Should You Get A New Solid State Drive (SSD) To Speed Up Your Old Computer?

February 2018: If you’re thinking of replacing your computer because it’s not running as fast as you want, chances are you only need to replace the aging hard drive. Swapping out the hard drive for a new solid state drive (SSD) could get you all the speed you need plus another few years of life from your computer.

Here’s why SSDs perform better than hard drives, how much they cost, and what it takes to replace one:

How are SSDs different from hard drives?

Both hard drives and SSDs store the information your computer needs to function — apps, documents, operating system, everything. It’s one of the three things in your computer that determine its performance, along with memory (RAM), for apps you’re currently using and the processor, which determines the speed and number of computations that can be done simultaneously.

Hard drives consist of one or more metal platters with a magnetic coating. The platters spin during operation and a read/write head on a mechanical arm moves around to read the information it needs from the right locations on the platters (and write new information, too). SSDs, on the other hand, are made up of interconnected flash microchips that stay put, similar to RAM. They do not spin or get fragmented over time. This means they can read and write faster, load your apps faster, use less energy (which means longer battery life), and are nearly silent. You don’t have to wait for an SSD to boot up or spin down or worry about damaging the drive if the computer gets bumped when it’s running.

How much does an SSD cost?

SSDs can be considerably more expensive than hard drives — you will pay more for all of the benefits. But how much more depends on several variables, including storage space. You can pick up a budget model for under $70 if you don’t need much storage or write or copy huge amounts of data. Top of the line models with 2 TB storage or more can cost $1,200 but models with 500 GB or 1 TB storage should suffice for most people, with average costs starting around $150. Plan on spending 30 cents to 50 cents per gigabyte of storage. Samsung, Sandisk, Crucial, WD and Intel are market leaders, among others.

How much faster are SSDs?

Transfer rates for SSDs can clock in at 4 GBps, or four gigabytes per second. That translates to 4,000 MBps — that’s fast. But unless you work in animation or are a serious gamer, that kind of speed is probably overkill. Some new models and models in development are more than twice that fast. For comparison, a typical hard drive speed is 128 MBps. A mid-level SSD will deliver between 500 and 600 MBps, or four to five times faster as an average hard drive. SSD transfer rates are based on bandwidth, type of controller used, firmware version, motherboard specs, configurations, and other variables. You can compare the speed results from real-world user speed tests with UserBenchmark SSD rankings.

Which SSD is right for you?

You have more SSDs to choose from than ever before and they’re especially hot right now. For a thorough review of different SSD specs and what to look for — and explanations of SSD jargon — see this report from PC World and overview from TechRadar.

How long do SSDs last?

SDDs typically last longer than hard drives but they do have a certain number of read-write cycles they can perform before they start to make errors. Warranties are usually three or five years. However, chances are very good your computer will wear out before your SSD needs replacing.

How do you install a new SSD?

You can install an SSD yourself, even if you’ve never done it before. The SSD will come with instructions, and online tutorials abound (Mac users may need to take it to an authorized reseller). You will also need cloning software to migrate your files from your old drive to your new one, but most SSD manufacturers include free cloning downloads with purchase. You may also need a USB-to-SATA adapter, depending on the model you choose and your computer.

As with any piece of technology or IT service, Leapfrog recommends you don’t shop by price alone. The cheapest is rarely the best. Read both professional and user reviews, then choose one that delivers a little more than you need so you have room to grow. As long as you choose a highly rated model, chances are you’ll get three or more additional years from your existing computer.

Part of what we do at Leapfrog is provide our managed services clients with advice about the best hardware and software for their unique businesses. Since we are responsible for ensuring that our clients’ IT environments are optimized and operating securely, we are constantly evaluating and testing new technology. Sometimes, integrating a new tool or cloud service into an existing IT environment can significantly improve an organization’s ability to meet its business goals, and sometimes a relatively simple equipment upgrade can deliver a lot more bang for the buck. If your organization is interested in learning how Leapfrog may be able to help you make the most of your IT operations, please contact us today.

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