Over the years I’ve built up a few PCs by researching and buying components then stitching them all together. I always strived for the highest performing computer I could buy without breaking the bank. Recently I discovered that the single best way of increasing my computers’ performance by changing a single component is by replacing the hard drives with solid state drives (SSD).
Solid state drives are essentially some kind of random access memory packaged into a box with hard drive data and power connections that can be used anywhere a normal hard drive could be used. There are a several different types of SSD drives, but the most common are the 2.5” Flash Memory based drives. The 2.5” means that they’re designed to fit in the standard space inside a laptop. The “flash” bit means that they retain their data even when there’s no power, as per a flash USB memory stick. There are other, faster, versions based on DRAM that require an on-board battery or a constant external power supply to retain data.
I upgraded my home PC with a Samsung 256 GB drive and my work laptop with an Intel X25-M 160 GB drive. These are both 2.5”. In order to install the Samsung drive in my home PC I needed to purchase a caddy, such as this Akasa Dual 2.5” mounting kit. It just pads out the space so that you can mount the drive in a standard PC 3.5” drive bay.
The capacity of the drives at the moment isn’t comparable to that of traditional drives (with 2 TB drives currently available for £135), so at home I keep all my photos, videos and music on traditional hard drives (2 x 400 GB, using RAID 1 to offer some level of data safety) and leave the SSD ones for applications.
If you follow the links to those drives on the Overclockers site, you’ll see that they’re not that cheap. However, the speed increase I’ve achieved on both systems is excellent. Application start up time is a fraction of what it used to be on the same machines. Search performance is noticeably faster in both Outlook and Windows in general. The whole system seems somewhat snappier. I had been thinking about building another PC from scratch with a faster CPU and more memory, but having made the SSD upgrade I doubt I’ll bother for another year or so.
It’s worth noting that if you’re upgrading to an SSD you’ll probably be wanting to install your operating system on that drive too. It’s a good time to upgrade to Windows 7, which is what I did. Great OS.
Thanks to Avanade UK’s “gadget allowance” for funding these purchases!