Do you wish that your computer ran faster or your programs would load a bit snappier than a snail’s pace? If so, you’re probably wondering which hardware upgrade would give you more bang for your buck by providing the largest increase in system speed at the lowest cost.
The very first upgrade that I used to recommend for speeding up most any computer system was adding more RAM memory, but these days most PCs come equipped with plenty of RAM right out of the box. In my opinion, in today’s world the single best upgrade you can make to speed up your PC is adding a solid state drive (SSD) to your system. Why, you ask? Because solid state memory out-performs even the fastest traditional hard drives many times over!
The Limitations of Hard Drives
Hard drive speed is inherently limited due to a number of physical restraints. First of all, the platters must spin in order for the read/write heads to be able to access all the data stored on the platters, and that spin rate is currently limited to around 10,000 RPMs. The heads must also move in and out across the radius of the platters which limits the read/write speed as well.
Why Solid State Drives are Faster
SSDs aren’t bound by the physical restraints that hard drives must operate under. There are no read/write heads or platters, only banks of non-volatile memory chips that hold the data being stored on the drive. And as anyone who ever used a “RAM Disk” back in the days of MS-DOS can tell you, memory chips are speed demons when it comes to allowing fast access to data!
Should You Keep Your Old Hard Drive?
While SSDs are exceedingly fast, they typically come with much less available storage space than modern hard drives. Unless the only things you use your computer for are surfing the Internet and sending emails, you’ll definitely want to keep your current hard drive installed as a place to store data files (photos, music, videos and such). Simply make the original hard drive the secondary drive and the new SSD the primary drive (the “boot” drive).
Install the operating system (Windows, Linux, etc.) along with your most often used software packages on the bootable SSD and leave everything else on the hard drive. That way you’ll benefit from the super speed of the SSD when you need it the most (starting up the computer and loading your large programs into RAM) while being able to store your huge data files on the massive hard drive.
Choosing the Right Solid State Drive for Your Computer
Most SSDs are built in the same “brick” style form factor as traditional hard drives which makes physically installing them inside the computer case fast and easy. But what if your computer doesn’t have an empty drive bay? Well, you have a couple of options:
1 – If you can get by without the extra storage provided by keeping the original hard drive, you can simply remove it from the PC and replace it with the SSD. If you’ll need to keep a hard drive connected to the computer in addition to the SSD but you only have one drive bay, you can either purchase an external USB case to hold the drive you removed from the computer or simply purchase a new external USB hard drive outright.
2 – Instead of a “brick” style solid state drive, opt instead for a model that comes in the form of an expansion card. Installation will be as easy as slipping it into an open expansion slot of the correct type. If you decide to go this route, before making your purchase verify that your computer has an open expansion slot that matches the interface used by the SSD card!
Replacing your primary hard drive with a solid state drive will likely speed up your computer beyond your wildest dreams. I strongly recommend buying one and giving it a try. And as always when making major changes to your computer system, you should back up your data before you do anything else!
Rick Rouse is an A+ Certified Computer Technician and the owner of RLROUSE Infoblog.