There’s nothing that can make as big a difference in the speed of a computer as upgrading the hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD). This is an upgrade that I wouldn’t recommend a typical user try to perform on their own, but it is well worth having done. Changing from a traditional spinning disk drive to a solid state drive will dramatically improve the performance and general zippiness of your computer. Everything from booting up the computer, to launching applications, to installing software and updates, and many more everyday tasks, are much faster when you have an SSD. Why, you may ask?

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First lets take a look at a typical hard drive found in most computers. If you were to open it up, you would find a metal disk that spins around at typically 5400 RPM. There are small read heads that move around the different parts of the disk to read the various sections of the drive. All the data is stored on the parts of the disk as tiny magnetic charges. As the head passes over the section of the disk with the data, it picks up on these tiny magnetic fields and reads them as data. They are very much a mechanical device, and they do tend to wear out over time. These drives are great and generally fairly reliable, and they have been used in computers since the 1950s, but we have a much better solution now.

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Solid State Drives do away with all the mechanical parts and replaces them with memory chips, the same technology you find in those USB flash drives and SD cards everyone has now. This is great because they are much faster than traditional hard drives. A typical mechanical hard drive can read and write data to the drive at about 100 megabytes per second (MBps) whereas a standard SSD can read and write somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 MBps, and they are getting faster every year. This is also assuming the traditional hard drive is performing at it’s peak. It’s not uncommon for spinning disk drives to slow down dramatically with age and use. Some that I’ve benchmarked have slowed down to an average of only 5 – 10 MBps.

HDTune benchmarking a traditional hard drive

If you want to see if your hard drive is slower than it should be you can download the program HDTune or CrystalDiskMark and get a benchmark of your system’s hard drive.

When shopping for a new computer I always recommend looking for one that has an SSD instead of a traditional hard drive. But if you already have a computer with a spinning disk, you can upgrade to an SSD. This involves connecting the new drive to the computer via an adapter to the USB port, then cloning the contents of the old drive onto the new one. Once the drive has been cloned, the old drive is physically removed and the SSD installed in it’s place. All the data is exactly the same, and the only difference you will notice is the speed increase.

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The one drawback SSDs have is they tend to be smaller in capacity than traditional hard drives, and they are more expensive per gigabyte of storage. For example a 1TB (terabyte) (1 terabyte equals about 1,000 gigabytes) hard drive can be purchase for around $50, whereas a 1TB SSD (as of this writing) is around $150. Most people opt for a smaller SSD, usually a 240GB model for around $70. If you don’t need the extra space that is your best option. If you really do need lots of space, maybe an SSD isn’t the best choice, at least until the prices fall. SSD prices have been falling dramatically over the past couple years. You can see how much space you are currently using by opening the Windows File Explorer usually found in the taskbar, clicking on the Computer icon on the left, then right click on the Local Disk (C:) drive on the right and choose Properties. You can see how much is used, how much is free, and the drive’s total capacity.

SSDs do have a limited number of times that data can be written to them, but that limit is astonishingly high and the average computer user will replace their computer twice over before it would come even close to hitting that limit. You’re far more likely to have a mechanical hard drive wear out before an SSD.

If you’re interested in boosting the performance of your computer with an SSD, contact me and I can help make that happen.

-Luke

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