simple return program. I get back from sea three months later, check the Amazon site, verify the return window has closed and confirm that as far as Amazon is concerned I was screwed. I then proceed to the Intel website, look for SSD under products, choose support, verify my drive has a 5 year warranty and called the N. America support line. My call was answered in less than a minute of hold time and I spoke with a tech, who asked what I'd done to verify the drives condition and he concurred I had a bad drive. He then connected me with another support person for a replacement. The next tech offered me two options: (1) Pay a $25 fee and have a replacement drive shipped next day air with a prepaid return label, during which a temporary charge would be placed on my credit card until the defective unit is returned, and (2) Receive an RMA number and address for which to send my defective drive, send the drive via trackable carrier at my own expense and wait up to 30 days for receipt of a new drive. I chose option #1 and had my drive on Monday (my call was placed on a Friday). So as you can see any worries about warranty support are null.
Onto the drive's performance. I'm currently using the drive in a Latitude D630 with WinXP installed (again I can hear the shouts). Prior to this I had a 120GB Solid 3 SSD in the laptop. I used passmark to run some throughput tests on both drives. The difference between read speeds between the OCZ and the Intel 520 were about the same with the 520 edging out a meager 5mbps gain (roughly 145 MBps throughput). The write speeds showed the 520's advantage, the OCZ was in the 60MBps while the 520 clocked a throughput of 119MBps for a nearly 100% improvement.
Long story short, it's a good drive, the warranty support is solid. I gave 4 stars vice 5 because I actually had to use the warranty. Hope this helps.
on March 30, 2012
After being burned by lousy OCZ drives, I decided to pay a little more and buy the Intel drive. I went through 3 different OCZ drives in less than 2 years and I would never buy another one.
This drive is fast and although my current laptop doesn't have 6gb/s SATA, the Windows performance index for this drive is 7.9, the maximum. I'm still a little weary because Intel is using a Sandforce controller for this drive and all my failed OCZ drives had Sandforce controllers. I think Intel's testing procedure is more rigorous than OCZ's and they are backing this drive with the longest warranty in the business.
Check out the benchmark numbers in the User Pictures.
On my mid-2011 Apple MacBook Pro (MBP), I opted for this 180GB SSD. I do web design and development, web programming, and Windows programming. This drive covers my basic apps and VMs, with 30GB to spare. Without the sound recording studio I'd have 80GB left...
What made me choose this drive is the SandForce 520 chipset. It has built-in garbage collection that renders the need for TRIM drivers needless. The OS shouldn't have to do drive maintenance anyway, that should be the drive's job, which means fewer drivers for the OS to have running in memory...
Also, computer owners running a SSD without its own garbage collection or without TRIM enabled is begging for trouble: A SSD's effective lifespan would plummet, since these devices can only be written to a certain number of times before they "wear out", and garbage collection organizes and optimizes where and how the drives are written to. Until SandForce, only TRIM was the solution, and not available for all customers who use the drive, depending on their OS...
So that's the two scoops. When installing this drive, feel content that you don't need to install any unsupported hacks in any OS that lacks or prohibits TRIM support. And that the OS shouldn't have to deal with disk maintenance at this level to begin with...
Oh, the drive is massively fast - naturally, for it is a SSD. Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8) boots in 10 seconds, and apps load up almost instantly. Even my Windows VM starts up faster than a native, modern Windows machine.
And even better, Intel's five YEAR warranty is highly competitive. SSDs are expensive, so Intel putting up a solid warranty upfront only adds to a greater sense of security.
on June 28, 2012
All I need to say is that my new 180 GB Intel 520 boots Windows 7 x64 in 11 seconds. All disk operations are speeded up significantly.
on September 20, 2012
I am very impressed with this product. I installed it in less than 2 hours including the cloning of my existing hard drive. You will see a miraculous difference in startup time for bootup and in starting applications.
One issue I would like to point out. The included software used to copy my existing hard disk would not allow me to keep the Windows 7 System Reserved partition at 100 MB in size. It insisted on shrinking it to 27 MB of space actually used. I tried to override this to no avail by using the custom options of the migration software but it would not let me make this larger. I'd like to point out that I have over 25 years of experience in working with and developing software and I could not find an option in the migration software that would let me do this. So if it exists then there is either a bug in the software or it is not documented clearly.
So I let the migration software do the copy with only 27 MB for the reserved partition. No problem right. Well almost. Everything works fine except the Windows 7 Backup will fail as it needs at least 50 MB of free space in any partition it will back up. Also, the Windows 7 Backup will not allow you to skip backing up the reserved partition along with your C: drive. So Windows 7 backup will not work after the migration.
So to solve this problem I first tried using Ghost 15 from Symantec to no avail. I purchased a copy of Acronis Disk Director 11 Home from Amazon that allowed me to resize the System Reserved partion and get the backup working. Actually using this Disk Director tool and the builtin Windows 7 partition tools did the job.
Normally I don't write many reviews but hopefully this will help others that run into this issue. I plan to notify Intel as well about this.
on June 23, 2012
Bought this a couple months ago to replace a 128 GB Samsung Sata 2 SSD. Dropped it in - formatted and installed Windows 7 - and it's been running like a champ ever since. I'm a developer - so I have quite a few web servers/databases/ other services running on it pretty much 24/7 AND i keep installing uninstalling stuff on a regular basis. It has taken everything that I can throw it without breaking stride.
If you are on the market for an SSD - you cant go wrong with this.
P.S. My samsung SSDs are going strong too. So if you are looking for a sata 3 ssd - both the samsung 830 or the intel 520 are great choices with very little to separate them. You cant go wrong with either.
Update 12/2012 - Well - it has been nearly 9 months now. I've reformatted the disk and installed Windows 8. It's still performing marvelously. I've installed the intel SSD optimizer and run it on a regular basis. This one is going to be a keeper.
on April 1, 2013
This drive failed in under four months, but it worked well until it failed. Unfortunately can't justify more than one star for an expensive, failed hard drive that resulted in complete data loss. Fortunately I do not trust SSDs (or hard drives in general) and had backed up all important files.
Be sure to back up your files since the drive will fail eventually and may fail a lot sooner than you expect.
on July 4, 2013
I purchased this drive to run Ubuntu Server 12.10 with a supermicro MB, worked great when server was doing minimal tasks similar to desktop usage. Once I installed a database (tried MySQL and Postgresql)and did some queries the drive locks up. I have tried the drive in a Lenovo W500, W530 with the sames results.
This is easily repeatable, a lenovo thread covers more details:
It seems to possibly be some sort of intel power issue, I have an OCZ vertex and Samsung SSD and neither crash under the sames conditions and overall perform better.
DONT BUY THIS IF HIGH I/O USAGE!! (Databases, Web servers, computation servers)
Probably would be good for a netbook/Chromebook but nothing heavy.
I've had it for less than a year, but well over 30 days so I'm out the money, thanks Intel for a shiny coaster.