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Should You Buy a Solid State Drive?

Like most technological bits and pieces, solid-state drives (SSDs) are going down in price. Still, it’s a plunge for many buyers—as it should be,
since not just anyone should drop such coin to get an SSD. The differences—and benefits—of an SSD compared to a traditional hard drive are a bit more detail-heavy than, say, the old iPhone versus Android conundrum.


Firstly, what is a solid-state drive? Like USB flash drives, SSDs use microchips to store data rather than moving, magnetic pieces to read and write information. Because they aren’t spinning and humming all the time, SSDs tend to be quieter and more durable than traditional hard drives. (As in, you may be able to drop it from a small distance and not break the bank buying a new hard drive. In fact, dropping my laptop—courtesy of a certain cat—was what prompted me to get a hybrid drive a few years ago, which we’ll discuss later.)

Need speed? The biggest benefit of SSDs aren’t its noise levels or durability. Most people pay $1 per GB for an SSD’s speed. Because no parts need to spin and physical data location doesn’t matter with an SSD, read speeds are always consistently faster.

Now, just because you don’t like twiddling your thumbs for a full minute before your computer boots up is no reason to toss around a couple hundred dollars for an SSD. SSDs appeal largely to crowds who regularly run heavy-duty, slow-launching applications like Adobe Photoshop or computer games that load locations as played. Casual users who just check web-based applications like email with one hefty program running—like iTunes—are likely better off with traditional or hybrid drives.


Benefits of hybrid drives are limited compared to SSDs, but appeal to more casual users as described above.

Let’s recap: my cat has cost me more money than my rescued pit bull mix. When the former leapt from the kitchen counter to the refrigerator, effectively knocking my laptop into the (thankfully dry) sink, the latter bounded into the bedroom to beg for mercy for doing literally nothing. My traditional hard drive was, sadly, kaput. So, I got a hybrid drive.

Because I don’t run a lot of Adobe programs at once but do enjoy a 20-second boot-up, a hybrid drive is worth the 20% increase in price as opposed to the 200% increase for an SSD. Admittedly, the market is favoring SSDs, prices for which are rapidly declining. If you’re ready to pay a little extra cash now to wait a lot less to get to work (and make money) later, ponder the hybrid. If you’re itching to smash your stumbling computer with a bat a la Office Space, ponder the SSD. Just keep these final tips in mind:

If you’re going to buy an SSD, be prepared to buy one for all of your systems. The extra time it takes for your traditional hard drives to boot up will make you reach for that bat.Back up your SSD regularly. Traditional hard drives often give audible indicators before going completely south. SSDs sometimes just fail without warning. Back up your data often. Practice resisting the urge to gloat when your computer boots up faster than everyone else’s in the office. No one likes gloating.

Author Bio:

Kim Willington is a freelance writer and researcher for Helpdesksoftware.org, where she has recently been researching help desks. In her spare time, she enjoys antiquing and taking long walks with her retriever, Spencer.

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