Solid State Drives
Nowadays, there is another category of data storage devices that are slowly overtaking hard drives in the market. They have evolved from the volatile (chip-based) memory like RAM, but unlike them, they do not lose their data when unpowered. They have first been made in smaller capacities, making them ideal for the development of USB memory sticks (USB keys) and flash cards (for cameras). Today however, they have evolved into full-fledged drives, that rival in size with standard hard drives. We this technology Solid-State Drives or SSD for short. These drives can be thought of as large arrays of USB keys, put together on an electronic board.
Pros and Cons of SSDs
Solid-State Drives (SSD) have many advantages over regular hard drives and very few caveats.
1. No Moving Parts
First of all, there are no moving parts on SSDs, unlike regular hard drives. Because moving parts are always first to break in computers, SSDs tend to be more reliable in that way. This also makes them less vulnerable to vibrations when being transported, which is very convenient for laptops. A little known fact about regular hard drives is that moving them quickly or dripping them while in operation is likely to cause a head crash, This is when the reading head crashes onto the data plate spinning at 7200 revolutions per minute, causing a complete destruction of the drive and it's data. Therefore SSD resolves similar movement-related problems known to hard drives.
2. Incredibly Faster Speed
SSDs are very fast... Like, very very fast. Because hard drives are limited to the maximum spinning speed and number of plates that can fit in the standard hard drive size, they have not improved a lot in terms of speed over the last few years. SSDs on the other hand, benefit from all the recent speed upgrades that USB keys and RAM can have. They have also advanced with new methods of connecting the motherboard to the drives (NVMe), that bypass the limitations of both USB3 and SATA3 connectors, traditionally used to connect drives.
How and Why Use an SSD?
For the moment, there isn't enough capacity to fit all of your media data on an SSD affordably, but it's getting there. However, their tremendous speeds make it undoubtedly the storage media of the future.
In today's computer world they are best used to put the operating system and programs, to greatly increase the speed of your system. In fact, an SSD is the single most perceptible speed improvement you can make on any computer, at the least cost.
To give you an idea, we had a laptop that booted windows 10 in about 5 minutes with a standard laptop hard drive (5400 RPM). When we moved the operating system to an SSD, we could no longer see the windows logo at all. It now booted instantly. The computer starts up BIOS checks and then jumps straight to the login screen, without any loading time. Furthermore, once we had logged on, the tray icons were all immediately loaded and the computer was ready to start an internet browser, promptly and responsively.
What to Look For in SSD
The usual form factor for SSD is 2.5 inches, similar to that of laptop hard drives. However, they usually come with an optional 3.5 adapter to make it fit in the usual 3.5 inches hard drive trays in ATX desktop towers. Depending on the type of computer case you have chosen, you may or may not need to use the adapter at all. An advantage of that is that desktop drives are now interchangeable with laptops drives and vice-versa
The most important part of a data-storage device its capacity. You should aim to find an SSD with a capacity between 500Gb and 1000Gb (2Tb), depending on your budget.
SSDs are much more expensive than traditional hard drives, so their capacity is much smaller comparatively. Do not expect to put all of your data on SSD, it would be too expensive, and unnecessary. You should only put the data you use frequently, such as your operating system and programs. This is where most of the speed improvements will be visible.
Memory Type (Generation)
The different types of volatile memories generations have different pros and cons. We recommend MLC or NAND 3D, because SLC is obsolete for today's available capacities, and the first generation TLC is more prone to data corruption.
- SLC (obsolete)
- TLC 1st Gen (not recommended)
- NAND 3D
The most important and noticeable aspect of a solid-state drive is it's speed. It's measured in megabytes per second (MB/s) or Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS). There are different types of measurments put forward by manufacturers:
- Read Rate
- Write Rate
- Random Read/Write
- Sequence Read/Write
We recommend an average read and write speeds of over 500Mb/s for all 4 types of operations. Make sure to check the technical specifications for this, as it is rarely advertised clearly in the name of the product, especially in cheaper drives (which are slower)
The SSD, like usual hard drives, usually connects directly through the motherboard through SATA connectors:
- SATA I (obsolete)
- SATA II (Last-Generation)
- SATA III (current generation, required for SSD)
- NVMe / M2 (Next-Generation)
However, there are now some newer devices called M2 SSD that connect into an NVMe card inserted directly a motherboard slot, like a video card. This allows for even better speeds and simultaneous device usage when requiring more data lanes than the CPU can offer on hard drives. This means the NVMe can communicate very quickly, regardless of the CPU and motherboard limitations on the number of simultaneous hard drives being used at the same time.
Here are the brands we recommend for your SSD. They are similar to our RAM recommendations because they are made from a similar type of chips.
- Samsung (Recommended)
You can expect to pay between 150$ and 350$ for a good capacity and fast solid-state drive (SSD) of decent capacity.
Samsung EVO 1Tb
Samsung EVO SSD, 2Tb
Pro / Extra
Samsung PRO SSD (faster), 1Tb
Go to the 'computer hardware' table of contents:
Guide on Finding the Optimal Computer Components
Tell us what you think, we welcome your comments! Did we miss something?
Join the Wombats
Opt-in our occasionnal newsletter to be the first to be informed of our new tutorials series, original content updates, special offers and important announcements! It’s free and spam-free, plus you can unsubscribe at any time.