• Top tips for choosing a SSD (Solid-State-Drive)

With the prevalence and readily availability of SSD’s (Solid-State drives) they are fast becoming the best way to upgrade your computer.

Replacing that old dusty HDD (Hard-Disk Drive) with a SSD will dramatically improve the speed of your computer. However, with SSD technology exploding in recent years, the market is rapidly expanding resulting in a large and confusing product range. With terms like, ‘PCIe’, ‘NVMe’, ‘SATA’ and ‘ACHI’ being thrown around, choosing a SSD can be a bit of a minefield.

This guide will look at the different features and technologies of SSDs available so you pick the right drive for your needs.

First of all – What is a SSD?

A traditional HDD has a moving needle-like head that finds the data position on the disc and then retrieves it. The difference is that SDDs are flash memory, meaning that the data is stored on microchips and uses no moving parts (hence ‘solid state’). This makes data access much quicker than with HDDs; in fact the flash capability allows SSDs to access data within 35 to 100 microseconds, making it nearly 100 times faster than traditional HDDs.

A traditional HDD has a moving needle-like head that finds the data position on the disc and then retrieves it. The difference is that SDDs are flash memory, meaning that the data is stored on microchips and uses no moving parts (hence ‘solid state’). This makes data access much quicker than with HDDs; in fact the flash capability allows SSDs to access data within 35 to 100 microseconds, making it nearly 100 times faster than traditional HDDs.

Reasons to choose a SSD

A SSD can speed up your computer in several different ways:

  • Reduced boot times
  • Speed up launch of applications
  • Saving and opening documents won’t lag


Other things you will notice:  

  • A longer battery life (due to lower power consumption)
  • Less noise
  • No vibration
  • Smaller physical size
  • Higher reliability
  • Higher resistance to shock  
  • Less susceptible to overheating


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Choosing the right SSD for your needs

The main differences when buying a SSD are; storage, speed, bus interface and physical form.

 Storage and speed

The speed of your SSD will differ considerably as the storage increases. Picking the right amount of storage is key to picking the right SSD, too much and you will pay over the odds, and too little you will be faced with a computer that cannot keep up to your demands.
 

Not sure how much storage you need? Here’s a gigabyte guide:

Storage

Pros

Cons

30/32GB

Will install the OS and a few lightweight programs

Locally it is badly limited, you’ll have to rely on streaming, online storage and external storage.

60/64GB

Will install the OS and a few programs, applications or some local music.

Locally it will be very limited, and you will most likely still have to rely on streaming, online storage and/or another external drive.

120/128GB

Will install the OS and some programs or applications and some local music.

Will install the OS and some programs or applications and some local music. However, there will be limited storage locally, online storage or another drive for additional storage is usually a necessity.

 

250/256GB

Will install the OS, some programs, applications, music and some videos.

Not ideal if you have a lot of high resolution media.

 

500/512GB

Will install many programs, music and some videos.

Another drive for additional storage will be necessary if you have a lot of music, pictures, video and business applications.

 

1TB

The best option if your SSD is your only drive and have many programs, applications, a music collection and HD videos.

Another drive for additional storage may be necessary if you want to run a lot of applications.
 

Physical form

There are two main types of physical form your SSD will take; the traditional 2.5inch and M.2 drives. 

The 2.5inch SSD is the cheapest and the easiest way of increasing the speed of your computer, because they are readily available and use the same bus interface as traditional HDDs meaning when installing you can use the same power and data cables.  Modern 2.5inch SSDs use the SATA III interface which read and write speeds of just over 500MBps.

All M.2 means is that it is making use of the small form-factor to send information. Many M.2 SSDs still use the SATA interface, meaning they offer the same performance as the 2.5inch SSD. However, some M.2 SSDs use a PCIe bus to send information. PCIe technology has more bandwidth and allows more lanes than older SATA technology. This means that in general a top performing PCIe SDD will be able to access data much more quickly than a top performing SATA SDD.
 

Physical form

Bus Type

Pros

Cons

2.5 Inch

SATA

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Easy to install
  • Capable speed =  6GBps (gigabytes per second)
  • Only one lane used so slower speeds

M.2

SATA

  • Uses small form factor (faster speeds)
  • Easy to install
  • Capable speed =  6GBps (gigabytes per second)
  • Slightly more expensive
  • Only one lane used so slower speeds

M.2

PCIe

  • Uses small form factor (faster speeds)
  • Uses 3 lanes (faster speeds)
  • Capable speed =  32GBps (gigabytes per second)
  • More expensive (around £100 more)
  • Harder to install (can’t use same SATA cables)

 

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