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December 13, 2011

What about SSD vs. HDD?

I recently received an email from a reader asking about SSD compared to HDD.  What the heck are those initials…new government agencies?  Not quite.   They stand for "Solid State Disk" (or Solid State Drive or Solid State Disk drive) and "Hard Disc Drive" respectively.

Opened HDD for viewingThe HDD is the hard drive you are most likely using on your computer.  It is generally made up of platters of metal disks stacked on top of each other.  Information is stored on both sides of the platters magnetically.  There is aHDD stacked Platters slight space between each disk with room for a "head" or magnetic reader on an arm which moves back and forth on both sides of each platter to read and write the magnetic info.  If you are old enough, just picture an old record player and a spindle stacked with records with tone arms between each record.  The major differences are size and the fact that an HDD spins at 7,200 rpm instead of 72 rpm. 

Example SSDBut what about the SSDs?  They are more advanced yet much simpler to explain.  SSD is basically another form of device used to store and retrieve data. Instead of metal platters it uses a solid state memory to hold the information.  A big plus is that there are no moving parts, meaning less battery drain and absolutely no noise.

The reader asked if they should switch to SSD and trash their old HDD.  I say not yet, for several reasons. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of SSDs.

Advantages of SSD:  Applications run through SSD will run much faster.  SSD devices require less power and no heat is produced.  SSD runs silently because it only uses computer chips, not moving parts. Access speed for reading is faster because it doesn’t have a moving part to run around disks looking for places to read or write data.  Mechanical reliability inside the SSD will be higher – mechanical failure wouldn’t happen as often, if ever.  SSD is shock resistant with no moving parts to break when dropped.  It can operate up to a temperature of about 160°F. HDDs are good up to about 110°F.  SDDs are much lighter in weight and smaller in size than HDDs.

Disadvantages of SSD:  Storage space is tiny compared to HDDs.  There is has been research to design and make a 1 Terabyte SSD, but it is not available yet.  1TB HDDs are readily available.  The write/erase cycle for SSD will not last as long. SSDs can supposedly go for a maximum of 100,000 cycles; whereas a regular HD can go for maybe 1-5 million write cycles.  This means performance of the SSD will decrease over time.  The big issue for me is that the price of SSDs is much higher.  The 1TB drive mentioned above is about $150.  However, a 128GB (about 1/8 the storage size of 1TB) SSD costs a little over $200.

I believe in the future all computers will be using SSDs to replace conventional hard drives.  But first prices and storage sizes have to get closer to the current HDD stats in order to be viable.  If you want to see what the future of SSDs will look like, search online for "Ultrabook."

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