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SSD harddisks have been on the rise lately. And I've been wondering if it's worth buying one as a programmer. Being able to save five minutes when starting my PC is fun but won't convince my boss.

How does it impact a typical visual studio project containing hundreds of files? Compile times, accessing files, waiting for visual studio to do its thing... Are there any benchmarks that checked this? And ideally, how much time would one win each week by upgrading?

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Our friend Mr Spolsky wrote about this a couple of years ago: joelonsoftware.com/items/2009/03/27.html. –  matt Feb 26 '11 at 23:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The opinions are extremely controversial. There are people who have noticed a gain in compilation times, there are people who have not seen any improvement.

I for instance belong with the second group. I've replaced the HDD in my laptop with an SSD disk hoping for speeding up compilation in Visual Studio and I have not noticed any improvement at all. Visual Studio 2008/2010 behave just the same. Though I must admit my projects are not that big, while Visual Studio used to take let's say around 10 seconds to rebuild all, it still takes the same amount of time.

I believe without conducting an experiment in your specific environment with your particular projects it's impossible to say. Perhaps it will bring something, or it might not. But you obviously can't persuade the boss to pay for just an experiment. Perhaps bringing a personal SSD to work and getting a permission to test drive it will provide useful numbers to impress your boss.

Check out these discussions:

Best boost to productivity : SSD or second screen ?

What parts of my computer should I upgrade first to speed up development?

Does hybrid hard drive improve programming experience?

Can I do anything to improve performance in VS 2010?

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it's very likely that disk access is not the bottleneck when building a project, but compiling/linking is –  stijn Feb 26 '11 at 13:29
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@stijn Depends what you're building. For game projects I work on a full rebuild can be reading in and then writing out almost a gigabyte of content, I imagine the disk might be the bottleneck then ;) –  Martin Feb 26 '11 at 20:53
    
you'll have to measure to know for sure. I remember playing around with ramdisks and putting entire pojects on there. There was no noticable speedup. But then again, that was with a couple of hundreds of source files only, and about 200mb of compiled objects. On the other hand, knowing that ram speed >>>> disk speed makes me sceptical about getting a somehwat faster drive to yield huge improvements for building. –  stijn Feb 26 '11 at 21:20

In my experience there is one thing that makes any point about a fast disk absolutely irrelevant, namely

Do you run anti-virus?

Especially Symantec slows the machine so much down that it doesn't really matter what disk the machine has.

The real boon in using a SSD drive is the fast random access namely moving from file to file. You can get much of the same effect by adding a cheaper USB-flashdisk and enable ReadyBoost on it (and let it settle, it takes a while to reach full effect). Also note that having tons of memory allows Windows to cache a lot of the files which all in all is faster than having to read them from disk.

If this makes a difference, then consider talking to your boss.

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+1 for anti-virus. –  James Crook Feb 26 '11 at 18:49

It depends, I would say. If you have a project with a lot of LoC and a lot of files, then an SSD can help enormously. However, if your project takes a long time to compile because you make heavy use of complex template metaprogramming, for example, then it's not going to make any difference. I noticed a fairly big improvement even on my small projects.

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I don't really think you can tell without some tests in your own context, but for what it's worth here's a summary of my experiences when I recently moved from a 10K drive to SSD.

Small solutions/projects build in about the same time, but the solution that has the most files and complex build (it has a mix of web projects, class libraries, LINQ2SQL, postsharp, etc) went from about 4min 30s to about 3min 40s for a full rebuild in serial. With MSBuild running with the /m option this went down from about 4min on the 10K drive all the way down to 2min 40s.

Far more importantly for me though is that when working on that solution Resharper would chug along a bit when first opening it and also when working within some of the bigger source files (which shouldn't be there of course...). Now though I can barely feel any difference between working with Resharper enabled/disabled so although that would be hard to measure it's massively more pleasant to work with now.

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