Remember those old “classic” cars? They didn’t do much more than you needed. They had an engine, wheels, seats and a way to stop and steer. Fortunately, they managed to get you to and from work, the shops, family and friends. But, I mean, that’s all they did. For a long time, we could see computers the same way, or more specifically, the hard drive. They’re not amazingly fast or impressive but they get the job done. Now, a new piece of technology is becoming increasingly common, Solid State Drives (SSD).
What is an SSD?
An SSD serves the exact same purpose as a HDD – to store data. The main difference between the two is a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) has a disk inside which spins at high speeds and a small arm moves over it to read and write data. In comparison, a SSD is pure flash based storage (the same stuff that’s in your phone or USB Flash Drives) and consequently has no moving parts. As there’s no moving parts there’s no speed limit caused by how fast things can move. This has the result of greatly improved speeds. Considering a hard drive could manage around 100 Megabytes per second of reads or writes a Solid-State Drive can manage around 500.
Advantages and disadvantages of an SSD
Solid state technology bears several advantages and disadvantages over traditional hard disk drives, here’s some key points.
- Much lower power consumption
- No noise
- No moving parts
- Lower amount of heat generated
- Much faster reads and writes
- Greatly decreased access time
- Smaller (than a desktop hard drive)
- Lighter – to the point you wonder if it’s an empty case
- They don’t need defragmenting (in fact you usually can’t anyway)
- Cost – Solid state storage has a higher cost per gigabyte than traditional hard drives.
- Reliability – I include this because SSD’s have a limited number of writes but it has been proven that SSD’s can easily last a decade or more under standard use. Hard drives that last this long are a rare exception.
- Capacity – More of an issue when first released but you’d be looking at around £280-290 for a 1TB SSD as opposed to a 1 TB HDD for around £35-50.
How do I get one?
Buying an SSD is something any of us can do, although few shops sell them they’re readily available online from places such as Amazon. The tricky part comes when you come to installing it, it requires some disassembly of your laptop or desktop then cloning the old drive onto it. Although potentially manageable if you’re IT savvy I’d highly recommend getting an expert’s help to avoid potential issues and to setup the software. The software isn’t required but fine tuning your OS is highly recommended in order to achieve the best speeds possible.
I’ve been using SSD’s since early 2014 and have them in all my computers. The difference they make to start up times alone is unbelievable (around 4 seconds for my laptop to start). Applications also run incredibly quickly which is the case for just about everything. You’re still limited by the other components. If you consider what can be upgraded an SSD is usually the only part that can be and will likely make the biggest difference.
I personally recommend the Samsung 850 EVO for it’s good price, great performance and reliability. If my opinion isn’t enough then it’s also the best seller in Solid State Drives on Amazon at the time or writing.