Is it Time to Upgrade to a Solid State Drive?

SSD vs HDD: Should I buy a Solid State Drive (SSD)?

Solid State Drives (SSDs) have been threatening to take over from Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) for a while. Although that threat is yet to be realized, there can be no doubting that SSDs represent a great leap in computer storage technologies. This article answers the SSD vs HDD conundrum. Should you upgrade to an SSD and throw out that clunky but reliable Hard Drive that you have been using for so long?

About Computer Storage

Before talking about Solid State Drives, it is important for us to first discuss Hard Disk Drives, which, after all are still the primary form of storage that is used by billions of computers across the globe.

  1. Hard Drives

  • Hard Disk Drives have been around since 1956. They were invented by Reynold Johnson, an employee at IBM. The first Hard Drive could hold around 5 MBs of data, and used 50, 24 inch platters.
  • The technology has come a long way since, with modern day Hard Drives reaching a staggering 8 terabytes in capacity.  
  • Hard Drives use magnetism to store data on platters that are coated with magnetic material. The platters spin at incredible speeds.
  • The one that is on my computer spins at 7 200 rpm. The other common speed for HDD is 5400 rpm. Hard Drives have magnetic arms, which move over the platters, while reading and writing data.

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Disadvantage of Hard Disk Drives

All the major disadvantages of Hard Disk Drives stem from the fact that they are made from moving parts;

  • Power consumption: A major shortfall stems from the fact that, relatively speaking, HDDs consume more power (than SSDs).
  • Noise: Because of the fact that they are, as mentioned above, made from moving parts, Hard Drives tend to be a little noisy.

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  1. Solid State Drives

Solid State Drives are a kind of data storage device that is made from NAND Flash Memory. Flash Drives are the most common form of this type storage. If you have had any experience with computers, you will have come across Flash Drives.

  • Otherwise referred to as Memory Sticks, they have, over the years, become the primary means by which people move data from one computer to the other. 
  • Flash Memory is made up of millions, or even billions of tiny floating gate transistors. These can be thought of as being gates or switches. Electricity is used to turn floating gate transistors on and off. However, unlike normal transistors, which lose their charge and revert to being off when power is switched off, floating gate transistors retain their charge (memory). This is what gives flash memory its non volatility.

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Advantages of Flash Memory

The SSD vs HDD debate is really centered around the following Solid State Drive advantages;

  • Low power consumption: The first major advantage of Flash Memory is that it uses less power when compared to traditional Hard Disk Drives. That is largely due to the fact that there are no moving parts on Flash Memory. (They do not have the platters that, as we have already explained, are used to make HDDs).
  • Virtually no noise: Another advantage of Flash Memory is that it produces virtually no sound, unlike Hard Disk Drives. (You can hear some of these, on old computers, frighteningly grinding along.)
  • Flash Memory is Fast: Where Solid State Drives win the SSD vs HDD debate is in terms of speed.  Solid State Drives have, over the years, gained a steady stream of enthusiasts as a result. When compared to Hard Drives, SSDs are extremely fast, which largely eliminates boot times. If you have gotten used to brewing a cup of coffee while waiting for your computer to boot up, you will be astonished at the speed with which your PC turns on with a Solid State Drive.

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SSD vs HDD: Disadvantages of SSDs

Its not all rosy for Solid State Drives (SSDs) in the SSD vs HDD battle. Solid State Drives do come with a couple of disadvantages;

  • SSD have a finite number of write cycles: The one major disadvantage of SSDs is that data can only be written on them a particular number of times, after which performance gradually begins to degrade.
  • Solid State Drives are more expensive: SSDs are still more expensive, when compared to Hard Disk Drives, although their prices have, over the past few years, been coming down.

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Should you upgrade to a Solid State Drive?

  • This is the question that, ultimately, drives the SSD vs HDD debate. SSDs used to be beyond the reach of the majority of people. Most of us only learnt about the wonders of the technology from sometimes overbearing enthusiasts. A few years ago, size was another of the major things that was holding back SSD technology.
  • That is, apparently, no longer the case today. Solid State Drives have already surpassed Hard Drives in terms of storage capacity.
  • In 2015, there were reports that Samsung had produced a 16 terabytes SSD, which was then the world’s largest storage device.
  • Glory in the world of technology is, however, rather fickle. Before Samsung had even had a full year in which to gloat over its achievement, Seagate announced that it had produced a 60TB SSD.

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I Recommend Moving to SSDs

If you are interested in an upgrade that will immediately boost your computer’s performance, then the SSD vs HDD question is a no-brainer. This is an upgrade that will speed up your PC in a way that no other upgrade will be able to.  To find out what’s compatible with your system, head over to Crucial, and use their system scanning tool to get a look into the options that are available to you.

A Crucial look at my laptop
Available SSD options for my system

Conclusion

As you can see in the above screenshot, available SSD options for my laptop start at $89.99 for the 275 GB drive, and go up to $549 for an SSD that has 2 terabytes in storage capacity. It is clear that getting an SSD largely depends on how badly you need and want one, and on the size of your pocket. For people like me who have never filled their Hard Drives (I have a 282 GB HDD on my laptop), getting one of the least priced offerings is definitely an option that is worth considering.

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