Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion]

ssd intro   Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion]If you’ve kept up with some of the latest news about new computer parts, you may have heard about SSDs, or solid state drives. These small, nifty pieces of hardware are designed to replace your clunky, slow hard drive and give your system a major performance boost. However, some people have experienced some hiccups by using these new pieces of technology, including usage and price.

Here we’re going to discuss the exact pros and cons of owning a solid state drive and whether such an investment would be right for you.

Pro: Performance

The greatest selling point for solid state drives is, in fact, performance. SSDs use the same SATA I, II, and III ports that regular hard drives currently use. So where does the performance increase come from? To put it into layman’s terms, SSDs eliminate any moving parts, so the entire device is completely electronic. Without any moving parts, the speed at which data can be read and written increases dramatically. If you need an analogy to better understand, think of it as RAM but made for permanent storage of information, although this isn’t quite correct from a technical standpoint.

You can see the speed improvements in the video above by how quickly Windows 7 boots, and then loads all of the programs that show their face in the task icon area. That’s a lot of them!

Pro: Easy Transition

It is also easy to transition from a hard drive to an SSD. Retail packages should include the necessary software needed to image the partitions from the hard drive over to the SSD. That way you can keep all your OS, files, and settings without reinstalling everything.

Pro: Innovative

Another selling point is the fact that it’s modern and innovative. SSDs seem to be the future of storage, and for good reason, as hard drives relatively old pieces of hardware that haven’t seen much design improvements at all except larger and larger amounts of storage space. It’s great to see that this area is finally getting a major upgrade, and I doubt that we’ll just stop at SSDs.

Con: Price

ssd prices   Should You Get A Solid State Drive (SSD)? [Opinion]
While the advantages of using an SSD are great, there are still some cons to them. For example, one of the major problems with SSDs are their price. As they currently stand you could get an SSD that has a little over 100GB for the same price as a regular hard drive that has 1-1.5TB. Therefore, buying an SSD isn’t an economically viable solution for some people.

Con: Storage Space

The next issue is storage space. Compared to regular hard drives, SSDs have very small storage space compared to similarly priced hard drives. Because of this, a large amount of data simply cannot be stored onto the SSD. If you wish to get larger ones (500GB models do exist), you’ll be running into sums much larger than $1,000. Some people “solve” this by deciding to place their operating system and important files onto the SSD, while keeping low-priority files on a separate hard drive.

Con: Possible Compatibility Issues

Finally, some people have rare compatibility issues with certain computer models. Although I am not sure what causes them, I have heard of those kinds of problems a couple of times, so there must be some slight truth to them. If you decide to get an SSD, I recommend that you first Google around to see if people have problems with your computer model (or certain computer parts if you built yours from scratch). Once you buy one, I’d keep the receipt in case you need to return the item.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve been introduced to the pros and cons, what should you ultimately do? If you’re an enthusiast or a heavy computer user with a powerful system, I’d recommend getting an SSD. Just keep that extra hard drive in your system to store all your extra files. If you’re a mainstream or low-end computer user, then I’d recommend that you wait on buying an SSD. Buying one wouldn’t provide any performance increase because there will most likely be a bottleneck somewhere else in your system that needs to be addressed first. SSDs should become viable options for you when today’s high-end systems become tomorrow’s low-end systems.

What is your opinion of SSDs? Was there a pro or con that I forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!

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25 Comments -

0 votes

fenster

Forgotten ‘con': sudden, catastrophic failure with little or no warning rather than (usually) gradual failure with conventional HD’s.

0 votes

Danny

True, I use a program called hard disk sentinel which calculates power on time and estimated life remaining alongside performance and health. For SSD, none of those information appear so you never will know when it will die on you. It may be dead in 5 days or 5 months which means its absolutely crucial to have frequent backups if you do indeed care about what little data is stored on it.

0 votes

Testy

SSD’s also fail at a horrendous rate right now… they have not reached the Mean Time between Failure (MTBF) rates of normal hard drives.. they do, and absolutely WILL fail on you.  You won’t be able to tell when, so keep a good backup.. Keep a good backup of any SSD Drive you get. They are faster, much faster, but keep a good Backup.  Get freeware: SynchBack and run it everyday.

0 votes

Rychu

main con for me : price
I’ll wait till I can get 100 Gb ssd for 80~120$

0 votes

Najam Us Saqib

Practically speaking other than boot time there is no real benefit in using an SSD unless of course you are using a laptop.

I use both and the performance difference in normal daily use is negligible. However for data intensive applications such as Photoshop, Database servers etc these work wonders.

