Why do I need a solid state drive?

Solid state drives, also known as SSDs, are a type of storage device used in computers. They differ from traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) in that they have no moving parts and instead store data on flash memory chips. This leads to some key advantages that make SSDs desirable for many users.

In the opening paragraphs, it’s important to understand what exactly an SSD is and how it works before diving into the specifics of why you may want one. SSDs help your computer or device run faster, more reliably, and more efficiently. The lack of moving parts means no noise and improved durability. Prices have also dropped sharply in recent years, making SSDs affordable for most budgets.

What is an SSD?

An SSD is a storage device that uses flash memory instead of a spinning platter to store data. The most common type of SSD is the 2.5 inch SATA SSD, which can be used as a direct replacement for a traditional 2.5 inch SATA hard drive. M.2 and PCIe SSDs are also common in newer ultra-thin laptops.

Some key characteristics of SSDs:

  • Faster access times – SSDs can access data up to 100x faster than HDDs because they don’t have to mechanically move a head to different parts of a disk when retrieving data.
  • Higher durability – No moving parts means SSDs are less susceptible to damage or mechanical failure over time.
  • Lower power consumption – SSDs require less power, generating less heat and improving battery life in laptops.
  • Compact size – 2.5 inch SSDs are the same form factor as laptop hard drives. M.2 and PCIe SSDs are even smaller.
  • Silent operation – No moving parts means no audible clicking or whirring.
  • Shock resistance – Less susceptible to damage if dropped.

In summary, the lack of mechanical parts provides substantial performance, reliability, efficiency, and design advantages over hard disk drives. This makes SSDs desirable for consumers and heavily used in enterprise environments.

Why Do SSDs Perform Faster than HDDs?

SSDs can operate up to 100 times faster than traditional HDDs for a few key reasons:

1. No Moving Parts

HDDs rely on a spinning platter and read/write head to locate and access data. This means physical limitations come into play when reading or writing data. The drive heads must move into position and wait for the platter to spin before accessing data.

SSDs have no moving parts. They access data directly from flash memory chips, allowing much faster access. The lack of mechanical limitations means data can be retrieved almost instantly.

2. Higher Data Throughput

SSDs support much higher data transfer speeds and bandwidth compared to HDDs. Top-end consumer SSDs now exceed 3,000 MB/s read and write speeds thanks to interfaces like PCIe 4.0 x4. HDDs max out around 160 MB/s.

Faster interfaces combined with the inherent speed of flash memory chips enable SSDs to transfer data much faster. This means loading apps, files, games, and the operating system itself is significantly quicker.

3. Lower Latency

Latency refers to the delay from when a request for data is sent to when it is accessed. HDDs suffer from high latency due to physical limitations of moving components. SSDs have near instantaneous latency measurable in microseconds rather than milliseconds. This translates to much snappier responsiveness.

4. Concurrency

SSDs can handle multiple concurrent read and write operations efficiently. HDDs queue up requests and handle them essentially one at a time. Support for concurrency allows an SSD to multi-task data operations, further improving overall speed.

Top Benefits of Using an SSD

Upgrading to an SSD or purchasing a system with one provides both tangible, measurable speed improvements along with less quantifiable improvements to the overall experience.

Faster Boot and Shut Down Times

Starting up a computer relies heavily on storage. The operating system and all startup programs and processes must be loaded from storage into memory. With an SSD, this happens significantly faster.

Boot up times can be reduced from minutes down to 10-30 seconds in many cases. Shut down times are similarly faster since closing programs can write data out much quicker.

Faster File Transfers and Overall Responsiveness

Any operation involving reading or writing data to storage is sped up with an SSD. Downloading, installing, copying, unzipping files all happen noticeably faster.

Opening files and launching applications is also instantaneous rather than delayed by disk access. The computer feels significantly more responsive and snappy when equipped with an SSD.

Improved Multitasking

With an SSD, you can open multiple applications and files simultaneously without slowing down the system. The concurrency and throughput capabilities of SSDs means the computer remains responsive even under heavy load.

You don’t have to wait for disk operations to queue up when accessing different files or apps. The system handles parallel requests without delay. This enables much more efficient multitasking.

Speeds Up Games

Gaming places heavy demands on storage with large assets, textures, save files, and continuous disk access. Using an SSD greatly reduces load times when booting up or fast traveling in games.

Games can stutter less mid-play as the SSD keeps up with demands. Some competitive titles like online shooters also benefit from much faster map and respawn loads. Overall gameplay is snappier.

Improves Workflow Efficiency

Professionals who work with large files like video, photo, or audio editing can save significant time in their workflows with faster storage. Data transfer, scrubbing timelines, saving edits, batch exports, and more are substantially quicker.

Time savings add up when working on storage heavy projects. Having an SSD improves productivity and efficiency.

Extends Laptop Battery Life

Because SSD components use less power than spinning HDD platters, laptop battery runtime improves. The savings are modest but noticeable, especially for intense disk operations. Every bit of battery life counts when mobile.

SSDs run cooler as well, reducing fans kicking on as often. Less heat benefits laptop longevity.

