What is SSD in data?

SSD, which stands for Solid State Drive, is a type of data storage device that uses flash memory to store data persistently. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDD) that use spinning magnetic disks, SSDs have no moving mechanical components and data is stored on interconnected flash memory chips that retain data even when power is removed. Some key advantages of SSDs over HDDs are:

Faster data access

SSDs provide much faster data access compared to HDDs because there are no moving parts involved. The interconnected flash chips allow data to be accessed instantly without any seek time or rotational latency. This makes SSDs well-suited for applications that require frequent and fast data access like databases, web servers, data analytics etc.

Higher throughput

The internal parallelism of SSDs with multiple flash chips allow them to achieve higher throughput. Multiple input/output operations can be performed simultaneously across the flash chips. HDDs are limited by the rotational speed of the platters.

Lower power consumption

SSDs consume much lower power compared to HDDs as they do not have to spin motors and move heads to access data. This makes them suitable for use in portable devices and ideal for data centers looking to reduce energy costs.

Increased reliability

The absence of moving parts also makes SSDs more reliable than HDDs. HDDs are prone to mechanical failures due to wear and tear of moving parts which affects data access. SSDs have no such problems and hence have lower failure rates.

Faster start up times

SSDs have much faster start up and boot times compared to HDDs as no spin-up is required. Applications and programs load much faster. For servers and computers that need to reboot frequently, SSDs can drastically reduce downtime.

Compact and lightweight

With no moving parts, SSDs are lighter and have smaller physical footprint compared to HDDs. This makes them suitable for ultraportable laptops, tablets and mobile devices where size and weight are critical.

Shock and vibration resistance

Being solid state with no moving parts, SSDs can withstand shock, vibration and extreme temperatures much better than HDDs. This makes them suitable for deployment in harsh environments.

Faster file copy/move/save

The higher throughput and low access latency of SSDs allow files to be copied, moved or saved much faster compared to HDDs. Applications like video editing where large media files need to be constantly read/written see significant performance gains with SSDs.

Quieter operation

SSDs generate no noise during operation unlike HDDs which have audible spinning and mechanical sounds. This makes them better suited for noise-sensitive environments like studios.

Higher cost per gigabyte

The main disadvantage of SSDs is their higher cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs. However, this gap is narrowing rapidly as SSD storage densities improve.

Risk of wear on cells

Constant writing to SSD cells can cause wear and affect longevity over time. However SSD controllers manage this well, spreading writes across cells evenly. Modern SSDs typically last several years even with heavy write loads.

Use cases for SSDs

Some common use cases where SSDs provide significant benefits are:

  • Operating system drive – Faster boot and application launch
  • Database servers – Low latency access for transactions
  • Web servers – Faster page load times
  • High performance computing – Fast access to temporary data
  • Video editing – Faster working with media files
  • Gaming PCs – Reduced game level load times

Types of SSDs

There are several types of SSDs designed for different use cases:


The most common type, connects via SATA interface just like HDDs. Provides faster performance than HDDs for laptops, desktops.


Compact form factor SSDs that connect directly to motherboard through PCIe interface. Offer very high data transfer speeds.


Enterprise SSDs that connect via PCIe interface, optimized for data centers. Offer very low latency and high throughput.

Add-in card SSD

Legacy SSDs that fit in PCI-E expansion slots to provide high speed access for servers/workstations.

SSD vs HDD Comparison

Here is a table comparing some key characteristics between SSDs and HDDs:

Characteristics SSD HDD
Data access speed Faster Slower
Latency Lower Higher
Max throughput Higher Lower
Reliability Higher Lower
Power consumption Lower Higher
Noise Silent operation Audible spinning
Shock resistance High Lower
Cost per GB Higher Lower

How does an SSD work?

SSDs work by storing data in flash memory cells made up of silicon wafers. These cells are interconnected through a controller which manages all communication between the SSD and computer. Let’s look at the key components of an SSD:

Flash memory cells

The storage element of an SSD, made up of billions of electrically programmable cells. Each cell traps electrons to represent a bit value of 1 or 0.

Flash memory chips

Contains thousands or millions of flash cells, the core building block determining capacity. SSDs use multiple chips in parallel.


The brain of the SSD, executes firmware to manage all data and communication flows. It has an embedded processor and RAM.

DRAM cache

Provides faster access to frequently used data. Helps boost SSD performance.

Host interface

Communication and data transfer interface between SSD and computer. Common interfaces are SATA, PCIe, U.2.


Software that provides functional control of SSD and runs on controller. Handles error correction, wear levelling, bad block management, garbage collection etc.