Its matter of affordablity, One day SSDs will replace standard HDDs.

0 votes

Mike

If one has the money to buy a SSD with +200MB/s read&write speed and +20.000 IOPs on a regular basis then it’s definitely worth the money. Reliability and time until sectors go dead differs very much from the advertised lifespan.

There is a blog entry mentioning a guy who had 8 SSDs each failing within less than a year of operation. 
Personally I find it very believable. Windows as an OS creates so much temporary and ever-changing data that sectors will reach their maximum endurance very fast.
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/05/the-hot-crazy-solid-state-drive-scale.html

0 votes

Mike

kind of cut myself off – back to my opinion:
Without having any real world findings or examples I would say that if you use your SSD (almost) 24/7 you should expect a 1 year lifespan, at 8 hours a day at medium-heavy usage around 1.5 up to 2 years. At 8 hours a day low to medium usage e.g. daily business (email, web surfing, office, …) it will probably last as long as the lifespan of your hardware ~4 years.

You will want to use something like SSD Life
http://ssd-life.com/

0 votes

M.S. Smith

I’ve been using an SSD for a boot drive for about a year now. It’s excellent. I do however have to agree that there seems to be a problem with current SSDs and drive failures. They actually seem to have become less reliable as of late. This makes it a bit hard to suggest one to a person who isn’t tech-savvy enough to back up frequently and know what’s wrong if the SSD does go boom. 

0 votes

Mike

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a problem ~ it’s just the push on cheaper production.

The first SSDs on the market used RAM memory (and similar) which made them very expensive. On the other hand RAM was obviously made for massive read & write operations.
Current (inexpensive) SSDs are mostly based on rather cheap MLC Flash memory which have an average life of 10.000 program-erase cycles. That’s not much on it’s own.

What added to this is the growing support of TRIM which helps in keeping the SSD performance on a high level. The function tells the SSDs firmware to erase not used blocks – basically you trade speed for lifetime.

The expensive SSDs (targeted for enterprise) for example are based on SLC Flash memory which endure about 100.000 cycles. 

0 votes

OSG Zach

Where did you get this information regarding TRIM?    Specifically the statement about TRIM  telling the drive to erase “not-used” blocks??     There is no point in erasing an empty block in the first place.      If pages in the block contain data that was deleted then they are marked as invalid and are not used until the block itself is rewritten at an appropriate time.   This drastically REDUCES  lifespan shortening caused by write amplification.

Everything I have ever read has stated TRIM is used to help maintain a longer lifespan on the drive, by the OS telling the drive that sections which held data, are now invalid due to a user or the OS deleting something.   This prevents the drive from writing new data during garbage collection operations.

You can only delete data on SSD’s in blocks currently,  which means even though you can do  page-based write operations (a block has many pages) the ENTIRE block still needs to be erased and rewritten.   Thus the block has to be cached to memory,  the block erased, and the block written back with the modifications.   It is called write amplification and can drastically reduce the lifespan of SSD’s because of the limited  Read/Write cycles we currently have.

Depending on how TRIM is implemented, it can help maintain performance as well (its faster to write to a empty blocks than to erase/rewrite) .  But TRIM is certainly not going to help kill a drive; it was designed to do the exact opposite.

0 votes

Mike

Deleting files on a SSD is the very same as on Hard Drive ~ the file is deleted on a logical level but the data is still there in the sectors/blocks.  
The difference between a magnetic disc and an SSD is that in order to write to pages that contain unerased deleted data it has to go through a full block level erase.

This works perfectly up to the point where no empty blocks are available anymore. At that point each and every write operating is delayed by the block level erase and drastically decreases the performance of the SSD ~ this is why garbage-collection and later on TRIM were implemented.

The white paper on TRIM nowhere states that it is supposed to maintain a longer lifespan. Like Garbage Collection it is supposed to maintain (write) performance of the drive.
White Paper from Supertalent
Intel SSD Optimizer

Garbage-collection is an (sometimes automated) program that scans and erases blocks containing deleted data
TRIM is an command set that tells the SSD to erase data from blocks as soon as the file is deleted (moving the pages, erasing the block, and writing remaining pages on firmware and cache level)

As stated above (and mentioned here and here) MLC and SLC do have a limited amount write-erase cycles. 
Without TRIM or garbage collection each block of the SSD would have to be used once before the first write-erase cycle appears.
With those technologies pages are going to be erased and empty regularly (available for new data) which leads to some blocks going through multiple write-erase cycles while others might have never been used. This obviously results in some of the blocks having a shorter or actually faster reached lifespan than others ~ faster than it would be without those features.

