Since the early days of computers, the mechanical components have always been the weakest link. Diskettes, disc drives, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. Not only have they always been the most susceptible to damage, but because they are mechanical, they eventually fail.
In addition to that, disk drives in particular have another remarkable disadvantage – that is: speed. The idea that we read and write data by precisely timing a swinging arm over a spinning disk is… very un-computer-like.
Solid State Drives (SSD) have always been a pipe dream. This is the notion of instead of using a mechanical spinning disk for storage, a bunch of RAM could be used instead. This would bring a few advantages:
- SSD’s aren’t susceptible to physical damage like a hard disk “head crash”, or damage from dropping.
- SSD’s presumably consume less power because there is no motor or moving parts (read: longer laptop battery life)
- SSD’s in theory should “never” fail – at least not in the way that traditional hard disks do.
- SSD’s are lighter than traditional hard drives, making your laptop lighter.
One of the biggest downsides has been cost. However, in the past several years the price of RAM has dropped remarkably – which means that SSD’s can now become somewhat affordable.
There is actually a pretty good page on this topic on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive
Anyhow, the Samsung 470 Series was supposed to be a game-changer. This is a super-fast SSD with decent capacity, for a reasonable price. In this case, I saw a 64GB mode on sale for $99 so I picked one up.
I had a couple of options here. I tried to first install this on a Sony Vaio F Series laptop. Although the BIOS saw it, and the Windows 7 installation saw it – when Windows 7 when to start to copy files, I got a consistent error. I worked with tech support with Samsung and with Sony (both were very helpful, by the way) – but alas, they both came to the conclusion that the Vaio either doesn’t fully support AHCI or it’s simply not compatible.
I next tried to install it in a Dell Studio 15 laptop. This went off without a hitch! So how did it perform?
One of the main reasons to get an SSD is performance, so I wrote down some numbers:
|7200RPM Drive||Solid State|
|From power-on to Win7 login screen||~41 seconds||~15 seconds|
|From login to responsive desktop||~37 seconds||~2 seconds|
A solid state drive like this makes the computer noticeably faster – by a lot! I also saw an increase in potential battery life – but didn’t gather enough data to draw concrete conclusions. The showstopper for me in this case, is that if you can only have one hard drive (like on a laptop), 64GB is not enough space. In my case specifically, I found:
Windows 7 + Office 2010 + Visual Studio 2010 = ~67GB
So a single-hard drive system like a laptop really would need a bigger drive. But wait, what about desktops? Couldn’t you use a small/cheap 64GB SSD for the boot/system drive, and put Program Files and all of your junk on a secondary, traditional drive? Yes – that is what I’m planning to do for my main home workstation perhaps this weekend.
If you have a laptop and have an extra $230 to spend, I would highly recommend getting a Samsung 470 128GB SSD or greater. (Amazon link) For what it’s worth, I happened to find that 64GB on sale for a day, but since then I found NO WHERE on the internet that has these even a little bit cheaper: amazon, pricegrabber, ebay, etc. So, the prices you see are pretty much the prices across the board.
Assuming you have a modern CPU, memory is next best investment; assuming you have 8GB+ of RAM, getting a 7200RPM drive or better is the next best investment; and assuming you already have that, getting an SSD hard drive will show a remarkable improvement in your computer.
Some interesting/helpful links: