Solid State Drives have been around for a while, but they have really become popular in the last year or so, primarily because of price drops. A SSD is basically a hard drive. But instead of having an actual disk that spins, a solid state drive has memory chips that store the data. It’s very similar to the ubiquitous flash drives (thumb drives), except on a larger scale and designed to function as a system level drive (ie not connecting through USB).
Why would I want an SSD?
There are many reasons to prefer a SSD over the standard hard drive. Speed, durability, and weight are key reasons.
SSDs are much quicker at retrieving data because they do not need to wait for disks to spin up to speed, heads to search the disk, and data to be read and transferred, like a typical hard drive (HDD). With an SSD, the data is pulled from stationary memory chips. There are no moving parts and the lag that typically occurs with HDDs does not apply. With an SSD, you can boot your computer in a fraction of the time. The new Samsung laptops, which utilize SSDs, can reportedly boot Windows 7 in 18 seconds!
SSDs are also more durable than HDDs. They can survive a drop much more than HDD because they don’t have moving parts. The delicate platters and heads in the HDDs make them especially susceptible to extreme vibrations. SSDs (solid state means that it is completely digital and has no moving parts) can sustain forces much greater, up to the point of physically breaking the chips, or circuit board in which they lie.
Weight is also a key factor to SSD preference. They are much lighter. Also, they can be much smaller.
This is a boon for computer designers looking to fit more stuff into smaller and smaller spaces (think smartphones and tablets).
Another big reason that SSDs are superior is heat. Your typical HDD generates a good amount of heat. Some desktop computer cases (the better ones) come with fans built in right next to the drive bays (where you physically mount your hard drives). The reason this exists is because of the old truism that heat is the enemy. Typically, electronic devices run better at cooler temperatures. Almost all electronic devices generate heat, but the fault of the HDD is that it tends to generate a lot of heat (hence the fan situated right next to it in some cases). SSDs generate significantly less heat.
Why would I not want an SSD?
Do you have a huge music or video collection? Want to edit audio or video? Then don’t use an SSD. Well, you still can, but it takes some more work to get it setup right (more about that in a bit).
A major drawback, currently, for SSDs is that they have very little storage capacity compared to HDDs. For HDDs, 3TB drives recently hit the market. That is a tremendous amount of storage space compared to what is currently being offered for SSDs (256GB).
Another major drawback is price. They are expensive! You can currently get a 2TB HDD for less than $100, but it will cost you around the same amount to get a SSD that only has 60GB.
The final drawback is that SSDs do not stream data as efficiently as an HDD. It gets pretty technical, but just know that the transfer of data is handled differently. If you want to run lots of small files quickly (like during boot), a SSD can work great. If you have a music project with 24 tracks of audio running simultaneously, it’s probably better to opt for HDD. This is ironic in many ways, but nonetheless, optimizing your system for the tasks it will perform is always the best route. That said, a neatly optimized system could have a SSD boot (and system) drive while also having HDDs for storage and assimilation (assembling various chunks of audio or video on demand). If setup and configured properly, it can make for an awesome computer experience!
Of course, despite the pros and cons, things will get better and SSDs will gain storage potential and will probably one day make HDDs obsolete. But until that happens, hopefully the pros and cons outlined above will give you enough knowledge to research and make the correct decision for yourself.
As always, we’d love to help you if you’d like a computer consultant. Contact us if you’d like us to partner with you in finding the perfect solution for your computing needs.