After reading The Best of Both Worlds: An SSD and a HDD, George McCluney asked if it's possible to combine both drives on a laptop.
When I finished researching that article, I looked at my numbers and wished my main PC was a desktop. Installing both an SSD and a conventional internal hard drive into my test computer gave me nearly a 40-percent performance gain. But it looked like a desktop-only solution.
But maybe not. Whether or not you can upgrade a laptop this way depends on the compromises you're willing to make. Here are some possible approaches:
Get a laptop with two hard drive bays: If your laptop can take two internal hard drives, it can take one hard drive and one SSD. Such laptops exist, but they're not very portable. And chances are you probably don't already own one.
Use the optical drive bay: Many laptops allow you to replace their optical (CD/DVD) drive with an extra hard drive. Check your manual or manufacturer web site to see if this option is available. If it is, and you don't mind giving up CD and DVD access (or using an external optical drive), you're in luck.
Buy a hybrid drive: These use both flash and a hard disk, but don't let you use them as separate partitions. The flash serves as a second cache to speed up the hard disk.
I just tested a 500GB Seagate Momentus XT, a hybrid drive with a 4GB flash cache. Running the same casual benchmarks I used in the previous article, this drive completed the tasks in 179 seconds. That's an improvement of more than 18 percent over the 220 seconds it took to run the tasks on a conventional hard drive. But it was still considerably slower than the 134 seconds I got when I combined the conventional hard drive with an SSD.
On the other hand, the hybrid makes a much cheaper upgrade. As I write this, you can buy this drive for about $100. That's considerably more than a conventional 500GB internal drive, but well under what you would pay for a 64GB SSD. And the SSD doesn't come with 500GB of storage.