By SHANON ROGERS
Buckeye Tech Solutions
Have you ever felt like your computer is running really slow, even when it’s brand new? Two of the best things you can do to help give it the performance boost that you’re looking for are to clean out all of the pre-installed “bloatware” and replacing the traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with a Solid State Drive, or SSD for short. This article is going to focus on the later. SSD’s almost always outperform HDD’s in speed and energy consumption but come with the downside of less storage space per dollar.
So what exactly is an SSD? An SSD is a newer style of drive that is replacing HDD’s, which are the devices in a PC or Apple laptop or desktop computer that store all your files and data, including the operating system installation. This is sometimes erroneously confused with memory, such as, “I think my memory is filled up with pictures,” but memory serves a much different function than the SSD or HDD. Traditional HDD’s store data by spinning a metal platter(s) to store bits of magnetic data, with speeds including 5400, 7200, or faster RPM’s. This method is starting to show its limitations and is actually similar to the method used by the old 5¼” floppy disks, except more advanced. SSD’s store data on a small silicon wafer, very similar to the way a small USB/thumb drive stores information. Because there are no moving parts, the data read and write speeds are much faster with SSD’s, and the energy savings are very apparent in the boost to your laptop’s overall battery life.
A brief note, SSD’s come in two connection types, SATA and M.2. SATA is the most common and has been around for 15 years. M.2 is the newest type of connector and has a theoretical speed increase of 6.5x over SATA.
SSD’s are much faster than HDD’s, but exactly how much faster are they? There is no one answer to this question due to the various manufacturers, models and speeds out there, but here is a quick, real-life anecdote to demonstrate. We once had two identical Apple laptops in the shop with the same processor, operating system and RAM, with the only difference being that one had a traditional HDD and one had an SSD upgrade. The total boot time of the laptop with the HDD was 40 seconds, while the boot time of the laptop with an SSD was 10 seconds. It is not uncommon for a new machine with an M.2 style SSD to have complete Windows 10 reboot times around 5 seconds, which is pretty amazing. This article is being written on a 5-year-old computer with an SSD upgrade, and Microsoft Word 2016 launches and opens the document in less than a second. This speed boost leads to less frustration due to wait times, increased efficiency for employees at work and a more enjoyable computer experience overall. Without fail, every single person that we have has seen upgrade their machine with an SSD has recognized a drastic increase in speed.
Whether you buy a new computer with a Solid State Drive or upgrade to one, the speed advantage will definitely be apparent, but what about the down-side of cost? Western Digital brand (chosen at random) 500GB and 1,000GB HDD’s are $40 and $50 respectively on Amazon. The same drives in SSD form are $110 and $230 respectively, so that is quite a cost increase. Changing drive size and manufacturer could run the cost of an SSD up or down some, but most people will also need to factor in installation if they are upgrading an existing machine, and that will increase the cost a bit more. So, is the speed increase worth the monetary cost? The short answer is that it depends. If you are only browsing Facebook or checking email, then you will likely not want to shell out the extra cash for an SSD. However, if you want to buy a future-proofed, long-term machine, or if it’s a business machine that you are going to spend many hours on per day doing work, then the answer should be yes. In this author’s humble opinion, there is no better computer performance boost per dollar than getting a machine with or upgrading to a Solid State Drive.
The last point to touch upon is reliability. The first thing that should be said is that no drive is 100 percent guaranteed against some level of failure, so it is always important to have the proper backup systems in place. That being said, when SSD’s were first released, they were not quite as reliable as the tried and true HDD’s. However, over time, as is generally the case with any new technology, the reliability and performance have both increased dramatically to the point that reliability should not really be a primary concern when deciding whether to get an SSD. Hard drive manufacturers, much like car manufacturers, offer a whole line-up of models, from the economy models at the bottom, to the enterprise models at the top, and the same is absolutely true of SSD’s. So, if reliability is a primary concern, then make sure you choose an enterprise model over a no-name brand budget model drive.
Shanon I. Rogers is owner of Buckeye Tech Solutions, 304 Madison St., Suite C, Port Clinton, or online at buckeye.tech. For information, call 419-732-TECH (8324).