Why upgrade to an SSD?

Want to know more about the two common data storage devices (SSD & HDD) and how do they compare to each other? We’ve covered more on how they work and compare in performance and made a practical test using your average ‘old-ish laptop’. If you are only interested in seeing the video, click on Continue reading, and scroll down!

A little while ago, to popularize Solid State Drives (SSDs), we did a giveaway on our Facebook page, just to realize, that a lot of people don’t really know what they are and what are the benefits of having one. When your work requires to know all the components of a computer, you sometimes tend to forget that most of the people do not need to know them. And, while a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) may sound a bit more familiar than an SSD, it can still sound just like random “geek talk” to some.  First, we are explaining what HDDs and SSDs are, then naming the advantages of latter, and finally, we will demonstrate them in a practical comparison video!

Storing your information. Hard Disk Drives.

Your computer needs to store all those files you have somewhere, right!? Since the 1960s mainstream computers have used Hard Disk Drives for this purpose. An HDD is an electromechanical data storage device. It stores and retrieves data using rapidly rotating disks (platters) with the help of a moving actuator arm with magnetic heads, reading and writing data to the platter surfaces. Imagine a turntable where the record spins at 7200 revolutions per minute (about a hundred times faster than a record on a record player) and the needle frantically jumps all around it’s surface.

To break the story short, all the data is stored on the surface of these platters. They are coated with a magnetic material and divided into billions of tiny areas that can be independently magnetized, so each of the area can carry a binary value of either 1 or 0 – one bit. Put some bits together – you have a byte! Go bigger and you’ll get your kilobytes, megabytes etc.

There are excellent resources out there that ExplainThatStuff and show all the parts in detail.

When it comes to your computer processing data, your HDD is the bottleneck. Information throughput speed is much, much lower on storage devices than other components of the computer. So, if we replace HDD with a zippier storage device, that will vastly improve the general usage experience of a computer.

SSD – Solid State Drives come in.

SSDs, as a storage option for consumer computers, became widely available only around 2009, that is why this name is still much less known. On the outside, SSDs look just like HDDs. They’re rectangular and covered in a brushed-metal shell. Inside, they are completely different. Solid State Storage uses semiconductor chips and stores and retrieves digital information using only electronic circuits. There are no moving parts here. Typically, they use NAND flash memory. Just like that USB pendrive you have, it contains billions of transistors – flash memory cells. Again, if you want an elaborate in-depth look in this, Ars Technica has a longer and technical read.

They are made to higher standards than USB drives though. More advanced memory controllers and faster types of connection to your computer, make them faster and more reliable than USB drives. Same goes when compared to HDDs.

There are more advantages over with Hard Disk Drives than just speed.

  • SSDs are more resistant to physical shock – HDDs are very likely to fail if dropped while operating whereas SSDs most likely will take no notice. We don’t recommend throwing them around though, as with any electronic device.
  • SSDs run silently because there are no moving parts. HDDs, in good health will be fairly quiet but not silent.
  • SSDs have quicker access time and virtually no start-up time, whereas HDDs need to spin up the platters before data can be read or written.
  • SSDs consume less power – they are greener and will count towards longer battery life on your laptop.
  • Finally, SSDs can operate at greater range of temperatures than HDDs. Although, again, we are not recommending you to take your laptop in the sauna with you.
Infographic of figures and statistics from both types of storage compared, courtesy of Sandisk

Our practical comparison.

Still not impressed? Here’s a little side-by-side comparison of Windows startup time on 8 year old Acer Aspire 5741G that we were doing a HDD swap-out for a client here in Christchurch.

The only real disadvantage they still have against HDDs, is that they are still more expensive. While large volume >500GB SSDs remain relatively expensive compared to same capacity HDDs, the price difference for lower capacity is less significant. Servicing our clients’ laptops we have found out that the average user doesn’t really use all of the storage if they have a large HDD anyway. In addition, some laptops and all desktops allow to keep the HDD as an additional storage space anyway. We move the operating system over to the SSD, making the computer faster. If the hard disk drive is not faulty, it can be transformed into an internal or external backup storage option.

The price difference is only temporary too because technologies are evolving all the time, and manufacturers find ways how to produce SSDs more efficiently, reducing the price gap per unit of storage.

That is the story of SSD drives and the reason we want to popularize them and did our giveaway. If you found this post useful and informative, feel free share it! If you want to get your computer or laptop upgraded to an SSD contact us! Let us know what you think in the comments!

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