Why you need a Solid State Drive (SSD) right now

Solid State drives are a hot topic right now, and rightfully so.  Your hard drive is the part of your computer that stores your programs and data.  Traditionally, a hard disk drive (HDD) is measured in Gigabytes and has a number of metal platters that spin at 5400-7200 RPMs.  Server hard drives spin up to 15,000 RPMs.  Think of a vinyl record, but on a much smaller, more advanced scale.

Open Hard Drive
Here, you can see the platter and the read head. The read head adjust remarkably fast, and is a sight to see if you ever get the chance.

Hard drive capacities are up to 4TB (4,000 GB) in a single hard disk.  They are huge and cheap.  The problem with traditional hard drives is that they have moving parts and are very slow.  If you picture a vinyl record and you want to pull up a specific song, you have to move the needle and wait for the beginning of the song to cross where the needle is.  Similarly, when you open a file (or any of the plethora of system processes access a file), your hard disk has to spin and align the head to the specific part of the drive that holds that data (this is why disk fragmentation causes your computer to slow down, but that’s for another post).  This process happens very rapidly (remember, the drive is spinning at over 7,000 RPMs), but in computer terms, it’s very slow.

Now, enter the Solid State Drive.  There are no moving parts, and instead of heads and a spinning platter, flash memory chips are accessed via electronic signals handled by a fast processor.  Instead of physically finding data on a round, spinning disk, the controller sends the signal directly to the chip.  If your drive is fragmented, it doesn’t matter, since it takes no more time to wait for the right section of the disk to come around to the read head.

Flash Memory Chips
This is what flash memory chips (NAND) look like. Inside an SSD, they are attached to a printed circuit board, along with some amount of RAM and a processor, called a controller.

In real world terms, an SSD increases performance on your computer noticeably.  Wait a minute, that’s too tame an adjective.  An SSD will make your computer SCREAM.  It is an upgrade that will make your computer feel new again.  SSDs are so fast these days, that Windows can boot in seconds (as few as 10 seconds or so, depending on the rest of your configuration).  Not too long ago, I replaced the hard drives in about 20 computers for a business with SSDs, threw in a RAM upgrade while we were at it, and the computers felt brand new.  Programs opened faster, Outlook was a ton more responsive (searching Outlook was actually fast enough to use in real life), boot times were way better, and everyone was happy.

Samsung 840 Pro SSD
This is Samsung’s 840 Pro (released Q4 2012). Rated at over 500MB read and 450MB Write, it’s one of the fastest prosumer SSDs released to date.

My favorite SSD is the Samsung 830.  They just released the new 840 Pro, which has about double the random write IOPS (in/out per second) over its predecessor.  It supports SATA III (a throughput capacity of 6Gbps, or about 750MBps), a read/write speed of over 500MBps, and prices that just keep falling.  A 256GB Samsung 830 costs less than $1/GB (between $180-200 online) and will erase any frustration you have with your slow computer.

Contact us today for more information on how an SSD can improve your life.