Don’t Move that Users folder!

Posted in Storage, Uncategorized by QuietOC on March 2, 2010

The SSD Dilemma

I recently purchased a 60 GB OCZ Agility SSD for our main system at home. It certainly has plenty of room for Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe Creative Suite, and a few Steam games. Of course, it doesn’t have enough room for our pictures, videos, or music, but I also have a new 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 hard drive ready to store those files.

Moving C:\Users Via the Registry

I installed the SSD last week, and we already had a few files stored on the C:\User\ folders on the SSD. There are a few ways to automatically store files on another drive. One seemingly simple way is by editing the Windows registry to point the User profiles directory to another drive. While this works for new user profiles, it doesn’t actually move the existing profiles.

The Process

The directions are fairly simple: modify a few registry settings and then make a temporary administrator account. Log into the temporary account and move all the contents of C:\Users to the location you changed the registry to point to. Delete the old user accounts and everything in C:\Users. Rename the moved old user folders–their contents will have to be moved to newly created user folders after the next step. ¬†Create new users with the old user names, this will make new user folders on the hard drive. Copy the contents of the old renamed user folders into the new user folders, and finally delete the old renamed user folders.

The Problems

Now all of your old C:\User files are now located on the hard drive. The question is, is this what we really want? Now if the hard drive dies or is removed you will no longer be able to even login to Windows. Plus many of the files in the User folder are regularly accessed and thus should be on the fast SSD. Also some things just don’t transfer properly into the new user accounts, and there is no good way to undo the move. So, moving C:\Users is not recommended.

The Better Alternative

Don’t mess with the registry and just leave C:\Users and the user profile folders on the SSD. Instead use Microsoft’s option to move the user subfolders to other locations. Change the “Location” in the properties of the special subfolders of the user accounts on the SSD to point to other folders on the hard drive. while this will need to be done for each subfolder in each user folder, it has an advantage that multiple users can use the same hard drive folder. And Windows will also boot just fine without access to those folders, since the required profile information it needs remains on the SSD in C:\Users.

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Quiet and Fast Storage: SSDs and Hard Drives

Posted in Storage by QuietOC on February 18, 2010

PC are composed of components and certainly you will not get the best components if you buy the cheapest PC package branded by some company. File storage speed is something everyone notices when they use a PC. It is the time it takes for the PC to start, the time it takes for applications to start, the time it takes games and game levels to load.

The typical PC has always had a single spinning magnetic disk as the main system storage. Smaller consumer electronics have tended to use mainly flash memory storage, but fairly inexpensive flash memory is now large enough to store PC operating systems and all the programs most people use. Flash memory has always been much faster to read small random chunks of data, but now its traditional problem of writing small chunks of data has been mostly solved.

Spinning magnetic disks are still the most affordable way to store large amounts of data quickly–currently about 7.5 cents a gigabyte compared to $2 a gigabyte for flash memory. DVD-Rs are slightly cheaper at 4.5 cents a gigabyte, but you have to deal with the hassle and limitations of burning 4.7 GB at a time.

Flash memory has traditionally come on various memory cards formats such as Compact Flash (CF), Sony’s Memory Stick (MS), and Secure Digital (SD) cards. USB flash-based thumb drives are also popular. Normally these all will be connected to the PC over the USB 2.0 bus which at 480Mbits/s which ends up being limited to about about 35MB/s for actual data.

Most of the other data interfaces are not popular, except for SATA. SATA II is now the standard internal drive interface and offers 300GB/s of bandwidth and low latency. Flash drives with the SATA interface are called Solid State Drives or SSDs. All SATA devices are also easily converted to operate on the slower USB or Firewire connections.

Fast 30 to 60 GB SSDs are now available for a little over $100 or not much more than a typical 2-platter hard disk drive.