Let’s now dive into the ssd vs hdd war. We’ve talked about hard disk drives in the past and how they are the most common storage medium for desktop and laptops to this day. However, a strong contender for that spot has been lurking in the shadows and has been 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; however, 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.
SSD vs HDD – Their composition
Hard disk drives like we’ve mentioned previously make use of metal platters to store data. An electromagnetic head will write the single zeros and ones as the metal platters are spun at very high speeds (upwards of 7,200 RPMS). SSDs, on the other hand, is made up of flash memory, which is built using electronic logic gates (which they are made up of transistors).
Due to their composition, they provide many improvements over the more traditional hard disk drives such as read speeds, startup times, and power consumption, as well as some disadvantages such as higher prices.
SSD vs HDD – Should I Upgrade?
For the average consumer, would we recommend upgrading to an SSD? Absolutely! Even the average consumer would be able to perceive the performance increase that comes when upgrading to an SSD 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 around 15 seconds on average (compare that to your loading speed against your old disk drive). Another great benefit of SSDs is the improved read speeds thanks to flash memory; typical hard disk drives will have on average read speeds of around 128 MB per second while an average SSD will have average read speeds of 500 MB per second.
Put 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 will do a couple of things for you: they will allow you do copy or transfer files faster, if you work with music or video production, your efficiency will increase.
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.
Another benefit that it can provide to the average consumer is their higher (between 3-4 times higher) Input/output Operations Per Second (IOPS). The advantage of higher IOPS speeds is that the computer will generally feel overall more responsive, clicks will respond faster, and menus will pop up and close more quickly as well.
More benefits than you’ll care about
SSDs have many more benefits, although the rest of them 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, weight far less than traditional hard drive disks. Higher storage density per area (smaller physical drives that can store more information) as well as being more reliable than hard disk drives.
SSDs sound great so far, but is there a catch? They do have a couple of drawbacks, but nothing that would keep us from recommending everybody to upgrade to it immediately. The two most significant drawbacks, without a doubt, come down to storage capacity and price.
It is not uncommon to see hard disk drives for computers with storage capacities of upwards to 10TB; however, most consumer-grade top out at around 4TB.
Hard disk drives are simply a more mature product and have experienced big leaps in terms of storage; meanwhile, SSDs haven’t had that same treatment (going by their mainstream release of 2009 and not their conception in the late 70s) and therefore have lower storage space.
SSD vs HDD – Price war
Due to the newer technology, SSD is also much more expensive in a dollar to GB ratio. You would be able to find a 2TB hard disk drive for only $50, but the similar 2TB SSD would run you more than $200.
The price of HDDs, however, are bottoming out while SSDs are expected to keep decreasing in price year after year with predictions showing that SSDs will equal hard disk drives in price per storage sometime in the next decade.
SSD vs HDD – storage retention
Another small drawback of SSDs is that their storage retention is not as long-lasting as most hard disk drives. All that means is that if left disconnected from a computer and without power, a hard disk drive can retain the data inside it for several years.
While an SSD can typically keep the data for only one to two years as long as you power on your solid-state drive once a year, you won’t have any problems with data retention, one last thing that should be noted as well 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 rights or even complete loss of the drive.
Just because they are sensitive to power interruptions does not mean that they will break down the first time the light goes off at home, but you do want always to turn the computer off 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 (the other components will fail years before the hard drive platter stops being able to store data), but an SSD is different.
The cells that store data do deteriorate, not with time but with each data write. If we think of any hard drive as a kind of large excel file, we could say that a cell of an excel file is just like the cell of an SSD.
SSD like a large excel
Each battery of the SSD can hold a single bit (though new technologies have come out in which cells can hold 2, 3, or even 4 bits) and every time that the solid-state drive writes or erases from a cell that battery deteriorates a tiny bit.
If the SSD were to reuse the same blocks too many times, then those blocks would deteriorate to the point where we could store no more data, and hence the 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 would be people who design servers or artists who produce video or music files with sizes in the hundreds of gigabytes every single day. In their case, they would choose to use Enterprise SSDs, which have much higher endurance ratings.
If you’re concerned that this SSD stuff is too simple, worry not, there is still much more to talk about. The next important thing to consider when making the switch 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 fit any SSD that you can find in a store. Just make sure that your motherboard supports SATA connections (all motherboards from the past 20 years will have SATA connections).
If you are planning on upgrading a laptop or tablet device, however, you might have to do a little more research. You see, depending on the size and form factor of your device, then it might only accommodate a particular SSD form factor.
When dealing with tiny laptops (around 12in screen size or smaller) or thin laptops, your device might have a BGA style hard drive, which is not upgradeable whatsoever; what you get from the factory is what you are stuck with.
If we go up a size of laptops or perhaps deal with weird form factor tablets, then that device might have what is called an mSATA mini or mSATA hard drive. Generally, those types of form factors have minimal storage capacities from the factory, and as such, an upgrade in storage size might be desired.
For 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 slow hard disk drives generally populate them.
These are the most comfortable laptops to upgrade, however, because the 2.5in SSD form factor is also the most prevalent and a direct drop-in replacement for those older hard disk drives.
Now, with laptops and tablets, you generally only have one hard drive slot available, so you might want to choose a large SSD to upgrade to. When dealing with desktops, however, you generally have at least 4 SATA slots, which means more freedom.
In such a case, you could choose a relatively small SSD to store your operating system on for fast boot-up times and excellent responsiveness and a second larger (and cheaper) hard disk drive to store items that do not speed-critical such as pictures or videos.
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 is the fastest and most durable (often sporting five-year warranties) but is extremely expensive and, as such, generally reserved for enterprise use. TLC and QLC are the slower of the bunch (although still dozens of times faster than a hard disk drive) and have less endurance than SLC and MLC but also come at a much lower price.
For the average consumer, we recommend QLC and TLC solid-state drives. 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 QLC and TLC SSDs that contain a small amount of SLC cache, which makes them perform like an SLC drive so as long as you don’t overburden the total amount of cache.
So everything about SSDs sounds excellent, and you are ready to ditch your old hard disk drive and upgrade. Where exactly do you go from heir after considering this ssd vs hdd article.
Well, you can let the experts at Steve’s PC 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!