Many people also dislike the process of setting up a new device so that it’s just how they want it.
Whatever your preference, it can be friendlier on your wallet – and on the environment – to refresh and maintain your current devices rather than purchase brand new ones.
This week we’ll start by looking into SSDs – what they are and how they work.
SSD stands for Solid State Drive. Traditionally, the main drive of a computer, whether desktop, laptop, or server, has been a Hard Disk Drive or HDD.
HDDs can be reliable, but they are limited to how fast they can store and retrieve data, because of simple physics. HDDs are a literal spinning disk inside an enclosure, with a drive head that reads the data from the spinning disk. Each time you need to store or retrieve data, the head of the disk drive needs to find a specific place on the disk to record or read this data, much like an old record player, but many times faster, though still limited by the speed of the disk and how fast the head can move. Most of us will be familiar with the sound of a disk drive – a rattling noise, caused by the drive head moving around. Back in the days of Windows 95 and 98, Defragmentation worked to speed up a PC by putting files that were regularly used together into blocks that were physically close together on the disk’s surface, thus reducing the distance that the drive head would have to move in order to read the data, thereby speeding up your PC. Although we’re talking about fractions of a second, the time could add up.
Almost everyone will also be familiar with flash drives (or thumb drives). Rewritable, easily-transportable devices that store data and usually plug into the USB port. The way they work is, essentially, very similar to how SSDs work, and the technology for SSDs began in this way. The tiny device has a chip inside that data is stored and retrieved from. Because there’s no spinning disk to enforce the maximum rate that you can move data around, USB storage is instead limited by the USB standard itself (2.0 or 3.0 and onward)
SSDs are similar to flash drives – but with some important differences. A flash drive consists of a single chip (or sometimes two or three for larger storage capacities). The drive may be written or rewritten to hundreds or thousands of times during its lifetime. An SSD drive for a PC is made with of many flash memory chips working together with a controller and a cache – and has to cope with many millions of writes overall during day to day usage (a write is when a section of the drive has data is stored on it.) SSDs are made from a special kind of stable flash memory that is designed to handle writing and rewriting at large volumes on a regular basis.
This method is also used to store information on tablets and phones, where a physical spinning disk drive would be impractical.
Each drive has a limited amount of writes before electrical defects and issues kick in and the segment or chip can no longer be written to, whether SSD or HDD. Where there are physical moving parts to fail on an HDD, there are no moving parts on an SSD. Instead, SSDs are limited by how many times data can be written to and read from them before they start to malfunction. Luckily, flash memory has been developed that’s incredibly stable, so an average SSD can last five years or more where a previous HDD would last 10.
If you factor in the size difference, the fact that SSDs consume much less power, and that SSDs are much more resistant to shock, vibration and magnetic fields than regular HDDs, you’ll begin to see the benefits of SSDs, and that’s even before we go into the speed difference.
Now that you know what an SSD is, next time we’ll look at the benefits they can have, and why you might want to upgrade to one. We’ll also have a look at regular HDDs and Hybrid drives, and why you might still want to use them.