Swap your old Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for a Solid State Drive (SSD)
So, you’ve had your computer for a few years and it is starting to run really slow and seems to take forever to boot up. What can you do to upgrade your computer to something you actually want to use and hopefully avoid spending a ton of money to replace it with a newer one? There are some basic “housekeeping” measures like getting rid of unused software and deleting unnecessary duplicate files. You can also think about upgrading the amount of RAM if your system allows it. But the one thing that might make the biggest difference is to upgrade your older computer’s storage with a super-fast new Solid State Drive (SSD).
This article offers information and recommendations for products to help you upgrade your desktop or laptop computer with the latest SSD technology. We provide links to some of these products and when readers click on links to our Amazon Affiliate Shop and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
How is a Solid State Drive (SSD) different from a Hard Disk Drive (HDD)?
An old fashioned HDD consists of one or more disc platters in a spaced stack. Tiny electronic heads attached to arms above each disc track back and forth across the platters (like a tonearm on an LP) as they spin at high speed. This allows data to be read or written magnetically as the heads pass over the platter. Many HDDs spin at 5400 or 7600 RPM, but some high-end server HDDs run at 10,000 up to even 15,000 RPM!
Because of this rapid spinning, these mechanical components are subject to physical wear, that over time, will ultimately cause them to fail. When this does finally happen, the information stored on the HDD is lost. Additionally, as new data is repeatedly written, deleted, and re-written onto the drive, small areas of the disc may become less reliable over time. This deterioration is often referred to as “bit-rot” and can eventually lead to the corruption of some data. This degradation can often be corrected by reformatting the drive, however, since this process erases ALL the information on the drive, it is necessary to back up the drive prior to the reformatting process.
So, what are the advantages of the SSD?
First, and most importantly, an SSD has NO moving parts! Instead, these solid state devices utilize non-volatile NAND memory chips that allow them to store large amounts of data safely even without power when the device is switched off. Because there are no motors to spin or heads to move back and forth, the SSD consumes as little as 1/3 of the energy of HDDs. Access times are between 50 and 80 times faster and an SSD can typically perform random access input/output function at least 15 times faster than an HDD. The lower power requirement can significantly extend battery life in a laptop computer and because of the faster responses, the SSD will greatly reduce boot time, program loading, and reading and writing large amounts of data.
Wow! That sounds almost too good to be true.
The downside is that an SSD is typically more expensive per gigabyte of storage than an HDD. However, prices have been coming down to the point where some model SSDs are currently only about 15-30% more expensive than a similar capacity HDD. Some of the high-end products are still a bit pricey, but the improvement in access times is well worth the additional cost.
Since SSD technology is still relatively new, it is not clear that the long term dependability is quite as good as the more mature HHD technology. This will doubtless improve as SSDs become more common.
SSDs come in several styles. What kind do I need to upgrade my computer?
Newer laptops and desktops often are supplied with M2 or mSATA SSDs, which resemble standard memory cards. The mSATA-bus drives are designed to work with the SATA III/SATA 6Gbps (Giga Bits Per Second) standard. The SSD’s shown below are examples of this form factor commonly found in some systems.
If your computer already has this type of SSD installed, there may also be space provided for a 2.5″ (or 5″) SATA drive to be installed. Some newer computers may use a combination of an M2 SSD for the OS and basic storage, and also include a regular HHD installed in the 2.5″ SATA port for data such as music, video, or image files.
If you are planning to upgrade an older desktop computer, the existing SATA ports may only support the older 3Gbps of the SATA II standard or 1.5Gbps of SATA I. To enjoy the maximum speed benefit, a new SSD should be connected to a SATA III 6Gbps compatible port. Although the new SSD will work fine connected to an older SATA I or II port, the data transfer rate will be constrained to the slower 1.5 or 3Gbps speed.
Below is an example of an inexpensive PCIe card that can be added to an older computer to upgrade to newer SATA III 6Gbps ports. Please note that this option is ONLY required if the computer does NOT already have SATA III. You can click on the image below, to be taken to the page on our Amazon Affiliate Shop to see the specs for this PCIe card.
Currently, there are three different types of SSDs available. They are categorized by one of three memory types that are classified by type of NAND chips used in modern SSDs. The most common type NAND memory found in consumer SSDs were MLC (multi-level cell) and SLC (single-level cell) memory. MLC is generally the cheaper of the two.
SLC memory tends to be more stable over longer periods but also more expensive to manufacture. MLC’s higher densities make it cheaper to manufacture but it requires special firmware to manage error checking. The MLC also tends to be rated for fewer read/write cycles than SLC.
Then there’s TLC. This memory type first appeared from Samsung in its 840 Series SSDs, with other NAND makers followed with similar products.
Which kind of SSD do I want?
In addition to different physical form factors, there are several different types of SSDs. One version is optimized for higher performance and often feature higher storage capacity while using a tiny bit more power. These are generally more expensive per Gigabyte.
Another version is optimized for lower power consumption but slightly lower performance speed. These are also usually smaller capacity drives but tend to be less expensive.
Which is the Best SSD to Upgrade your PC?
Here are some comparisons of several Solid State Drives that are available through our Amazon Affiliate Shop.