//edited the last part to make it easier to comprehend

0 votes

Mike

I want to mention that I don’t claim that being the technical reality. I’m neither involved nor on expert on NAND Flash technology.
 
This is my personal conclusion drawn from various official and reliable resources like the one linked in my previous comment.
I could also give you the analogy that
there is no software available that can increase the power output of your PSU from 600 Watt to 1200 Watt
neither is there
an operating system or firmware function, command or program that can increase the MLC/SLC endurance from 10.000 write-erase cycles to 20.000.

TRIM, garbage-collection, Intel SSD Optimizer ~ they all are about maintaining performance over the lifespan of the SSD not about increasing the lifespan itself. My personal take on their impact on lifespan is explained in the previous comment.

If someone is an expert and/or has reliable sources that state otherwise I’ll gladly admit having been wrong.

0 votes

OSG Zach

I’m not really sure your PSU analogy is correct in this case…  I’m not talking about increasing the number of  write cycles, I’m talking about increasing the effective lifespan of the product.

If you have a drive with 10k writes,  and you have a mechanism in place that prevents mostly needless rewriting of the data from happening,  organizing it into a minimum number of operations instead, then you have effectively increased the lifespan of the product for the consumer.

I’m not claiming to be an expert either, but that is my interpretation of how TRIM is supposed to work.

I’ve done some more reading….

I think we are both correct to a degree..   TRIM tells the SSD controller which pages have been deleted, and allows the SSD to wipe out those pages only – I think its fair to say an SSD without TRIM support would reach its write-cycle limits much sooner than a drive utilizing TRIM.    Likewise, it would also help maintain performance as there is no  hit from the erase/re-write operation.

0 votes

Mike

I hope we are all wrong and manufacturers start producing SSDs that last for more than the average 1 1/2 years by the end of the week :-)

0 votes

hare :-)

Should wait!

0 votes

Nibras Ahamed Reeza

I personally think SSDs are the future. However, as of present, a hybrid storage solution is the best option. Unfortunately, not a lot of laptop manufacturers provide this. Desktop users can get away with installing a new SSD by themselves.

The ideal system will have an SSD large enough to store the Operating System(or all Operating Systems in a dual/multiboot config) and if possible all programs. User files on the other hand should go to the HDD.

This is my personal opinion. This way you can get the best of both worlds. SSD for faster boot, faster loads & data security for important files and HDD for more space.

Video files by far, the largest files are not fully loaded into memory, they are loaded as is and the present HDDs provide enough bandwidth to play even HD vids very very smoothly.

0 votes

Ben

This sounds like a good option (and one that I’ve been considering).

I am looking to get a new iMac actually – does anybody here know whether Apple install their OS on the SSDs (where you can upgrade to have an SSD as well as a HDD)?

0 votes

Tina

Ben,

in case you don’t get a reply here, I suggest to ask this question over at MakeUseOf Answers.

0 votes

Tina

Ben,

I see you still didn’t receive an answer to your question. In case you are still looking, I recommend to ask a question on MakeUseOf Answers. You are more likely to receive an answer there. Thank you!

0 votes

Ankur

I dont think its perfect time to migrate to SSD now.
price+less space+ few seconds advantage = NOT ready to fully implement 

0 votes

Anonymous

Nobody should buy one.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks for all the comments guys! Indeed, drive failure is something I missed (and haven’t actually heard of until now)!

0 votes

Support

I think for now I will wait until price matches the benefit.  I can go make a coffee while booting and the money I save from using a SATA mechanical HD is alot of coffee :)

0 votes

Abhinav

I will wait for price to come down at an affordable level……till am happy to use HD………

0 votes

OSG Zach

The thing people have to remember about SSD’s is you need to take special care.   Especially if you are concerned about lifespan re: Read/Write cycles.   If you just drop a Windows install on your SSD willy nilly and go about your business, then no, you should not expect your drive to last.

Some things should be disabled,  such as  Defragmenting schedules (there is no need to defrag an SSD, especially with TRIM enabled drives),  Indexing on the drive (I turn it off completely, its useless to me anyway).

You should also store all temporary files, including your Windows SWAP File, on mechanical drives.   Temporary data by nature changes fast,  so why would you expect your SSD to live that long if Windows is always using  the SWAP file, or writing/deleting temp files for installs, uninstalls, and other actions?  Not to mention web browser’s using their storage cache.

All that stuff should be left on a mechanical drive.