Eliminate Your Unreliable Hard Drive with a Solid State Drive

Ever lose your data due to a bad Hard Drive? Or were you lucky and just had a drive go bad?

Traditional Hard Drive technology is roughly 40 years old. It’s mechanical and was designed for stationary use. Hard Drives weren’t created for mobile use in laptops, phones or iPods. By nature of their design, they aren’t meant to be hauled around when powered up. Data is corrupted and destroyed due to vibration and shock. Their mechanical spinning platters also use precious battery life, generate heat and create noise.

Why bother with upgrading to a Solid State Drive? They’re expensive compared to traditional Hard Drives and their sizes are smaller – much smaller. So what’s so great about them?

Better Performance:

With no moving parts to run about the drive, seeking and reading / writing data, an SSD is much faster than a traditional drive. Remember, a Hard Drive’s speed is closely linked to it’s platter speed – a 7,200 RPM drive being much faster than a 4,200 RPM drive. Its plain old physics. As the drive moves at a certain speed, the read/write head can only cover so much distance. Think of it like this – if a file’s “size” was the distance of one mile, you’d be able to “read” it faster driving at 90 miles an hour than at 30. It works the same with Hard Drives. Yes I know there’s differences in cache speed, the SATA Bus, block size, fragmentation and other factors. But all things equal, the faster the platter speed, the faster the drive. (Some server drives go up to speeds of 15,000rpm!)

SSDs don’t have moving parts. They just grab data and go. Fragmentation doesn’t matter. There is no distance to cover on a moving platter. They aren’t just faster than traditional drives, they are significantly faster.

However, their performance is a little lopsided. Read speeds are lightning fast while Write speeds are much slower. But with a decent Solid State Drive, even the Write speeds are faster than a traditional laptop drive.

Note: There are huge differences in SSD performance due to the controller chips and the bus speeds. We’ll be looking that in just a moment.

More Reliability:

Ever have a Hard Drive go bad in your laptop? Ever lose a ton of data because of it? Ever realize that it was most likely due to motion, vibration, or the shock of being bounced around in your bag?

With no moving parts, Solid State Drives are not susceptible to vibration, movement, or shock. They retain their data as you move your laptop about, whether you’re on a train, in a car, carrying the laptop on the go or just in a generally unsteady environment. The fear of losing your data due to corrupt or failing hard drives is gone with an SSD.

This is without a doubt the main reason why I whole heartedly recommend SSDs in laptops, period.

Note: As awesome as Solid State Drives are, you should always run regular backups. :)

Increased Battery Life:

Laptops are on the go. Power sources, not so much. One of the keys to having your laptop battery last longer without having to recharge is to use less power. Since a Solid State Drive has no motors to spin a drive at 5,400 or 7,200 rpm, it’s energy needs are much lower. Therefore your laptop battery will last much longer.

The flip side of this – with a Solid State drive requiring less battery power, your laptop manufacturer can create thinner, lighter laptops like Apple’s new .68″ thick MacBook Air.

Less Heat and Noise:

By producing less heat due to a Solid State Drive, your laptop won’t need giant fans to cool off the unit. Or, a mobile phone can forgo the fan for a specially designed heatsink. The result? A quieter, cooler, thinner, and more battery efficient device.

Next Steps:

If you’re interested in upgrading your laptop’s drive to a Solid State Drive, here’s a few recommended models to give you an idea of prices and performance.

For performance: Intel’s 520 Series

The Intel 520 Series 240 GB Solid-State Drive uses Intel’s Cherryville Firmware running on Sandforce’s 6Gbps SATA Controller. Offering sequential read speeds of up to 550 MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 520 MB/s, the Intel 520 SSD gives you performance, size and Intel reliability.

For all around value: Intel’s 320 Series

Intel’s 320 Series 120 GB Solid-State Drive gives you sustained sequential read speeds up to 270 MB/s and sustained sequential write speeds up to 130 MB/s, Intel reliability and on-drive AES-128 encryption. I own an Intel 320 120GB SSD, have it running in a Lenovo Netbook and I love it. Its fast, quiet and took my Ideapad from about 5 hours battery life to nearly 7.

Good Price, Good Performance: Crucial’s M4 Series

The Crucial 256 GB M4 Solid State Drive gives you up to 415MB/s Sequential Read, up to 260MB/s Sequential Write and twice the storage space for the same price as the Intel. On the flip side, you lose the on-drive encryption and due to lack of over provisioning as the drive gets full, performance suffers on the M4. That explains why the 256GB M4 costs nearly the same as a 120GB Intel..

And if your budget’s tight, I’d recommend getting a decent Solid State Drive in a smaller size such as a Crucial 64 GB M4 Solid State Drive or an Intel 320 120GB SSD and an External Hard Drive Enclosure. Then all you need to do is install the SSD into your laptop and put your original drive in the enclosure. Instant External Hard Drive for backups and extra storage!

2 Comments

  1. The Pontificator says:

    My next Mac will definitely run an SSD of some kind.

    Good article.

    BTW…where have you been? Haven’t seen a new article posted to this blog in like 2 years?

  2. David Balogh says:

    @The Pontificator: Apple is definitely going in the SSD direction as well. And once you get one, its tough to go back. As far as my hiatus.. I became a little too busy to maintain my post schedule but thanks for visiting after such a long time!