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Should you install an SSD?

Storage Wars: SSD Help for the Undecided

I built a PC for the first time in a decade earlier this month. Fearing some catastrophic mistake, I nervously sent my potential build over to a friend for some advice.

“Why don’t you have an SSD in there?” He asked, confused.

My omission was half down to oversight and half down to concern about price vs capacity.  Which is probably natural when you’re looking at double the price of traditional drives for slivers of the storage potential.

I also didn’t really think an SSD could live up to its hype. I reluctantly took the plunge with the Kingston 120GB V300 together with a standard 2TB HDD and honestly I don’t think I could ever go back.

Quite simply, even opting for a smaller SSD to load up with your operating system and a few essential programs (in my case, Overwatch, and… not much else) is a big boost in performance and load time for relatively small expenditure.

Everyone should have hybrid storage (Note – when I say ‘hybrid’ I’m referring to having an SSD/HDD working together as opposed to the actual combination drives out in the wild).

hdd and ssd in hands

SSD or HDD? Or both?

 

I personally don’t believe we’ll see SSDs completely replace HDDs in our lifetime, but a combination of the two is certainly becoming a new standard. They’re a match made in heaven, and it’s easier than ever to have the best of both worlds.

There are so many reasons to throw your hesitance to the wind and take the plunge, but we’ll boil it down to three short core points to help you make your decision as easy as possible.

As a brief disclaimer, this article is going to make no assumptions about your knowledge level, and just go in as basic as possible, so I’ll try and keep statistics to an absolute minimum.

Speed

This is the main motivator behind this purchase. SSDs are essentially memory sticks as opposed to physical disks. This means less moving parts no whirring, heat-generating machine arms reading data.

Your stuff is stored on a series of chips and can be accessed several times faster. My hard drive reads data at an average of 150MB/s, while the SSD caps out at around 358. The numbers speak for themselves.

Having your operating system run from an SSD can make boot times unbelievably quick, and when it comes to gaming, it can be the difference between being the first one in the map or lagging behind on a loading screen while everyone else is setting up.

The speed boost is great for gaming. If you play a lot of online games it’s definitely worth having a larger SSD with your favourite titles on, but I would consider it essential for graphic designers or anybody who has to work with engineering or rendering software.
fast ssd

Why deny yourself the advantage? Even the cheapest SSD is going to be miles ahead of a 7200rpm HDD. Average boot time for an OS from hard storage is anywhere between 30-50 seconds, when a run-of-the-mill SSD can have you on the desktop in 10.

One of the first games I played on my return to PC was The Witcher 3 having previously played it on Xbox One and experiencing a few heinous load times, it was almost alarming how quickly I was back on the trail after several messy deaths.

Capacity v Price

SSDs aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be, making having your very own dual-drive system more realistic. You can pick up 120GB of lightning fast storage for around the £50 mark on average these days, with the odd ridiculous bargain emerging as new models debut.

With cheaper, more spacious traditional hard drives in mind, that doesn’t sound particularly impressive but the benefits are totally worth it. Even if you need quantity over speed, I highly recommend even a smaller SSD for your core software.

hdd and ssd

There are, of course, some cases in which an SSD might not be for you. If you’re a hard core downloader or media collector, you won’t be able to replace your terabytes of HDD storage unless you’ve got a few offshore bank accounts or an extremely wealthy elderly relative.

Hard drives are also arguably cheaper to replace when they start wearing out later in their lifespan. SSDs aren’t immune to decay but the technology involved is getting sophisticated enough that the average user is more than likely to throw the system out due to nuclear damage, heat death of the universe, or perhaps more realistically, obsolete hardware, before they experience system failure because of a dying SSD.

Noise and Durability

With no disc spinning up or mechanical moving parts required to read your data, SSDs are virtually silent. You’ll probably be familiar with the whirring, clicking noises HDDs make as they spin up, the drone getting higher and higher with faster drives.  All things which contribute heat to your system and come with much more potential for failure.

It’s the lack of moving parts which make SSDs much more durable. They aren’t susceptible to magnets, they can survive rough usage (well, rough by computer component standards, I wouldn’t recommend snowboarding on one) and they do all that whilst being faster, lighter, and smaller.

If you spend a lot of time on the move as a wandering web designer, eSports legend in the making, or photographer, for example, invest in an SSD, and get it in your software set up immediately. They are significantly more resistant to drops and tumbles, meaning your precious files are as safe as can be.

Regardless of your needs, an SSD will complement your computer’s performance with ease. You might not be replacing your 5TB media libraries with them yet (unless you’re planning an elaborate bank heist, in which case, call me) but with 60GB, 120GB, and 240GB models becoming more and more affordable, there’s little reason to ignore the upgrade any longer.

SSDs fit in with almost every possible type of computer user, and once you’ve seen the speed increase for yourself, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t buy one sooner.


Guest post created by Laurence Stark of Full Sync Gaming.  Click here to visit their website

Click here to see the full range of SSDs available from Ebuyer.com

 

how to replace an hdd with an ssd

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15 comments

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  1. Mark 10 May, 2017 at 09:12

    Not sure you should be holding hard drives by the PCB like in the first picture without ESD protection… :/

  2. Anonymous 10 May, 2017 at 09:14

    “I personally don’t believe we’ll see SSDs completely replace HDDs in our lifetime” – possibly but technology does move on apace. Don’t forget the famous quote from IBM’s president in the 1940s – “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”!
    It’s very difficult to predict where technology will go.

  3. Alan Moore 10 May, 2017 at 10:09

    The illustration in this morning’s email – linking to this page – says “SDD”. Don’t buy one of those.. it’ll help you find radiation leakage but it won’t make your computer any faster 😉

  4. Alan Moore 10 May, 2017 at 10:12

    I agree with Anonymous, I DO think SSDs will replace hard drives, at least within people’s main computers. You might have a hard drive NAS – or just use cloud storage based on them – but you won’t have slower moving-part drives in your computer for long.

