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Solid state drives, more commonly referred to as SSDs, are a great way to speed up your computer’s load times. A portable SSD will also make transferring files from PC to PC easy, rather than something you need to make time for.
However, buying an SSD can be somewhat tricky if you are not using all the confusing technical terms. With so many options out there, it can be hard to figure out which SSD is right for you, let alone compatibility with your computer.
Here’s everything you need to know about SSDs, so you can choose the right type for you.
What is an SSD?
When SSDs first appeared on the scene, there were two easy ways to distinguish them from their mechanical hard drive predecessors.
First, they were generally smaller than the SATA mechanical drives that were the style at the time, but second, and more importantly, they were road More expensive. SSDs certainly promised speed, but you didn’t pay half for it.
As with any technology, it’s been a very nice time for SSD prices, and the amount of storage you can get for more modest prices has skyrocketed in just a few short years. If you break it down to a price per gigabyte, mechanical drives can still emerge as a cheaper option, but that’s a difference that quickly diminishes in importance, while SSDs become more reliable and stay faster than mechanical drives.
However, if you’re looking to buy an SSD, whether you’re upgrading a desktop, configuring a new PC for someone else to build for you or just comparing specs on pre-built systems, it pays to know what to look for to make sure you get the best value for money.
The main factor here that you can summarize will still be the cost per gigabyte, and if you can score a good deal on plenty of SSD storage for little money, go for it.
With the development of SSDs, the whole picture of what you need to consider when comparing SSDs is becoming more and more complex. We’ll go over the terms you’re likely to see when shopping for an SSD, and why it might matter more or less to you depending on your needs.
Understanding SSD Terminology
You probably realize that traditional computers – other than the amazing but brain-baffling class of quantum computing – think of everything as ones and zeros.
Where traditional mechanical drives use platters to store all these individual numbers, like group LPs, SSDs instead store everything in non-volatile flash memory. The reason SSDs are so much faster is due to the nature of writing directly to flash memory that can hold storage even when the power is off.
When a traditional drive has an access head – again, the LP analogy works well here – it has to look for parts on the drive, the SSD can send that data as an electrical signal directly to where your computer needs it. This is much faster, more energy efficient, fairer and also more durable.
It is important to note that although SSD storage can retain data even when the power is out, it is not timeless. Early SSDs were also poorly compared to their mechanical counterparts because there was a limit to the number of times you could write, delete, and rewrite to a flash volume, although this is something that has improved significantly in recent years.
The biggest durability gain for SSDs is that they don’t have moving parts, which means they don’t care at all if your laptop moves while it’s trying to write. Dropping an SSD while writing can have a few issues unless the impact causes it to break or something, while a small bump on a mechanical drive can lead to serious writing errors. Many mechanical drives have great drive parking mechanisms to reduce this problem, but SSDs have never needed this kind of trickery.
Early SSDs, some still on the market still borrow from mechanical drives in terms of interfaces, with plenty of drives still using either sata (indoor) or USB (External) Connectors for compatibility reasons. It’s great to be able to easily plug and play an SSD, but the downside to these interfaces is slower transfer speeds, with the best SATA only maxing out at 600MB/s.
Newer SSDs use what’s called NVMe (Non-Volatile Rapid Memory), which is a term you might see in marketing materials along with PCI Express (PCIe) when discussing speed. NVMe can directly manipulate your computer’s processor, which means it can test your data connection at much faster rates than SATA can handle. At peak current with an NVMe M.2 drive, you can reach 3,500MB/s peak – much faster than SATA peak.
If you’re still paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that we sneaked a new language out there in the form of m 2. This is also a term you’ll see in SSD marketing materials, and it refers to the connection type and build size of SSD drives specifically.
Whereas old school SSDs use the style of mechanical drives with SATA connections, M.2 form factor drives are more compact and rely on having the correct connectors on the motherboard and usually onboard NVMe, although you can get M.2 SATA Like We Will If you have a laptop with an integrated SSD, especially a more modern ultrabook model, the odds of having an M.2 drive are very high.
One of the traps to avoid for laptop upgrades even if you’re sure your current system can take the M.2 drive is making sure you can actually take out the existing SSD. Some manufacturers solder their drives directly to the motherboard, making internal upgrades impossible.
Yes, Apple, we’re looking straight at you. If you want to run an SSD upgrade on your MacBook, you’ll need either a file Many Older MacBook model or make an external SSD drive.
How can I match an SSD to my needs and budget?
We’ll use some practical examples here with drives now available from Amazon and eBay to give you an idea of where certain models are on the market, and why they might be a good or bad choice depending on your needs and budget. SSDs can be a better or worse fit for your needs, and it’s important to keep an eye on pricing over time, because what you can get for a fixed amount generally improves.
Computer MX500 SATA 2.5 inch SSD, 250 GB
Positives: It’s cheap and uses SATA, so it might be good if you have an old motherboard without M.2 sockets.
Negatives: It is relatively slow – 560 MB / s for reading, 510 MB / s and low capacity.
Who is good?: If you’re giving a much older PC a last glimpse of life, this might be a simple way to make your primary Windows partition a little faster if it’s struggling on an old mechanical drive, with physical documents stored in the cloud or on a secondary mechanical drive.
Where do I buy: Amazon Australia ($49) | Dick Smith ($65.95) | eBay ($66.90)
WD Black SN770 NVMe M.2 PCIe Gen4 SSD 250GB
Positives: Much faster – read speeds of up to 4,000MB/s and write speeds of up to 2,00MB/s as a full NVMe M.2 drive.
Negatives: There is no compatibility with SATA3, so you will need a newer motherboard that supports it to get it working at all.
Who is good?: Those with motherboards with unoccupied M.2 slots are looking for a bit more storage, though this SSD is also available in 1TB and 2TB capacities (with faster read/write speeds).
Where do I buy: Amazon Australia ($78.77) | Dick Smith ($81.87) | eBay ($97)
Sandisk Extreme Portable NVMe SSD (V2), 500 GB
Positives: Powerful external storage with a USB-C connector, so it will connect to just about anything, and you don’t need an external power supply. The USB 3.2 Gen 2 x 2 interface gives you read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s.
Negatives: You get much more storage space than an external mechanical drive.
Who is good?: If you want an ultra-lightweight external drive you can switch between systems, this might be a good match, although we’d definitely compare the price options in mechanical external drives if we were considering that option.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($153.95) | Dick Smith ($149) | eBay ($159.95)
Western Digital WD Green 2.5-inch SATA SSD, 240GB
Positives: Good storage space for the money, WD Green drives use Low Power modes.
Negatives: stuck at SATA speeds.
Who is good?: People upgrade older laptops where a SATA drive can still be swapped, because WD Green drives sell themselves with lower power draw.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($41) | Dick Smith ($65.95) | eBay ($58.95)
Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe V-NAND SDD, 2TB
Positives: 2TB is a lot of storage space, and Samsung’s V-NAND technology can lift up to 3500MB/s on supported systems.
Negatives: You have looked at the price, right?
Who is it good for: System builders who want a very fast, high-capacity M.2 SSD.
Where do I buy: Amazon Australia ($280.97) | eBay ($297) | Mwave ($299)
This article has been updated since its original publication.