Why solid state drives are good for you

Why solid state drives are good for you
A hard disk drive (left) and a solid state drive (right).

Solid state drives (SSD) are quickly gaining mainstream popularity in recent years, due to their gain in performance, reliability and portability over traditional hard disk drives (HDD).

Not surprisingly, there are still people who have no idea what SSD storage is and how it can benefit them as users. Many still assume that SSD and HDD storage are one and the same.

But does everyone really need to know the difference between the two storage technologies?

Not so much, considering that commercial HDDs are on their way to becoming obsolete, and that SSDs are expected to replace them in the foreseeable future.

By then, we will no longer call them SSDs, but rather simply as 'memory' or 'disk space'.

But in case you're wondering what SSD storage is and how it differs from HDD storage, here's a crash course.

HDD vs SSD

HDD drives are essentially spinning disks or platters covered in magnetic coating, which stores data. The platters are rotated at high speed in an enclosure, while a read/write head on an arm accesses the data.

On the other hand, SSD drives have no moving parts; data is stored on interconnected flash memory chips. These chips are smaller in size that they can easily fit on a system motherboard. This is why SSDs are widely used for mobility. Their small footprint allow manufacturers to create thinner and lighter laptops and tablets.

When it comes to raw speed, SSD drives perform faster than HDD drives. An SSD-equipped computer will boot in seconds and will not slow down during normal use. In addition, apps launch quicker and file transfer (at least for small-sized files) is a breeze.

Remember how our computer teacher used to tell us to 'defragment' our PCs every once in a while to speed up system performance? Fragmentation is a thing of a past with SSD drives as there are no rotary recording surfaces and physical read heads to deal with.

It is common for traditional HDD drives to crash. Because SSD drives have no moving parts, they are considered to be more durable and 'shock-resistant' than traditional spinning hard disks.

In the event that you accidentally drop your laptop while it's operating, there is a higher chance that your data is still intact.

With no moving parts, SSD drives don't drain a lot of power, making them the best choice for energy-efficient portable devices.

When you compare the two storage technologies, it's clear that SSD drives are technically superior.

SSD availability

In the past, PC buyers had very little choice on the data storage that their desktop and laptop computers were equipped with.

Today, an ultraportable laptop comes with an SSD as the primary drive. On Macs, SSD comes standard across its entire Macbook line, while you can opt for a fusion drive (HDD and SSD combination) on an iMac.

They're also widely used in tablets and hybrid laptops.

SSD drives can also be purchased separately for the purpose of upgrading old PCs to improve performance.

External SSD drives have also started showing up in the consumer market, albeit at high price points.

Expensive but not for long

One major downside of SSDs over HDDs is cost, at least for now.

Although the price has come down significantly over the years, being new tech, SSD drives are still quite pricey.

A 256GB external SSD drive will set you back around $400.

In contrast, you can get an HDD drive with a storage capacity of two terabytes (TB) for under $200. What can you get for under $200 in the SSD space right now? A measly 60GB.

Chances are, you already have an SSD drive in default from purchasing a new laptop or tablet, but the maximum internal memory capacity available right now is at 128GB on average.

On the bright side, prices of SSD drives will continue to fall. Remember, HDD drives used to be pretty expensive back in the day, so we'll definitely see improvements on the price tag of SSD drives.

For now, HDD drives are still widely used for backing up large-sized files or large file collection.

If you have lots of data to store, external HDD drives are affordable backup solutions.

Meanwhile, SSD drives are best used as the primary drive for your PCs and mobile devices to ensure faster and more reliable operation.

If you have the budget, it's always a good idea to upgrade your HDD drive on your PC to an SSD drive if you want to see improved system performance.

For your next laptop purchase, consider getting a machine with a built-in SSD drive, preferably with sufficient capacity of not less than 128GB.

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