    When was the last time you saw a floppy drive?

  5. Alan Moore 10 May, 2017 at 10:21

    One other point.. the writer mentions only one speed difference, sustained data reading at 350 instead of 150 MB/s. This is a bit optimistic for hard drives and pessimistic for SSDs, but more to the point THAT’S NOT THE MAIN PERFORMANCE ADVANTAGE. Seek times for SSDs – the time taken find and start to read a piece of data – are out of this world compared to hard disks. HDD seek times are several milliseconds, whereas in the typical SSD it’s often under 0.1ms. This is the big performance advantage, and largely why it boots so fast.

  6. George 1949 10 May, 2017 at 19:10

    I got a good deal on a 960GB SSD from E-buyer, partitioned it as 250/700, set the download location as the D drive, I have never looked back, versus the 5400rpm drive I had in my laptop before it certainly is turbo-charged

  7. Dennis Jones 11 May, 2017 at 08:15

    Be careful, I am an IT professional and have installed several of these successfully, however I have an HP 655 laptop which will not accept SSD or hybrid drives. The bios just says that the device is not readable and please insert a bootable device. (and yes I have tried legacy mode etc etc) On searching through various forums it is clear that some manufacturers have a “whitelist” policy to stop other kit being added.

  8. Dennis Jones 11 May, 2017 at 08:22

    Regarding the comment from anonymous above about IBM and the market for computers being about five. This is actually true. At the time the only use for them was as what we now call top end super computers. I used to work for Fujitsu and had to assemble a meeting of possible UK buyers for their absolute top system (costing tens of £millions) and it was BP, The Met Office, GCHQ, A drugs company, Atomic Energy Authority, University of London Computer Centre.

  9. Richard G 12 May, 2017 at 13:24

    After my old computer died after 6 years hard use, and then reading about the increased boot time of Win10 with an SSD, I bought a replacement computer from ebuyer and added one of their Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb SSD’s. From switching on, to actually being able to do anything, my old computer took over 5 minutes (even though boot time was 1:52). The new system, using Win 10 on the SSD and everything else on the HDD, takes about 30 seconds from switching on, to being able to use. A vast improvement for a PC user.

  10. Richard G 12 May, 2017 at 13:26

    After my old computer died after 6 years hard use, and then reading about the increased boot speed of Win10 with an SSD, I bought a replacement computer from ebuyer and added one of their Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb SSD’s. From switching on, to actually being able to do anything, my old computer took over 5 minutes (even though boot time was 1:52). The new system, using Win 10 on the SSD and everything else on the HDD, takes about 30 seconds from switching on, to being able to use. A vast improvement for a PC user.

  11. Howard Kerr 3 June, 2017 at 09:03

    I don’t know why this article is here now, SSD’s as a boot drive at least has ben a no brainer for several years now. And of course they will replace hard drives in personal systems completely within a few years as capacity increases and price come down.

  12. Mike Mckay 3 June, 2017 at 20:06

    SSD s are situational

    Theyre ideal for laptops due to their lower power requirements, theyre good for booting the OS and SOME productivity and even some games that access the hard drive constantly and help with things like video editing

    But for things like music, video playback theyre a waste of money as the data throughput required is comparatively so little that a normal mechanical hard drive is more than fast enough

    So for most people a 120/240GB SSD is ALL they will ever need just to provide enough room for a boot partition and the rest as a second partition for programs that run slowly from a normal hard drive

    Everything else is best stored on a mechanical hard drive simply because its still the best value for money storage medium for most peoples pockets and is “good enough”

    But if the new intel optane drives aren’t too expensive then even SSDs might start to vanish even before normal hard drives because if the claims about optane are true its faster than SSDs, has lower latency and unlimited writes unlike SSDs that have clearly defined average life spans per cell

    So for the data that an SSD is best for it might turn out that intel optane will replace them instead. And for the stuff which is fine on a mechanical drive, those will STILL be a more economical way to store them and still MUCH cheaper than an SSD

    So we might actually see standard SSDs vanish before mechanical hard drives with NVME drives and intel optane drives mixed with mechanical drives becoming the norm

  13. markybhoy67 3 June, 2017 at 20:44

    SSD replacing cumbersome mechanical HDD in our lifetime … depends if folk are 102 yrs old or 25 yrs old.

    I would imagine most of us will see SSD’s become the standard and then replaced by other technology such as biological or other. Technology needs to move onto faster and more secure devices to read / write data. As someone else states “when was the last time we saw a floppy disk?”

  14. Tony Jarvie 8 June, 2017 at 09:21

    For the majority of users, SSDs are a nice to have – if you’re spending 3 hours browsing the web, checking Facebook, Youtube, etc, the it really doesn’t matter much if your PC/laptop takes 3 minutes to boot up. Go and make a coffee while you’re waiting!
    However, for gamers I can see the advantage as the load times will be faster.

    Where I’ve seen the greatest benefit, though, is at work where I’m the IT manager and we’ve fitted a few NVMe M.2 drives for the coders and their compile times / build times have improved MASSIVELY by using the SSD as a storage area for the builds. Yes, the life of the SSD might be impacted by the continual read/write cycles, but the value benefit of reducing a 45minute build to 10-15 minutes makes it more than worthwhile using them and replacing them if/when they die.
    A word of caution, though – M.2 drives appear to come in two varieties – NVMe which has a throughput on a decent motherboard of 32Gbps, and a “standard” SATA which is just 6Gbps, but cost around half as much. If you want the maximum performance gain, pay the extra for an NVMe drive otherwise there’s no difference between that M.2 slot and a regular SATA SSD.

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