What is a Solid State Drive (SSD)?
A solid state drive (SSD) is a storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data persistently. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) that have spinning disks and movable read/write heads, SSDs use microchips and contain no moving parts (Source: https://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/ssd).
SSDs store data in flash memory, made up of silicon microchips. Data is stored in tiny cells within these chips. SSDs access data on the microchips electronically, without any mechanical motion. This allows SSDs to operate silently with very fast read and write speeds.
Compared to HDDs, SSDs have several advantages:
- Faster start-up, data access and file transfer speeds due to no moving parts and direct electrical data access
- More reliable with lower failure rates since no mechanical motions that can break down
- Silent operation and low power usage due to no spinning disks or motors
- Withstands vibration and impact better with no delicate moving parts
Drawbacks of SSDs include:
- Higher cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs
- Limited number of write/erase cycles for the memory cells
- Potential data loss if power is lost during a write operation
Are SSDs Completely Silent?
SSDs have no moving parts like the spinning platters and read-write heads in traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). This lack of physical motion is the main reason why SSDs produce very little noise compared to HDDs during operation. However, SSDs are not completely silent.
While SSDs don’t make noise from spinning disks or moving parts, they can still generate a small amount of electrical noise from components like capacitors and transistors. However, this electrical noise is typically very faint and not detectable without specialized equipment.
So in summary, while SSDs are much quieter than HDDs, they are not completely silent. But the noise emitted from components like capacitors is usually negligible and not audible under normal conditions and workloads. The lack of physical motion gives SSDs a major acoustic advantage over HDDs.
Cited from: https://5ahl.com/hosting/139121.html
SSD Noise Levels
SSDs produce very little noise compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). This is because SSDs have no moving mechanical parts like the spinning platters and read/write heads found in HDDs. The lack of moving parts allows SSDs to operate almost silently.
Most SSDs have noise levels around 0-30 decibels. For comparison, average HDD noise levels range from 20-40 decibels and can go even higher when the drive is under heavy load. The noise from HDDs comes from the physical vibration and friction of the drive’s internal components. SSDs eliminate most of this by using flash memory chips rather than magnetic platters.
In specific tests, SATA SSDs have been measured at noise levels between 21-28 decibels, while average 3.5″ HDDs range from 30-36 decibels in idle/low activity. Under heavy load, HDDs can reach up to 55 decibels. SSDs see only a slight 1-2 decibel increase under equivalent workloads.
The near silent operation of SSDs makes them preferable for noise-sensitive environments like recording studios or quiet offices. For most home and business uses, SSD noise should be effectively inaudible during normal operation.
Main Sources of SSD Noise
SSDs generate minimal noise compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), but they are not completely silent. The main sources of noise from an SSD come from electrical components and data access operations:
Electrical noise – All electronic components generate some small amount of noise from thermal fluctuations and leakage currents. The sum of these electronic noises contributes to the baseline noise level of the SSD even when idle. This is often described as a faint high-pitched sound.
Fan noise – Some SSDs utilize active cooling with small fans, which can generate noise. Fanless SSDs will be silent in terms of mechanical noise.
Data access noise – When an SSD accesses data, it generates a small amount of noise from the NAND flash memory chips and controller operations. This occurs when reading, writing, or erasing data. The noise is intermittent and usually imperceptible.
Overall, electrical noise is the primary source of noise from an SSD. Well-designed SSDs minimize component noise and optimize airflow to reduce or eliminate fan noise. The noise during data access is fleeting and insignificant for most applications (Cited from https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2016JA022559).
Factors Affecting SSD Noise
There are a few key factors that can affect the level of noise generated by an SSD:
Quality of Components
The quality and precision of the components inside the SSD can impact noise levels. Lower quality components with looser tolerances may vibrate or resonate more, creating audible noise. High precision components built to tighter tolerances generally operate with less vibration and noise.
For example, some budget SSDs may use lower grade NAND flash or controllers which could lead to more electrical or mechanical noise during operation. Premium SSDs designed for performance and reliability tend to use higher quality components selected for quieter operation.
Presence of Fan/Heatsink
Some SSDs designed for high performance applications come with an attached heatsink or active cooling fan. The fan itself will generate noise from airflow, and the air moving over the heatsink can also create noise. A fanless, heatsink-less SSD will avoid any cooling related noise.
Enclosure Noise Dampening
The design of the SSD enclosure can amplify or muffle noise generated by components inside the drive. Enclosures made with noise dampening materials and anti-vibration mechanisms will reduce noise output compared to bare SSD circuit boards with no acoustic dampening.
For example, a bare M.2 SSD mounted directly to the motherboard will be louder than one enclosed in a dampened M.2 heatsink enclosure.
