Find out why everyone is crazy about Solid State Drives these days!
You probably have thought “What is an SSD” in the past, right? Since you landed on this post, we assume you are interested to find out answers to your questions about Solid State Drives, such as:
- What is an SSD?
- Which are the differences of SSD and traditional Hard Disk Drive?
- What are the advantages of an SSD compared to a traditional hard drive?
- What should I know before I invest in an SSD?
Luckily for you, we have all the answers! But let’s first start with a small introduction to computer upgrades.
Why do people upgrade their computers?
A computer upgrade is one of those things that all computer owners will end up doing at one point.
Some computer users will probably decide to ditch their previous system and replace it with a totally new PC when their requirements grow; however, the vast majority of users will decide to perform a partial system upgrade instead. That means that instead of buying a new PC, they would upgrade the important components of it first. That would help increase its lifespan at a lower cost.
A CPU upgrade will result in higher speeds when running games, conversion projects as well as running any software which needs processing power. A RAM addition will aid in multitasking, while a modern graphics card will affect the performance on high-end video games.
The most substantial and cost effective partial upgrade a typical user can do is replace their traditional HDD (hard disk drive) with an SSD (solid state drive). Essentially, a faster storage drive means faster boot-up of the operating system, lower seek times, faster read and writes. In short, an SSD will affect the whole user experience of a computer system in an amazing way; running typical office software or designing software such as Photoshop, videogames as well as typical everyday internet browsing will happen fast and smoothly like they never did. One inexpensive upgrade, and the system seems so vastly improved that everyone should do it!
What is an SSD and why do people choose it nowadays?
It might be easier to describe when we compare it with traditional HDD. A typical SATA hard drive uses electromechanical forces for data storage; they contain actual discs that spin on extremely high speeds. They write data on a magnetic coating designed to preserve the data. The forces of electromagnetism are involved, but we do not have to reach that deep in the way they operate. What is important is that HDDs have moving parts and have been very popular for decades; important factors were their reliability and ease of use. Hard drives were the absolute kings of storage before SSDs showed up.
Until SSDs emerged, HDDs was actually the only way to go. They were not insanely fast, but they were fast enough for anything typical users would do.
In an SSD, the method used to save and store the data is a flash memory, much like what a typical USB flash drive implements. The technology has existed for long, as you realize, but it had not blossomed enough. It could not provide good speeds and the products were too expensive at high capacities. In a way, high capacity drives still are expensive.
So how do SSDs store data?
Instead of writing data on a disc in a physical surface, flash memory uses NAND-style electronic chips. In them, semiconductors switch in different states of electric charge and store code, thus data. Only the electrical pattern moves, that is why it is called a solid state drive.
Most new computers nowadays (excluding the extreme low budget options) come with an SSD installed. That surely must mean that they are way better than traditional drives, right?
Well – yes and no. SSDs cannot yet boast large capacities at an affordable price, so in most scenarios a computer brand would add another hard drive of the traditional HDD type in the mix.
Why still use an HDD when one could have only SSDs?
Let’s take into consideration a typical computer user. He likes surfing the net, listening to music, watching movies, and playing video games. But he rarely does all of them in the same time. Most often, an SSD of a standard capacity (say 250GB) will house the operating system and the programs and games installations of that user. As a result, those software, when ran, will take serious advantage of the higher speeds of the SSD.
Our example user will then keep their back-ups and other data, such as his music and movies collection in an HDD. Those have very large capacity and are cheap. Listening to music or watching a movie from the HDD will work all OK; no-one needs an SSD for data storage.
As our example scenario indicates, both types of data storage drives are nowadays essential in every computer system.
Advantages of an SSD over HDD
So far we have answered the questions “What is an SSD” and “What are the differences between SSD and HDD”. It is time we actually showcase why SSDs have emerged and what kind of boost they can offer.
