By Joe Callison
23 November, 2016
Solid State Drives, or SSD as they are known, are becoming more common as the capacities have grown and the prices dropped to levels that most consumers can now justify for their new computers or as replacements to aging mechanical hard drives in their existing computers. Now is a good time to get up to speed with this rapidly changing technology.
A solid state drive has no moving parts. It has a type of flash memory chip that retains data without the need for electrical power, similar to a USB flash drive, but is typically much faster and more reliable. It is also typically much more expensive! A 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive is currently about $30. The same capacity SSD is about $80. By comparison, 1TB (1000GB) mechanical hard drives are now around $45. A 1TB SSD is a whopping $250 or more, but about half what it was just a year ago!
So why would you want an SSD as your main storage drive? There are several benefits, actually.
Speed: A typical SSD with the same SATA interface as a hard drive can have read/write speeds exceeding 500Mbs. A typical hard drive read/write speed is 50 to 120Mbs. The difference is really evident in the 3 to 4 times faster boot up and almost instantaneous shutdown time of a computer with SSD compared to a hard drive. File opening speeds are typically 30% faster than a hard drive. SSDs with even much faster interface designs are available for new motherboard designs being furnished in new computers.
Noise/Vibration: None for the SSD.
Power Consumption/Heat Produced: About half as much for the SSD, which can really make a difference in the battery life of portable computers.
Reliability: As good as or better than a hard drive. Typically 6 years of life.
Mechanical Shock: Not an issue for SSD, but a major risk for a portable computer hard drive.
My recommendation? By all means I would consider an SSD as the main drive for the operating system and programs in a new computer. A 250GB SSD can be had for about $120 as a direct substitute for a hard drive, and even less for other types installed directly on the motherboard. This should be an adequate size for a lot of users without spending a lot of money. You can always add a 1TB hard drive for additional storage if needed for user files (such as documents, photos, music or videos) internally for a desktop computer or externally for a portable computer for just a few dollars more. If you have an existing computer with a 250GB or smaller hard drive, it is relatively inexpensive and just as easy to clone the installation to a new 250GB SSD as it is to clone it to a new hard drive, with the same option of adding a larger hard drive for additional storage if needed or desired.