– Ben Martens

Solid State Drives

In the old days if your computer ran slowly and you asked a geek how to make it faster, they would probably say “Add more RAM.” With most computers having 4-8GB of RAM now, memory isn’t generally an issue. There’s still a new answer to that question: Get an SSD.

I had my first taste of a solid state drive years ago when I built my media center PC. I wanted something quiet and lower power. Once I saw first hand how fast it was, I started on a mission to replace the main operating system drive in every computer with an SSD. They were expensive at first but now the costs have come way down, and while they’re still significantly more expensive than the older spindle based hard drives, they’re not cost-prohibitive in most situations.

How much of a difference does it make? I ran benchmark comparisons of the SSD and the old HD in my computer. The average speed of reading data off the disk is 2.5 times faster with the SSD. That’s for reading single big files though. More common is that you’re reading little pieces from a bunch of small files all over the place. For that, an SSD really shines. In random access tests for small files, the SSD was more than 40 times faster! The times when you notice an SSD the most are when booting the computer (or resuming from a sleep state) and when you open programs.

If you’re interested in buying one, you can find them for around $0.40-0.50/GB. Don’t go too much smaller than 120GB for your operating system drive. Windows doesn’t take nearly that much space but by the time you get it installed, do some updates, and install a bunch of programs, it’s not too hard to use that much space. If you don’t want to spend much time shopping around, consider the Samsung 830 it’s not quite the cheapest but it’s a good bang for the buck.