How upgrading to SSD will boost your laptop/PC’s performance


There is a lot of buzz around new storage mediums, the most popular one being SSD’s. Let’s start with what it actually is and does it prove any good over previous generation mechanical drives. Let’s find out

Since it was first introduced in 1991 by SanDisk, mechanical drives such as Hard Disk Drives(HDD’s) and floppies were in trend and no one except its engineers knew about it being the future storage medium. So, What exactly is SSD and how does it improve data storage?

Solid State Drives(SSD) are secondary data storage drives(cannot say disks since SSD’s do not have physical disks unlike HDD’s and other mechanical storage devices) that use interconnected pools of flash memory that are managed by an SSD controller to deliver speeds far beyond what a hard disk drive (HDD) can offer. To put that into perspective, A HDD might be able to complete between 50–200 input/output operations per second, while a comparable SSD might be able to do as many as 90,000. And some enterprise-grade SSDs claim to be able to process millions of operations per second. With constant improvement in technology, we’ve seen some pretty great advancements in Flash-Based-SSD technology as well. Don’t worry we are talking about Flash-Based SSDs in this whole blog. Major commercially available SSDs- There are several connector types that SSDs use to interface with a computer, including SATA, PCIe, M.2, U.2, mSATA, SATA Express, and even none, as some SSDs now come soldered to the board. For a consumer, the most common options are SATA and M.2. SATA is known as the old two-connector system that hard drives used, including a SATA Power and SATA data cable.

In the image above you can get a basic idea of the differentiating types of Physical Connector, Connection protocol, Technology, and Form Factor. Some brief description of some terms mentioned in the above image

  • SATA: Serial ATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or SATA) is a standard for connecting and transferring data from hard disk drives (HDDs) to computer systems. As its name implies, SATA is based on serial signaling technology. SATA SSDs- — Typically slower than other SSDs but significantly faster than HDDs — Cheapest SSD variant in the market — Requires external SATA data and power cables
  • M.2: M.2 stands for 2nd generation Mini-SATA. Hence the name M.2. Typically all-new generation motherboards(even the cheapest) supports M.2 connector. M.2 SATA SSDs- — Physically smaller than 2.5″ counterparts — Requires motherboards having an m.2 interface — Slightly more expensive than 2.5″ counterparts
  • PCle: Peripheral Component Interconnect Express(PCIe) SSDs take it a step further, by using one of the highest bandwidth channels in your PC for blindingly fast speeds. PCIe SSDs — Not the most popular choice — Good at thermals since it contains its own heat sinks — The size of a PCIe SSD is larger than its M.2 counterpart so it does require significant space in your motherboard.
  • NVMe: Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification is an open logical device interface specification for accessing non-volatile storage media attached via a PCI Express bus. M.2 NVMe- — High Bandwidth and Faster Data processing cycles. — Expensive since it’s the faster device than other mentioned ones — Prone to thermal throttling.

Note: You don’t have to consider Thermal Throttling if you are not transferring gigs of files in a second. On normal everyday usage, you will not notice a dime.

Some benchmarks on different SSD types with their read and write speeds.

Now Since we’ve seen what actually are SSDs, their popular commercially available types and have a good perspective on their price let’s see how they directly compare to the good old Mechanical Hard Drives(HDDs) in terms of usability and practical application.

SSD vs HDD

From going through the table I’m pretty sure that you have made your mind to shift towards SSD but one sec… HDDs aren’t bad too. Everything boils down your personal needs. An HDD might be the right choice if:

  • You need lots of storage capacity, up to 10TB
  • Don’t want to spend much money
  • Don’t care too much about how fast computer boots up or opens programs — then get a hard drive (HDD).

An SSD might be the right choice if:

  • You are willing to pay for faster performance
  • Don’t mind limited storage capacity or can work around that (though consumer SSD now go up to 4TB and enterprise run as high as 60TB)

HDDs are still the popular choice for the majority of average consumers, usually choosing the HDD as the storage option in their new computer simply due to the much cheaper cost. However, more and more consumers desire top computing performance and are opting for an SSD inside their new setup or as an upgrade to their current one.

Till now we’ve discussed almost everything about these data storage mediums but now let’s discuss

How these secondary devices contribute to PC’s/computer performance?

Your computer needs to store data in a non-volatile data medium so when the power is cut down the data is always retained, much like your OS data. You are not installing your Operating System every time you switch ON your device isn’t it. Main Memory i.e the RAM is the fastest data processing engine a system can have but it functions as a volatile memory in which data is stored temporarily (till the time power is ON) like after app launches it remains in the main memory till you close it. Now since we are always working on reducing the time and increasing speed on this data transfers, the speed of your secondary memory will largely decide what are your boot times, app loading time and many other data retrieval tasks such as read and write. SSDs are sort of a next-generation physical data storage mediums since they are able to push read-write limits to up to 4Gb/s.

What kind of SSD will best suit you?

To find a perfect match for your next SSD purchase to be installed in your PC you first need to identify your usage. I will try to suggest the best possible variant to varied usages.

  • For a usage that involves day-to-day tasks like storing files, browsing the internet, watching movies and Playing Games I would suggest going for 2.5″ SATA with the capacity of your choice. Reasons: — Wouldn’t burn a huge hole in your pocket — Can easily be upgraded/changed since it will be glued to your case with duct tape. — Easily available
  • If you require intensive I/O with efficiency and speed up to a few Gigabits and cost is not your thing then go for NVMe M.2 drives that will be placed into your motherboard. Reasons: — Will put a huge smile on your face with the kind your performance gain you’ll notice — Boot times will significantly reduce in OS like Windows also
  • Nowadays laptop motherboards also contain an M.2 slot empty. You can easily get an M.2 SATA/NVMe(based upon requirement) SSD. If not then I also have a trick. Assumption- There is a cd drive on your laptop. Chances that you have never put that dated cd drive into use. I’ll suggest go to your nearest Gweeky hardware store and get it replaced by an M.2 slot which will house your SSD. I am sure it won’t disappoint you.

Pricing

Final Notes

There are three things I want to brief you on:

– What is SSHD? A Solid State Hybrid Drive(SSHD) combines a faster storage medium such as SSD with a higher-capacity hard disk drive (HDD). The intent is adding some of the speed of SSDs to the cost-effective storage capacity of traditional HDDs. The purpose of the SSD in a hybrid drive is to act as a cache for the data stored on the HDD, improving the overall performance by keeping copies of the most frequently used data on the faster SSD.

– 3D Xpoint memory or popularly known as Intel Optane Memory Optane is a memory module designed to ramp up PC speeds for less money. It promises a better computing experience for every user, from gamers to power users. If you’re buying a new laptop with Optane, the technology will come preinstalled. Laptop makers — Dell, HP, Lenovo — already sell laptops outfitted with Optane cache drives alongside high-capacity HDDs. However, that adding Optane to an old laptop is tricky since OEMs need to push a BIOS update for Optane to work with their motherboard. It’s possible, but even the most tech-savvy customers will find it difficult to add Optane into an existing laptop. This can be a topic of another blog.

– What is U.2? They aren’t very popular and mainstream yet and are also expensive too. But here some information about it. U.2 SSD is a high-performance data storage device designed to support the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) interface using a small form factor (SFF) connector that is also compatible with standard SATA-based spinning disks and solid-state drives.


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