Should You Upgrade to a Solid State Drive - SSD?

What are Solid State Drives?

SSD's are a natural progression that I believe started with USB memory sticks. USB keys have certainly changed the way data is shared between people. There's a lot less burning of CD and DVD's these days and a lot more USB keys being shared about. This popularity probably gave way to the idea that by repackaging the memory, lifting its speed, reliability and capacity and putting the result into a hard drive form factor that gave way to the birth of the SSD.

How do hard drives differ from SSD's?

While mechanical HDD's are in no danger of being made obsolete by SSD's, they are complementary technologies that work very well together. SSD's with no moving parts offer almost instantaneous access to data and in a best-case scenario for a fast large capacity HDD i.e. sequential transfer rates, the current generation SSD's offer 3 to 4 times greater speed. When we move to worst-case scenario for the hard drive i.e. random reads SSD's are in a different league altogether. For this reason, mass storage is best handled by traditional hard drives while frequently accessed programs, data, scratch pads, swap files and the operating systems all benefit greatly from residing on an SSD drive.

How much do SSD's cost?

Like all new technology, early adopters pay the price of new technology. While current costs per Gigabyte for SSD's approach $2 per GB, traditional drives are approaching $0.05 per GB. With a 40X cost advantage for mechanical HDD's, let me explain how SSD's are best used.

What do you do with an SSD?

Disk intensive tasks like loading programs and operating systems are where SSD's truly shine. Media storage of video files, music and documents can be stored on a traditional hard drive as they are usually accessed sequentially - one file at a time. When balancing storage cost with performance the best value for money is found by placing the operating system, programs, databases, and frequently accessed data primarily on the SSD and less frequently accessed media on a hard drive.

What to expect when upgrading to an SSD?

If you're used to waiting a minute to load Windows, then an SSD may be of value to you. The SSD's specialty lies with accessing multiple files at once. When a mechanical hard drive is requested to access multiple files at once, it has to physically relocate the heads over the platter to the track where the data is stored. The process of repositioning the heads many times for different files takes time and this latency combined with the slower read speeds makes a very noticeable difference compared to an SSD. Upgrading to a solid state drive makes the overall system feel more responsive when compared to a mechanical hard drive. Loading large applications like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Outlook or games can take quite a long time while the program being loaded calls in their dynamic link libraries and associated application files etc. SSD's shave seconds off the loading process leading to an overall more responsive feel to the system.

How to you upgrade your hard drive?

The process of upgrading to an SSD involves backing up you current system, shifting media files off the main partition, installing the new SSD, cloning the main partition containing the operating system and program files over to the SSD, re-organizing the boot order and copying non-SSD files over to the old hard drive.

What's the best SSD for my system?

When searching for any upgrades to your system, please consult an IT technician that will evaluate your current system and advise you of the best upgrade investment that will take into account your current hardware, future use and budget.