- No moving parts – SSDs do not feature any moving parts at all. Manufacturers nowadays try to limit the use of moving parts such as rotation devices and motors, because they tend to fail, sometimes unexpectedly. Even mechanical shock such as a drop from a low height can result in an HDD damage. SSDs on the other hand do have lifespan too, they will not last forever. However, they are slightly more reliable and durable, even on the previously mentioned mechanical shock scenario.
- Faster speeds – a traditional hard drive uses a needle to write and read data – put simply, that needle will have to keep moving to reach parts of the disc surface. It is obvious that high speeds cannot be achieved when such mechanical movement is needed. With an SSD, you get insanely higher read and write speeds, because this is just how electricity works. And there are way more benefits when it comes to their actual operation.
- Low damage rates – even if early SSDs malfunctioned rather soon, the technology has evolved in materials and protocols used and nowadays SSDs are more reliable than HDDs.
- Design, size and mobility – SSDs come in many different types, shapes and designs. Important factors are the amount of chips they contain and the arrangement of them. As a result, they are more versatile. Moreover, they offer higher mobility because they can be smaller and weight way less than HDDs. That makes them ideal choices for ultra-portable laptops.
- Their lifespan – we previously mentioned that an SSD will not be immortal. However, the way the manufacturers produce SSDs nowadays is advanced and the materials used are of utmost quality. So, researchers indicate that one could expect decades of proper operation from an SSD even on everyday usage. In computer terms, decades MEANS immortality!
- Many different types of connections – SSDs come in different connectors. Some of them are SATA, PCIe, M.2, U.2, mSATA, SATA Express and, last but not least, none at all – some SSDs are simply already soldered on the motherboard and are not user replaceable. The sheer amount of options allows for compatibility with older computers, at which situation a SATA connection would have to be used.
What are the different kinds of SSDs in the market today?
Since we talked about the different connectors, let’s analyze them a little further.
SATA III – the final evolution of SATA, an older connection option that has been dominant for years and can be used for both SSD and HDD. The SATA protocol has been useful during the transition from a moving parts storage to a flash memory storage, but now shows its age – a maximum bandwidth of about 600 MB/sec on the connection itself means that a SATA III SSD will not be the fastest option available.
PCIe – A PCI Express is a connection option in motherboards that allows installation of add-on cards. The devices connected can take advantage of high speeds, with SSDs using it offering around 1GB/sec speed.
NVMe – this is a new controller designed to replace AHCI, the controller that was the connection interface for SATA drives and the computer they connected to. The AHCI controller was never intended for SSD operation, and that is why NVMe was designed, with SSDs particularly in mind. It promises lower latency and higher efficiency, and that comes with a price tag. A PCIe VNMe SSD will be the fastest and most expensive option a user has since cutting edge technology costs. Moreover, with an NVMe SSD the user has to make sure that their motherboard can boot from this drive, since older motherboards might lack this feature; furthermore, it is important that the computer has the exact type of M.2 connector needed for the drive.
By now you know what an SSD is, what advantages it offers when compared to HDD and what types of SSD exist in the market. The final decision if you need to upgrade to it is up to you. What should you take into account?
An SSD is an essential addition to any computer system that seems to struggle to manage adequate transfer speeds and has started showing its age. It is also a necessary equipment on any new desktop or laptop computer, since it is the data storage type of the future.
Nevertheless, as with all things in life, the option chosen has to match the user case scenario. An SSD will help in video games, file transfer and Windows boot times, but it surely will not help load Facebook faster. If all the computer user does everyday is update his social media profiles – the SSD is boosting his system, but the user most probably will never notice!
That being said, with prices dropping as months pass by, there will be a point when every single computer user should be switching to SSDs for their storage needs.
More interesting reads:
- The Top Affordable SSDs for 2019 – excellent choices for tight budgets.
- How To Fix Problems With Slow Transfer Speeds Of Files.
- The Top USB 3.0 Flash Drives for 2019 – get a brand new, modern flash drive!