When they were first introduced on the market, the storage solutions of the SSD (Solid State Drive) type had very high prices, which meant that they were not for everyone. But for a while, you can easily find a 128 GB SSD priced at $60, or in some cases just $35. At such a price, it’s an excellent investment, in order to improve the experience of using a PC. Maybe a good graphics card will make games work better, a new processor will make your PC make the job faster and more RAM allows you to do more, but with an SSD, you can do it all without having to wait for minutes in a row, day after day.
At this time, an SSD can achieve read speeds that are close to 10 GB/s. SSDs are capable of such a performance because they are based on a completely different technology than a normal HDD. The most important difference is how the data is stored. Instead of the magnetized disks, whose rotation speed affects the access speed to manage data, an SSD has no moving parts. The data is stored in nonvolatile memory modules, which can be of several types, depending on the technology used by the company who produced that memory. Data stored on an SSD can be accessed very quickly, because of this, no matter where they are. As a result, defragmentation is meaningless for an SSD and might even be dangerous, because this type of memory has a main disadvantage, wear. But even so, the Flash memory also has another disadvantage, quantity. Currently, the cost of production for one SSD with the same capacity as an HDD is very high. But just as a 32GB SSD used to cost as much as a high-end video card a few years ago, the issue of cost will be addressed with time.
To ensure that every portion of memory will be written, even if it is a single bit, first a block of memory will be freed through a deletion process. It is not perfect, as with time the resistance factor will decrease until the memory can no longer be used. If the memory is read-only, then there are no problems, the reading will not wear out in any way an SSD, this being an aspect at which the hard drive excels. That is why you will often see SSDs with read speeds over 500 MB/s, but with the writing speeds of just 250 MB/s.
This component of the SSD dictates the highest part of the performance and durability of the device. Perhaps you’ve heard names such as Sandforce or Phison, at SSDs produced by other companies. Those names refer to the type of controller used, the component that manages all data. A controller determines how information is written on an SSD, often in a manner that equally uses each memory cell, so that it will not wear out anytime soon. The SSD controller also handles the compression of the data, addresses errors, and essentially every other thing. If an SSD would be a PC, then the controller would be its processor. And as a PC, the SSD has its own RAM, or better said, has a cache. It comes in the form of volatile memory, DDR3 type, often used for storing information that is currently in use, or which is about to be compressed. The way in which this cache is used depends on the controller, some of them, such as Sandforce, even lacking the volatile memory.
One last thing that must be taken into account is the way the SSD connects to the PC. As standard, all SSDS were SATA type, being limited to a speed of 6 GB/s. But lately, SSDS appeared to be able to connect to the PCI-Express port, either directly mounted on an extension or through a separate M2 slot which can be connected to either the PCI-Express or to SATA, depending on the SSD used.
The transition to an SSD is an important step and immediately noticeable. The most noticeable difference will be noticed at boot, especially on PCs manufactured before UEFI became the new standard for BIOS. There, the boot process could take some time. And I’m not referring strictly to the time from pressing the power button until the arrival in desktop, but the time it takes for your PC to be truly usable.
To get into Windows or reach desktop is only part of the process. The HDD will continue to run, trying to load as soon as possible all those programs and processes, that are set to run at startup: Steam, Skype, GeForce Experience, AMD Catalyst, even drivers for something so trivial as the network card and so on. All require time to be loaded, often scattered in different places on the disk. Consequently, for an old PC which is used for your daily work, a full startup may last even 2 minutes. But with an SSD, this doesn’t happen. No matter how many programs would be passed on to the start-up boot process, the whole process takes a few seconds, even if you are using a SATA 3 SSD on a SATA 2 connector.
This performance increase is noticeable when gaming too, the loading times will be faster, the streaming will be more promptly and even the textures will be easier to render. For example, to boot Path of Exile, on a HDD, you must wait around 3 minutes, because of the way in which the game is built. But on an SSD, it doesn’t last even 20 seconds.
Solid State Drive seems likely to be the future’s storage method. Wear and tear issues, capacity and cost will be addressed from one generation to the next, so if you were planning to purchase one, these should be enough reasons to convince you to acquire it as soon as possible.