Solid State Drives (SSDs) offer some considerable performance advantages compared to Hard Disc Drives (HDDs). Over the past few years, the costs of SSDs have plummeted to well under $1.00 per GB, so it might be the right time to consider upgrading the Hard Drive on your laptop or PC to a Solid State Drive.
Although the two devices provide the same function, the technology and performance are totally different. The term “Drive” commonly refers to a computer’s permanent data storage device. Traditional mechanical HDD technology was introduced by IBM in 1956 and uses magnetism to store data on a metal platter. When the data is being read or written by the computer the platter spins while a read/write head floats above it. SSDs, on the other hand, are a newer technology, utilising NAND (Flash) solid-state memory to store data. Unlike the HDD there are no moving parts. Both types of drive have their own advantages and disadvantages, so whether a SSD upgrade is worthwhile depends on your usage, requirements (and budget).


ssd hdd open
Speed is the most obvious advantage of the SSD. This can be noted as soon as you boot up. Booting up entails loading many different program and data files from your drive system. If you have a HDD you can hear it whirring away as the head finds the data on the disc, whereas the SSD has very fast access to all those files without having to scan the drive for them. If you think of it in a physical sense, the HDD folders would be in filing cabinets around the room; you’d have to locate them before you could read them. But the SSD files are right there, you don’t have to find them, you just have to open them. So booting up is up to 10 times faster with a SSD.
When it comes to reading and writing files, size does matter. Large file data transfer is faster with a SSD, but only marginally so. The SSD speed advantage is most significant when retrieving multiple, small data files. The HDD will store these files on any available disc space, so it takes time to find and access that space. The NAND storage configuration of the SSD, on the other hand, makes those small files readily available. The SSD can transfer more than twice as much data in a given time as traditional mechanical drives.
The SSD technology also avoids the delays associated with fragmentation. The HDD works best when loading large files laid down in contiguous blocks. But as the drive fills and files are stored in the smaller spaces available, fragmentation occurs. Read/write algorithms have improved and minimized this effect on HDD. But as SSDs have no physical read head, they remain immune to the delays of a fragmented drive. Auto defragmentation of the HDD is often delayed until the computer is turned on, causing further delays to that initial boot.
The fact that the SSD has no moving parts also makes it more durable. The HDD is highly susceptible to loss of data if it sustains a shock while the disc is spinning.  Dropping or knocking a unit while the HDD is in use will likely result in devastating loss of data. SSDs are much more resilient, as they have no moving parts. In addition, the SSDs are safe from the effects of magnetism and thermal shock.
So, what’s the upside of a HDD? For most people the biggest advantage is the price. While the cost of SSDs continues to fall; the cost advantage per gigabyte remains with the HDD, and significantly so. The other big advantage is capacity. If you need to store loads of data, HDDs offer larger storage options. Typically the largest SSD capacity is 1TB, whereas a HDD is typically available up to 2TB in laptops and up to 6TB in desktops. One of the common complaints regarding the SSD is that users run out of disc space. This can be managed but disc space is still an important factor for many users. Overall, HDD remains king in terms of inexpensive large storage capacity.
In terms of life expectancy, both types of drives can be expected to last for many years given typical use. However, the cause of failure for each is likely to be very different. While it is considered more rugged, the SSD has a finite number of times in which data can be erased and reprogrammed, after which time, bad segments will be flagged as unusable and degradation will occur. While the data on a HDD will generally remain intact longer than that stored on a SSD, it is subject to failure due to mechanical degradation. Both drives require regular backup as part of standard practice.
The SDD does offer some distinct performance advantages, depending on how you use your computer. The Stardot sales team is happy to discuss your particular computer needs and whether upgrading to a SSD is the best choice for you.
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