Upgrading an HP Mini 110 with an Intel X25-V SSD

I installed an Intel X25-V in an HP Mini 110 and found it to be an inexpensive way to hotrod an aging netbook. Any drive in my current SSD Roundup will work even better today. It’s an inexpensive way to hotrod an aging netbook. Any drive available today will be considerably larger than the stock 16 GB SSD, and also considerably faster.The X25-V is, as the name suggests, a low-end, “value” drive. Windows XP boots off it in seconds, and most apps load in a second. Firefox takes longer, but no more than about six. It’s a middle-of-the-road drive from a big name.

Intel provides a data migration tool, which is just a cut-down version of Acronis True Image that checks to make sure there’s an Intel drive in your system. I was irritated that it was a 93-meg download and that Intel’s servers could only muster 33K per second, so it took 45 minutes-plus to download. Once it did download, the program kept crashing before it could get moving. It worked on the third attempt. It’s nice that Intel provides such a program, and it’s nice that it seems to align the partition when it copies, but it wasn’t so nice that it worked so inconsistently. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but it’s what’s required to get the Intel-sanctioned software to work. At least it did eventually work for me.

The drive is faster than an OCZ Vertex and other hot competitors from last year, but not as fast as today’s top-of-the-line models from Crucial, or even OCZ and similar makers. But Intel throws in extras that the others don’t necessarily include. Every $100 SSD comes with trade-offs. Once you get the X25-V working, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Installation itself isn’t too bad. Plug the Intel drive into a $20 temporary SATA-USB adapter, run the software to clone the drive, then get ready to take the Mini 110 apart. Shut the system down, and remove the battery. Three screws in the back hold the keyboard in place. Remove those screws, then push the keyboard up from the recessed hole gently until it pops, then lift it out. Remove three screws holding the factory drive in place, then remove the drive, bolt in the Intel, and reverse the process. This Youtube video helps. It’s not terribly hard, but if you’ve never disassembled a laptop before, it should be a little intimidating. But it’s nothing like working on a Toshiba. With some care you can get it done without removing the keyboard cable, and you should do that if you can. The keyboard is a bit fiddly to plug back in.

The Intel drive doesn’t fit the bracket for SSD-equipped Mini 110s perfectly, but it works. The protruding threads for the factory A-Data SSD get in the way a little. I suggest shimming the screws opposite the SATA connector with a #6 washer if you can. It bolts in perfectly when replacing a 2.5-inch HDD. Depending on your experience level, the swap itself is anywhere from a 5-minute to 30-minute job.

All in all, it’s a worthwhile upgrade. The Mini 110 runs very nicely with a good SSD in it. Not that I’m surprised. It’s still not a good gaming machine, but for the things people buy netbooks to do, it makes everything quicker. If I could only afford to upgrade to 2 GB of RAM or upgrade the SSD, it would be a tough call. The improvement over the factory SSD is dramatic enough to challenge the conventional always-take-the-memory wisdom. Having used a Mini 110 with the factory SSD and 2 GB of RAM, and one with an X25-V and 1 GB of RAM, I’d rather have the SSD.

4 thoughts on “Upgrading an HP Mini 110 with an Intel X25-V SSD

  • December 26, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Honestly I love SSDs but I find them most useful in a box that has enough grunt that you’re not cpu-bound anyway.

    When a computer has good cpu, like say a 2 ghz (intel core 2) which is about a 2.4 ghz amd k8, then an SSD goes a long way to making the next big bottleneck disappear.

    It’s great being able to do a search on your hard drive and have it return immediately even when searching through 20000 little files. Also raring (zipping) files and doing something else, just general multitasking. If you can pare down your working data set to something that can fit in 50 GB or so including OS then you are living the vida loca like a speed demon. You also then get the complete benefits of SSDs because your entire working data set is on the drive. Just manage your data and pull in stuff when you need it so all your files can take utmost advantage.

    I personally love Sandforce SF-1200 drives like the S599 a-data. Reasonable cost, say 110$ or so, and good enough size like 60GB. I have done quite a few tests and the speeds are still good if you zero the drive using Secure ATA erase, again I use the Parted Magic bootable free open source cd, and then run secure erase.

    After secure erasing I partition and leave some space at the end, like 5-7 GB and never touch that (it was secure erased and then never assigned to a partition). That works wonders because sandforce loves a bit of free space. I use XP with that with no trim support and im telling you, even if you fill the space with random data using something like Random Data File Creator (RDFC), and then you run benchmarks like AS SSD Benchmark, you still get excellent speeds. And this is with IDE mode, not sata ahci or anything, and again, with no trim. Create tons of random binary files using RDFC and re-run benches, and still you have superb speeds.

    This is why I don’t bother doing any kind of special setups apart from drive alignment to use an SSD. Only 4kb drive alignment is important. The rest is sort of rounding error.

    • December 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      CPU-bound really depends on what you’re doing. I’ve got an SSD in a 2 GHz P4-generation Celeron that I use for word processing and Visio, and it works nicely. The SSD helped a lot. I can’t play current games on that system but have no interest in that anyway. Is the system taking full advantage of the SSD? No. But the HDD it replaced was the big bottleneck in the system, and with an SSD in there, the system will be useful for another couple of years, maybe more. Plus the SSD won’t crash, which is more than I can say for the last few HDDs I’ve bought.

  • December 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    You’re right that it depends on what you need. Cpu is flexible, as long as you are.

    It makes me think though, with SSDs dropping in price, soon a lot of old computers (think of IDE only 2003 era boxes) can be loaded with a drive that just won’t quit. I have to try an IDE->SATA adapter and see what happens.

    Right now I’m not terribly sure how reliable SSDs are though… sometimes I read newegg reviews and I hope mine just wont die *poof*

    I do regular backups.

    • December 26, 2010 at 9:13 pm

      I have an OCZ Vertex on an IDE-SATA adapter. It works. I think SSDs will become common upgrades for older machines, but right now only Runcore is making any effort to market them as such. I wouldn’t worry too much about SSDs going poof. Even Steve Gibson (author of Spinrite, the HDD utility) has said SSDs are fundamentally more reliable than HDDs.

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