As they become more widely available and offer better storage space, I thought it’d be a good idea to write a post about SSD disks, its main advantages, disadvantages and in which situations you can get more out of them than standard disks.
A SSD disk, or solid-state disk, is a data storage device that, unlike traditional hard disks, does not have moving mechanical components, and offers a reading and writing speed that is vastly superior to these.
Main features of SSD disks
As you probably know, regular HDD hard disks work, roughly thanks to the constant rotation of magnetic disks and a head that moves on top of them to read or write on them.
SSD disks do not have rapidly rotating disks, or arms moving on it. Instead, they use Flash memory, similar to the ones we find in Pendrives or USB drives, but with much higher storage capacities.
Its most important components are the Flash memory and the controller. The memory units used are non-volatile and, currently, they are all of the NAND kind, which offer easy access to data, and retain the data even after a power outage.
A peculiarity of NAND memories is that they cannot be overwritten. Therefore, to be able to write in a specific location, this location should not contain other data. If one wants to reuse areas that already contain data, it is mandatory to do a secure erase procedure first.
This is when the TRIM tool comes into play. In broad terms, this is a functionality of the operative system by which the system informs the SSD controller about data blocks that are no longer in use, so the data in them can be erased and the free space can be reused.
To maintain the SSD unit’s high performance, it is important to consider that the TRIM command has to be enabled in the operating system. In fact, TRIM has been implemented in Windows since Windows 7, and Linux has it by default since the kernel’s 2.6.33 version, for some time now.
When it comes to the type of connection, there are no differences in regards to regular hard disks, because most of the internal units are disks in a solid state that use a SATA III interface. External SSD disks are USB-connected, like any Pendrive or external hard drive.
In regards to the operating system and user experience, you could say that there are no differences between a SSD disk and a HDD disk, as the disk’s controller and the operating system itself are in charge of managing the functioning of the memory units.
The operating system detects a SSD disk as another logical storage volume, and the same happens with HHD disks, so both can use the same file formats and run the same software.
In that sense, the only difference would be the implementation of TRIM in the operating system, when it is used on a solid-state disk.
What are the pros of a SSD disk?
The advantages of SSD units in comparison to regular hard disks stem from the fact that they do not base their functioning in the use of moving mechanical components. Here is a list of the main aspects that have made them so appealing as of late:
- One of the main advantages of solid-state units is their reading speed, that far outruns HDD hard disks. This difference is especially obvious when the system is started, and when programs that require a large process capacity.
- As SSD units do not have moving mechanical parts, there is a complete or almost complete lack of noise. Therefore, it will remind you of a Pendrive.
- The energy use is also notably lower than with HDDs. This difference is palpable in laptops, which translates to a longer battery life.
- Moreover, as it does not have moving components, it also has a higher tolerance for blows and vibrations, which is especially worrisome for regular hard disks.
Some cons you cannot ignore…
As it had to be the case, there are also some weak points you should consider, especially if you are thinking of retiring the old and boring hard disks in favor of the splendid SSD disks.
- Low storage capacity, which contrasts with the higher capacity of regular hard disks. Fortunately, the trend is on the rise, and the SSD’s storage capacity is constantly improving, as now we can see SSD disks with capacities that reach 500 GB. However, in the mass market, regular storage capacities are around 120 to 240 GB (also due to different prices, as you will see).
- Higher price per GB. This, in addition to higher storage capacities still being lower than those of regular hard disks, means that you end up paying more for ‘less’. And I say ‘less’ because we cannot forget the advantages mentioned above.
- It has writing limitations, and when the limit is reached, no more writings are allowed. This is a design limitation, which translates to an unclear lifespan. In theory, this limit is high enough for normal use, so it should not be a problem in most cases.
In which situations is it recommended to use a SSD disk?
Really, when considering the advantaged in reading speed and performance, you will benefit from this when you run the operating system.
Operating systems do not usually take up much space, so in that sense, a SSD disk of 128 GB, or even 64 GB, will work very well when it runs a Windows 8.1, or any modern GNU/Linux system, as well as any applications you might need.
What you should take into account is that, when you save files, those capacities will run out very fast, so you will have to implement another hard disk to the system’s disk to store your documents.
In which situations is it better to keep using HDD hard disks?
As you have read, SSD units have storage capacities that are not as high as the ones found in regular disks, and at a visibly higher price. This is an important handicap that you must consider when you want to store large quantities of data.
This is why, for disks that will store a lot of data, video files, etc., it is recommended to use regular hard drives, which will allow you to store a lot more at a lower price.
We have also commented on the fact that they have secure writing limitations, and their lifespan remains unclear, so when it is time to store data, I personally prefer to do so in a good hard drive.
Taking everything into account, it is very common nowadays to use a combination of a SSD disk to run the operating system, benefiting from its speed and performance, and a regular hard drive for pure and hard data storage.
This makes it possible to efficiently combine and complement the advantages of both storage units and minimize their disadvantages at the same time.
If your laptop or desktop computer is having any speed problems, it might be the time to change your hard drive for a solid state one. We can help you in 911-computer.com. Call us or write to us and one of our technicians will go to your house to help you decide if you should change your disk to a SSD or not. We provide assistance in Houston, Spring and The Woodlands.