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  • Hard drive and solid state drive upgrades

    2 January at 15:51 from atlas

    If you are looking to improve the startup and shutdown times of your Mac or PC, launch applications quickly and provide a new lease of life for your current computer, you should be considering a hard drive upgrade.

    What are solid state drives?

    Solid state drives or SSD's are the current performance kings of local storage. Think of those popular USB memory keys many people carry around with them and then repackage this technology for use in notebooks and desktops as a swap out hard drive replacement. The performance, capacities and reliability are boosted to a point where these SSD's offer double to triple digit performance over current hard drives. It's not often performance increases this substantial are seen in information technology and this is why we are very excited about this flash storage.

    Why are SSD's better than hard drives?

    Let us step back and consider the core differences between these two storage technologies.

    Traditional hard drives have metallic magnetic coated platters that spin around at high speed with special disk heads that are able to cross tracks of data to read this magnetic data (information) off the platter. Picture a CD spinning around - mechanical, noisy, are susceptible to damage by shock or vibration and the drives are fairly large in size.

    SSD's are electronic in nature and use a special non-volatile memory (retains data without continual power) to store data. This data can be accessed in real time without the significant delays of mechanical alignment latency, rotational latency and variable speed dependent on the data's location on the platter.

    Do SSD's have a weakness?

    It's all about capacity, price and maturity. Traditional hard drives at higher capacities offer much better value for money than SSD's. Consider a person with thousands of photos, 50 movies, 2 months of music, plus applications, games and documents stored on their computer - maybe they are using 300 gigabytes of data on their hard drive. A 500 GB notebook hard drive might be purchased for $100. The same capacity SSD may cost $600 or more.

    For light use scenarios where computers are mainly used for web browsing, emails and documents they may only require a 120 gigabyte SSD which would cost about $150 - much more palatable and well worth the extra $50 over a traditional hard drive.

    Now consider a media storage scenario, 600 movies, 20 TV series, 150GB of music taking up 3 terabytes (3TB = 3000GB) a 3 TB hard drive might cost $200, a 3TB SSD would be around $3000.

    Technological maturity is another consideration - SSD's are a relatively new technology in the consumer sector and some early models have been plagued with problems as a result of rushing to market products that have not been thoroughly tested. While the situation has improved in the past 18 months, only trusted brands with a proven track record should be utilized.

    Can SSD's and hard drives be used together?

    Yes they can be used together in desktops and there are workarounds for laptops.

    The relatively high cost of flash memory per gigabyte used in solid state drives roughly $1.00 - $1.50 per GB makes them many multiple times more expensive then larger capacity hard drives which vary from $0.06 - $0.10 per GB. Given that larger files like movies may be 1 GB or more in size, storing a movie collection on an SSD can be an expensive exercise. This is where the two technologies can be used to complement each other resulting in a balanced system with SSD storage for operating system, applications and a few smaller media files, while larger collections of data can be stored on a traditional hard drive, either internally or externally.

    Often a laptop will only have room for one drive bay. If an SSD is a little over budget for your required capacity, there is a good compromise. Hybrid drives are regular hard drives with a small amount of flash memory designed to enhance system performance by caching (keeping a copy of) frequently accessed files in the fast flash storage. The best of both worlds are combined into a low cost drive with good storage price per GB and average performance approaching that of an SSD.

    What sort of performance can I expect from upgrading to an SSD boot drive?

    Some of the most frustrating time delays are simple tasks like turning on your system and shutting it down. Both scenarios involve accessing many different files on your system to get it up and running or to shut it down properly. With an SSD installed, you can expect a solid improvement in loading times with many seconds shaved off launching Windows or OS X.

    Launching large applications like Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer or games will be noticeably quicker and the system will feel more responsive especially when multitasking.

    Virus scanning is performed much quicker and there is no need for defragging your SSD, because it doesn't matter where data is stored, access is practically instantaneous.

    What's involved with the upgrade or installation?

    First we need to ensure you have your existing data backed up and free from infections before we start migrating data. Next step involves shifting any non-SSD data to a temporary drive so that we can reduce the size of the files in your partition prior to cloning the remaining data on your hard drive. Next comes installation of the new drive, cloning and boot order prioritizing. Finally removal of cloned data from the hard drive and repositioning your data from the temporary drive to your hard drive.

    What SSD should I get?

    Get in touch with us to discuss your requirements. We have already done a lot of the research and just need to ensure any products we recommend are the best use of your hard earned dollars before recommending an upgrade path and possible installation.

    Happy Computing.