Methods to Reduce SSD Noise
While SSDs are generally quiet, there are a few methods you can use to reduce any noise coming from an SSD:
Use High Quality Components – Lower quality SSD controllers, NAND chips, and other components can sometimes cause noticeable vibration or coil whine. Choosing a high-end SSD model from a reputable brand will ensure maximum quality and quiet operation.
Dampen the SSD Enclosure – Most noise from an SSD comes from vibration against the drive cage or enclosure. Installing sound dampening material like rubber washers or foam around the SSD can help reduce any resonance or rattling.
Use an External Power Supply – SSDs powered directly by the motherboard can pick up electrical noise or interference from other PC components. Using an externally powered SSD enclosure with its own power supply can isolate the drive and reduce noise.
Some other helpful tips are mounting the SSD securely, enabling any acoustic management features in the SSD firmware, and ensuring proper airflow around the drive. With a little effort, SSDs can be made nearly silent.
SSD Noise Compared to HDD
Unlike SSDs, traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) contain moving mechanical parts like platters, arms, motors, and actuators. These moving parts generate audible noise as they spin and move to access data (https://forums.tomshardware.com/threads/noise-like-a-mechanical-hdd-during-ssd-activity.3755545/). The noise levels of HDDs are significantly higher than SSDs.
Some of the main noise sources in HDDs include vibrations from spindle rotation and head seeks, airflow noise from platters spinning at high speeds, and noise from the actuator arm moving back and forth. Most HDD noise ranges between 25 to 30 dBA, with seeking noise as high as 35 dBA in some models (https://www.quora.com/Do-SSD-drives-run-quieter-than-HDD-drive).
In contrast, SSDs have no moving mechanical components and are essentially silent in operation. Any minor noise in SSDs comes from the electronics rather than physical movements. So SSDs provide a huge acoustic advantage over traditional hard drives.
Is SSD Noise Noticeable?
SSD noise is often not audible over other PC components like cooling fans and hard drives. But in very quiet environments with no other noise sources, SSDs may produce a faint buzzing or clicking sound during heavy read/write activity (source 1). This is because SSDs do contain some electronic components like capacitors and transistors that can emit noise when operating (source 2). However, SSD acoustics are vastly superior to traditional hard disk drives. The noise levels are usually around 25-30 dBA for SSDs compared to 37-55 dBA for HDDs (source 3). So in most real-world usage scenarios, SSD noise should not be an issue and will go unnoticed by users (source 1). But users looking for a virtually silent PC experience may want to take steps to mitigate any potential SSD noise through airflow optimization, acoustic dampening materials, or selecting an SSD model with acoustic management features.
SSD Acoustic Management Features
Many SSDs come with firmware features designed to minimize electrical noise and vibrations that can contribute to audible noise levels. These acoustic management capabilities help make SSDs quieter in operation.
Some key acoustic management features in SSD firmware include:
- Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) – This adjusts seek acoustic parameters to reduce noise during disk operations. Lower AAM levels mean quieter performance at the expense of some speed.
- Native Command Queuing (NCQ) – This optimizes drive commands to reduce repetitive motion that can cause vibration and noise.
- Acoustic Frequency Management – The drive can alter internal transfer frequencies to avoid noise on certain frequency ranges.
SSD manufacturers also use hardware and components aimed at quieter operation:
- Silent memory controllers – These are designed to minimize electrical noise during read/write operations.
- Quiet cooling systems – Some SSDs use passive cooling or low noise fans to reduce noise.
- Vibration dampening – Rubber or foam material around an SSD casing can absorb vibration.
With proper firmware optimization and compatible components, SSDs can perform while producing very little audible noise compared to hard disk drives.
Choosing a Quiet SSD
When selecting an SSD, researching noise levels and acoustic ratings can help you find the quietest option. Look at spec sheets and reviews that provide decibel ratings at idle and load. Lower decibel levels indicate a quieter SSD.
Consider the SSD’s form factor and cooling needs as well. Generally, larger 3.5″ SSDs with dedicated heatsinks will be quieter than smaller 2.5″ SSDs since they can dissipate heat better with larger fans. However, 2.5″ SSDs designed for laptops may utilize advanced acoustic management to operate very quietly.
M.2 SSDs that slot directly into a motherboard can also be near silent since no moving parts are exposed. However, M.2 drives may rely on system fans for cooling which could contribute noise. Selecting an M.2 SSD with a dedicated heatsink helps reduce reliance on system fans.
In summary, look for SSDs with lower acoustic ratings and advanced acoustic management features. Prioritize models with dedicated heatsinks to allow fanless operation. The Crucial MX500 and Samsung 860 EVO are good options with quiet operation.