Reliability and Durability Advantages

With no moving parts, SSDs are less prone to mechanical failure over time. Data is safer from damage if a laptop is dropped or jostled as well. Vibration resistance improves reliability in mobile use cases.

SSDs have a long shelf life since flash memory retains data even when powered off. HDDs can experience data loss if left unpowered for long. SSDs are well suited for archival data storage.

Compact and Lightweight

2.5″ SSDs weigh about 1/3 as much as 2.5″ HDDs – only around 1.5 ounces for an SSD versus 4-5 ounces for a hard drive. M.2 and PCIe SSDs are even more compact and light to support slim, portable designs.

Lower size and weight benefits laptops and small form factor systems where every gram counts. Less weight also places less strain on laptop hinges over time.

Silent Operation

With no spinning platter or moving read-write head, SSDs make no noise during operation. This is a subtle but meaningful improvement over the audible humming or whirring of HDDs.

PCs and laptops with SSDs don’t distract you with mechanical sounds. Silent operation is valued in quiet environments like offices, libraries, or classrooms.

Low Power and Low Heat

Compared to HDDs, SSDs consumer less power – up to 4x less when active, and 10x less when idle. This means less electricity usage, benefitting desktop users and laptop battery runtimes.

The low power draw also results in very little heat output. SSDs stay cool, while HDDs can warm up quickly with sustained activity. SSDs strain the cooling system less in desktops and laptops.

Disadvantages of SSDs

While SSDs have clear benefits, there are some downsides to consider:

Cost Per Gigabyte – SSDs have come down in price but are still more expensive per gigabyte compared to hard drives. Larger capacity SSDs still carry a price premium.

Maximum Capacities – Consumer SSD units currently max out at around 4TB. HDDs reach up to 20TB+. Very high capacity needs still favor HDDs.

Lifespan Is Limited – SSDs can wear out after a number of write cycles, generally estimated at anywhere from a few hundred terabytes to petabytes written. HDDs have essentially unlimited writes.

File Recovery Is Challenging – With no mechanical parts, data recovery is very difficult on dead SSDs. HDD recovery methods like removing platters to recover data elsewhere do not apply to SSDs.

Faster Wear from Heavy Writing – Databases, video editing, and other write-intensive use cases will wear through SSD lifespan faster than typical consumer usage. HDDs better tolerate extremely heavy writes.

So while SSDs are excellent for typical everyday computing, very large storage needs or niche professional use cases still benefit from traditional hard drives. For most mainstream users though, SSD advantages now outweigh the downsides.

Types of SSDs

There are several different types and form factors of SSDs:


The standard rectangular SSD format measuring 2.5″ wide that connects via the SATA interface, just like a 2.5″ hard drive often found in laptops. Easy drop-in replacement for hard drive. Provides up to 600MB/s speeds.


Compact, flat stick-like shape that connects directly to a motherboard through a slot. Typically uses PCIe or SATA interfaces. Very common in thin laptops. Supports up to 4,000 MB/s with PCIe 4.0 x4.

PCIe Add-in Card

SSD on a PCIe card that inserts into a PCIe x4 or x16 slot on a motherboard. Resembles a graphics card. Mostly for desktops. Offers speeds over 5,000 MB/s.


Slim, compact SSD format usually used in older ultrabooks. Replaced by M.2. Limited to SATA speeds around 500MB/s.


SSDs that utilize the PCIe host interface and NVMe communication protocol. Includes M.2 and PCIe SSDs. Enables exceptional performance beyond SATA limitations.


Advanced SSDs that stack flash memory cells vertically in a 3D matrix for higher densities and capacities. Used across M.2, 2.5″ SSDs, and more. Top SSD technology.

How to Choose an SSD

With so many SSD options, here are the key factors to consider when selecting one:

Interface – SATA, PCIe, and M.2 are the most common. NVMe drives are the fastest. Ensure your PC is compatible.

Capacity – 250GB to 1TB is typical for boot drives. Consider 500GB+ for game libraries and media storage.

Form Factor – 2.5″ for desktops and laptop drive bays. M.2 sticks for ultrathins. PCIe for maximum speed.

3D NAND – Preferred for performance and endurance. QLC is most affordable but wears faster.

Brand Reputation – Look for proven manufacturers like Samsung, Crucial, Western Digital. Check reviews.

Warranty – 5 year warranties provide peace of mind that an SSD will endure.

Price Per Gigabyte – SSD prices keep improving. Compare models for the best value.

Buy based on your specific computer, performance needs, and budget. Match SSD specs to your requirements.


SSDs provide substantial real-world speed improvements and a better overall user experience. The switch from HDD to SSD is one of the most impactful PC upgrades you can make.

Boot times, app launches, file transfers, and game loads are significantly faster. Multitasking is snappier and more efficient. And there are reliability, stability, and longevity benefits.

While hard drives still serve a purpose for mass storage at lower costs, SSDs are now affordable enough to become the default for most computing needs. The average consumer is well served by a 250GB to 1TB SSD for their primary drive.

Upgrading to an SSD or buying a system with one already installed provides the best of speed, responsiveness, and reliability. SSDs have become a must-have component for modern computer builds and laptops. The benefits are instantly obvious once experienced. Moving from HDD to SSD is a worthwhile investment that pays off every time you use the system.