When data is written to an SSD, it is broken down into pages which are then programmed to empty cells distributed evenly across the flash chips by the controller. This parallelism is what gives SSD its speed advantage.

To optimize performance and lifespan, the controller employs techniques like wear levelling, garbage collection, ECC, over-provisioning, caching etc. The firmware is upgradeable to take advantage of new optimizations.

SSD Form Factors

SSDs come in various physical form factors to fit different types of devices and interfaces. Some common form factors are:

2.5 inch

The most popular SSD format, about the size of a laptop HDD. Fits in any 2.5″ drive bay or slot. Has SATA or PCIe interface.


Compact and thin card-like form factor. Designed for ultrabooks and tablets. Connects directly to motherboard M.2 slot.

Add-in card

Older format SSD cards that fit in standard PCI-E expansion slots. Offer very high speeds but now largely obsolete.


Enterprise SSD format that provides PCIe speeds. Formerly known as SFF-8639.

SSD Interface Types

SSDs use different interfaces to connect to computer systems. Typical interfaces include:


Compatible with HDDs and uses AHCI protocol. Max speed of 6Gbps. Used by 2.5″ SSDs.


High performance PCI Express and NVM Express interfaces. Offer massive bandwidth upto 32Gbps. Used in M.2 and U.2 SSDs.


Serial Attached SCSI interface, mainly used in enterprise SSDs. Supports dual-port for redundancy.

Internal SSD vs External SSD

SSDs can packaged internally to fit inside desktops or laptops, or externally in a portable enclosure connected via USB or Thunderbolt. Some differences between internal and external SSDs are:

Internal SSD

  • Installed inside PC case or laptop
  • Fits drive bays or slots on motherboard
  • Use SATA, M.2 or PCIe interfaces to connect
  • Offer best performance as they link directly to internal bus
  • Allow hardware encryption support in some cases

External SSD

  • Portable drive that connects externally via USB, Thunderbolt etc
  • Typically comes in 2.5″ enclosure for laptop drive form factors
  • May require external power in some cases
  • Easy plug and play usage via universal interfaces
  • Good for external storage, backups, transfer of large files

SSD Performance Factors

Several factors impact the performance of an SSD. The main ones are:

Interface bandwidth

Higher interface bandwidth reduces transfer bottlenecks. PCIe 4.0 x4 and upcoming PCIe 5.0 provide massive bandwidth.

Internal parallelism

More channels and flash chips accessible in parallel increases IO performance.

Flash technology

Newer flash tech like 3D NAND provide density, speed and endurance gains. SLC > MLC > TLC > QLC in performance.

Controller capabilities

A powerful controller improves data flow management and executes firmware faster via multiple cores.


Keeping spare capacity helps distribute writes and improves performance & endurance.

DRAM cache size

Larger on-board DRAM cache buffers data and improves read/write speeds.

SSD Benchmarks

To gauge and compare real-world performance of SSDs, various benchmarks are used. Common SSD synthetic benchmarks include:

AS-SSD Benchmark

Provides combined IO performance score after testing mixed read/write speeds, latency and IOPS.


Measures sequential and random read/write performance in megabytes per second and IOPS.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

Older benchmark that measures file transfer rates and IOPS across various file sizes.

Anvil’s Storage Utilities

Comprehensive benchmark with detailed IO performance metrics and ability to simulate real-world loads.


Flexible benchmark to simulate various workloads by tweaking IO profiles and parameters.

Real-world application benchmarks like PCMark 10 also provide performance scores for SSDs. In general, benchmarks help rank SSDs based on different aspects like random read/write throughput, latency and IOPS performance.

Latest SSD technologies

SSD technology keeps evolving driven by emerging flash memories and new interfaces. Some latest advancements include:

QLC NAND flash

Provides higher densities by storing 4 bits per cell. Cost effective but lower performance than TLC NAND.

PCIe 4.0

Doubles interface bandwidth to around 8GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 3.0. Used by latest NVMe SSDs.


New low power DRAM standard that boosts memory speeds up to 6.4Gbps. Will be adopted for SSD controller caches.

DirectStorage API

New Windows API to enable GPU decompression of assets on supported games and allow faster loading from SSD.

Zoned Namespaces

Logical division of SSD into independent zones to increase performance and endurance through better data placement control.


SSDs have revolutionized storage with their lightning fast speeds, low latency and reliability. They have become indispensable across consumer and enterprise use cases ranging from PCs, laptops, servers and high performance computing. Advancements like PCIe 5.0, HBM and storage class memory will push SSD capabilities even further in the coming years. While HDDs retain a cost advantage for high capacity bulk storage, SSDs are becoming the default choice for primary storage in any system needing optimal performance.