Solid-state drives are PC storage devices
that serve the same purpose as HDDs (hard disk drives). As the name implies,
SSDs dispense with the spinning magnetic platters and pivoting actuator arm and
instead utilize multiple solid-state memory chips fused to a piece of printed
circuit board. But because SSDs utilize the same interface as HDDs, you can
generally substitute the former with the latter.
A Solid Design
When comparing the two storage technologies
side by side, most of the SSD's advantages over a mechanical hard drive are the
result of its solid-state nature. Because there are no moving parts, SSDs are
resistant to damage from shock, which makes them particularly useful for
compact mobile devices, such as notebooks and tablets. They are also not
susceptible to the same physical wear and tear as HDDs, which makes them
particularly reliable and ideally suited to mission-critical storage
SSDs are small, fast, cool, and
quiet. What’s not to love?
Smaller Is Better
Another advantage of SSDs is that they are
available in smaller sizes than traditional HDDs. For the most part, SSDs come
in a 2.5-inch form factor, which is the same as notebook hard drives. Unlike
notebook hard drives, however, which generally run slower than their desktop
counterparts, SSDs are just as fast in notebooks as they are in desktops. With
the proper mounting bracket installed in your PC case, you can install two
2.5-inch SSDs into a standard 3.5-inch hard drive bay and up to four SSDs into
a standard 5.25-inch optical drive bay. SSDs also consume less energy, generate
less heat, and are utterly silent in comparison to HDDs.
A Homogenous Interface
If you want to upgrade your PC with an SSD,
all you need is a PC that supports SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)
devices and a free SATA power connector from your power supply. If you have a
computer manufactured in the last few years, there's a good chance your
mechanical hard drive uses these interfaces for data and power already. The
SATA interface consists of a narrow L-shaped plug for data communication and a
wider L-shaped connector for power. If your PC only accepts EIDE (Enhanced
Integrated Drive Electronics) storage drives, denoted by wide ribbon cables and
a 39-pin interface for data communications, then you'll not be able to simply
swap your HDD with an SSD.
The SSD's Trump Card
Most PCs for sale today feature one or more
SATA 3 ports, meaning that an SSD or HDD plugged into one of these ports can
achieve throughputs up to 6Gbps (gigabits per second). In lieu of a SATA 3
port, a system with SATA 2 ports will also work with SSDs, but the drive will be
limited to 3Gbps throughputs. Although both storage technologies support SATA 3
speeds, SSDs are capable of achieving significantly faster read and write
speeds, which is one of the best reasons to upgrade to an SSD. Keep in mind; To
support the fastest speed for which the SSD is rated, you'll need to connect it
to a SATA port on the motherboard capable of supporting, and use cables that
are designated to operate at, the SSD's peak speeds.
Although hard drives come in higher
capacities than SSDs, the latter is quickly catching up, and prices for SSDs
are always falling. If you find yourself in the market for such an upgrade, you
won't be sorry with the results.
As long as your notebook has a SATA
interface, you should be able to swap your mechanical hard drive for an SSD.
Here’s what a naked SSD looks like.
The memory chips are on the right side of the SSD in this image, and the
interface is on the left.
SATA 3 cables will generally be
labeled as such. Often, you'll see the SATA III designation either on the plug
or on the cable itself.