Steve Flannery

Steve Flannery

A Simple Reason Why You Need To Upgrade

Competition brings out the best in the development of better drives for computers, and one way it really shows is the advancements made in Solid State Drives (SSDs). In past articles, we’ve talked about Hard Disk Drives and how they are the most common storage medium for desktop and laptops today.

However, a strong contender for that spot has been lurking in the shadows and gaining popularity in recent years, Solid State Drives. SSDs are not entirely new technology since the first examples have been around since the late 70s and early 80s.

Unfortunately, they were incredibly cost-prohibitive to manufacture, and as such were only used in critical applications. It wasn’t until roughly 2009 when it started to become much more affordable and took off in the regular consumer market.

Solid State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives – Their Composition

solid state drive
SSD vs HDD – Their Components

Hard disk drives make use of metal platters to store data. An electromagnetic head will write single zeros and ones as the metal platters are spun at very high speeds (upwards of 7,200 RPMS). On the other hand, SSDs are made up of flash memory using electronic logic gates that are made up of transistors.

Due to their composition, a solid-state drive provides many improvements over the more traditional hard disk drives, like reading speeds, startup times, and power consumption. But they aren’t perfect. There are a few disadvantages that we will discuss in a minute.

Should I Upgrade?

SSD vs HDD – Faster Startup Times

You may ask, “For the average consumer, would we recommend upgrading to an SSD?” Absolutely! Even the average consumer will be able to perceive the increased performance that comes after upgrading to a solid-state drive from an older hard disk drive.

Faster Startup Times

Improved startup times will be the first thing that you will notice when upgrading to an SSD. Due to the architecture of flash memory, almost any PC will benefit immensely when an operating system is loaded from an SSD. You can expect loading times to be about 15 seconds on average.

Compare that to the loading speed time of your old disk drive. Another great benefit of SSDs is the improved read speeds thanks to flash memory. Typical hard disk drives will have average read speeds of around 128 MB per second, while a solid-state drive will average read speeds of 500 MB per second.

Check it out. Any program that used to take a while to open, or any software with loading bars, such as games, will boot up dramatically faster. The benefits of SSDs don’t end there; the next significant benefit is faster write speeds.

Faster Writing Speeds

A typical hard disk drive will generally have write speeds of around 120 MB, while the new SSDs will have average write speeds of about 300-400 MB.

Higher write speeds provide several advantages; for example, they will allow you to copy or transfer files faster, or if you work with music or video production, you will save time and your efficiency will increase.

Another way to say it is, you will be able to create larger files in less amount of time; or if you work with design software, such as CAD, then you will be able to save your data much more quickly.

Better IOPS

Another benefit that a solid-state drive provides to the average consumer is their higher Input/output Operations Per Second (IOPS). These can be 3-4 times higher. The advantage of higher IOPS speeds is that the computer will feel more responsive, clicks will respond faster, and menus will pop up and close more quickly.

Additional Benefits

SSD vs HDD – Benefits

SSDs have many more benefits, although some might not be too important for the average consumer. They include lower power draw (save on electricity), no moving parts (more resistant to shock such as drops), completely silent, and weigh far less than traditional hard drive disks.

A solid-state drive have higher storage density per area, thus smaller physical drives that can store more information. And finally, they are more reliable than hard disk drives.

SSD vs HDD – Price War

Due to the newer technology, a solid-state drive is also much more expensive in a dollar-to-GB ratio. Today you would be able to find a 2TB hard disk drive for about $50, but a similar 2TB SSD would run you more than $200. Quite a difference.

But don’t worry. The price of HDDs is bottoming out while at the same time SSDs are expected to decrease in price year after year with predictions showing that SSDs will equal HDD prices sometime in the next 5-10 years.

SSD vs HDD – Storage Retention

Another minor drawback of SSDs is that their storage retention is not as long-lasting as most hard disk drives. This means that if left disconnected from a computer and without power, a hard disk drive can better retain the data inside it.

However, if you power on your SSD once a year, it will typically keep its data, and you won’t have any problems with data retention.

Also, one thing to note is that SSDs are somewhat sensitive to sudden power cutoffs. Due to the way that SSDs write, read and manage the data inside it, a power outage may cause it to lose track of its previous location, possibly giving you erroneous messages or even complete loss of the drive.

However, just because they are sensitive to power interruptions does not mean that they will break down the first time the lights go off in your home. The best practice is to always turn off your computer correctly whenever you’re done using it.

One last thing that should be talked about is the endurance of a solid-state drive compared to a hard disk drive. Generally speaking, a hard disk drive platter does not deteriorate at all when data is written onto it. In fact, other components will fail years before the hard drive platter stops being able to store data.

A solid-state drive is different. The cells that store data do deteriorate, not with time but with each data write. Here’s why.

SSD Like a Large Excel File

Think of an SSD as a kind of large excel file, and a cell of that excel file is like a battery cell of the SSD. Each battery cell of the SSD can hold a single (1) bit, although new technologies have come out in which cells can hold 2, 3, or even 4 bits.

Every time that the solid-state drive writes or erases from a cell that battery deteriorates a tiny bit. If the SSD was to reuse the same blocks of cells too many times, then those blocks would deteriorate to the point where they could not store any more data, and hence the overall storage capacity of the SSD would begin to decrease.

To counteract that outcome, the controller inside the SSD will strategically write bits so that all the cells deteriorate at the same rate.

While this sounds scary, it really shouldn’t be since even most bottom of the line SSDs are capable of writing several hundred times their capacity before they break down.

The only people who should be wary are the people who design servers or artists who produce video or music files that use hundreds of gigabytes every single day.

In their case, they should choose Enterprise SSDs, which have much higher endurance ratings.

Moving on, the next important thing when considering an upgrade is to figure out what kind of hard drive your device is compatible with.

SSD vs HDD – Laptop and Desktop Upgrades

If you are planning on upgrading your hard drive on a desktop, you can use any SSD that you might find in a store. Just make sure that your motherboard supports SATA connections. SATA stands for Serial AT Attachments. Practically all motherboards from the past 20 years will have SATA connections.

If you are planning on upgrading for a laptop or tablet device, however, you might have to do a little more research. Depending on the size and form factor of your device, it might only accommodate a particular SSD form factor.

When dealing with tiny laptops (around 12-inch screen size or smaller) or thin laptops, the device might have a BGA (Ball Grid Array) style hard drive that is not upgradeable whatsoever. It comes from the factory that way and can not be changed.

If you go up to a larger laptop or a form factor tablet, then that device might have what is called an mSATA mini or mSATA hard drive. Generally, these types of form factors come with a minimal storage capacity from the factory, and as such, an upgrade in storage size might be desired.

For even larger laptops, you will probably encounter the ever famous 2.5in hard drive bay. This 2.5in drive is by far the most common in the world of notebooks, and usually slow hard disk drives populate them. However, these are the most comfortable laptops to upgrade because the 2.5in SSD form factor is the most prevalent kind and a direct drop-in replacement.

Now with laptops and tablets, you generally have only one hard drive slot available, so you might want to upgrade to a large SSD. However when dealing with desktops, you generally have at least 4 SATA slots, which means more freedom.

In such a case, you could select a relatively small SSD to store your operating system on for fast boot-up times and excellent responsiveness, and then you might choose a second larger (and cheaper) hard disk drive to store items that are not speed-critical, such as pictures or videos.

Flash Memory

SSD vs HDD -Flash Memory

There is one final thing to consider when you are making an upgrade to an SSD, and that is the type of flash memory that they contain. We mentioned above that the cells that makeup flash memory in an SSD could hold anywhere from 1 to 4 bits.

If each cell holds 1 bit, then it is Single-Level Cell (SLC) flash memory, Multi-Level Cell (MLC) at 2 bits per cell, Triple Level Cell (TLC) at 3 bits per cell, and finally Quad Level Cell (QLC) at 4 bits per cell.

In a nutshell, the fewer bits that a single cell carries, the higher the speed, endurance, and price of that SSD.

SLC memory is the fastest and most durable, often sporting five-year warranties. However, it is extremely expensive and, as such, generally reserved for enterprise (heavy application) use. TLC and QLC are the slower two of the bunch, although still dozens of times faster than a hard disk drive, and they have less endurance than SLC and MLC but also come at a much lower price.

For the average consumer, we normally recommend TLC and QLC solid-state drives. On the other hand, if you are the type of consumer that writes huge files every day (video or audio producing), then it might be worth it to spend the extra cash for a nice MLC, or even SLC, solid-state drive.

Then again, there also exist TLC and QLC solid-state drives containing a small amount of SLC cache that makes them perform like an SLC drive as long as you don’t overburden the total amount of cache.

Conclusion

So everything about SSDs sounds good, and you are ready to ditch your old hard disk drive and upgrade. Where exactly do you go from here?

Well, you can let the experts at Steve’s Computer Repair take care of that for you. We have services that include SSD upgrade, data migration to SSDs, as well as Operating System reloads on new SSDs. We use quality brands and can upgrade to whatever storage size SSD you wish.

Do you have any topics or questions that you would like answered and talked about? Let us know.

Until next time, have a good day!

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