What size SSD should I buy to improve computer performance and why?

Joe Videtto May 17, 2012

I’m planning to buy an SSD – but not sure what size to buy. Of course, my main goal is to improve performance, not for ‘storage space’.

a.) what sizes have MakeUseOf users purchased and for what reasons?

b.) can you tell if you’re actually using all the space purchased to speed up performance?

Thanks in advance,

  1. Jim Chambers
    October 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I use an 80GB SSD for system and a 1TB SATA II HDD for everything else.

  2. Igor Rizvi?
    July 31, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Im using justa a 128gb ssd,for my first boot ,read windows ..but i use my old hitachi hdd 250bg for games ect

  3. Kannon Y
    May 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Hey Joe!

    Because of their form factor (2.5"), shock-proof design, drain characteristics and boot up speeds, SSDs are ideal for use in laptops. Unfortunately, laptops rank among the most stolen consumer products out there (as well as being accident prone), so your information is strictly less secure than on a desktop. Also, SSDs are more expensive per gigabyte.

    Therefore, you don't want to put a lot of your data in it. Of course, you are already aware of this.

    That said, the kind of drive you should consider varies depending on four factors: (1) whether or not you use a laptop/notebook; (2) does the notebook offer 3 or 6GB transfer speeds (SATA II or SATA III, respectively)? (3) are you using 64-bit or 32-bit operating system? (4) does your system offer AHCI/RAID support in its BIOS?

    In short, A 60GB to 120GB drive is probably the most optimal size, depending on the operating system used. You could easily get away with a 32GB drive, but it would only give you about 10GB of empty space to install additional programs. Also, be aware that a 64-bit operating system will consume more page file space (because your computer will likely have more RAM) than a 32-bit.

    Check your SATA ports too. If you have SATA II and are using a SATA III drive, you're creating a bottleneck - which maxes your drive out at around 250-70 meg/sec transfer rate.

    Another thing to remember is to switch your drive over to either AHCI or RAID mode when you install Windows, otherwise you (and this is actually a subject for debate) won't get the most amount of performance out of your drive.

    • Joe Videtto
      May 19, 2012 at 12:04 am

      Great points to keep in mind - thx.

      I recall reading an article about the security features available for encrypting the data on your laptop, particularly in the case it is stolen, and the pros and cons of hardware-supported encryption vs. software-only based solutions. That's all I really remember, but it may be a relevant point for those learning from the answer to this question : )

  4. Laga Mahesa
    May 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    'Storage space' is a bit vague. Take a look at your existing C: drive. How much space is used?

    Now, right-click Program Files, select Properties. How big is that folder? The bulk of most people's C: drives is comprised of the various applications they've installed, not Windows itself. Games, in particular, eat a huge amount of space. For me, my C: drive is 40Gb... and 20Gb is free at the moment. A 64Gb SSD would be overkill for me.

    Notice I haven't even mentioned personal files, like iTunes libraries or movie archives.

    To keep this brief, here's a list of my drives:

    C: 20Gb. Windows, regular programs
    D: 30Gb. Downloads, general scratch drive
    E: 10Gb. Data - email, documents, etc. Small to ensure speedy backups
    F: 400Gb. Media - Photos, graphics, video, music, iTunes Library
    G: 50Gb. Archives - Downloaded software installations, old software, settings and backups. Staging area for more permanent backups.
    H: 150Gb. Games. 150 Gb and almost full.

    I also have a number of external drives I use for semi-permanent backups, long term storage and large video sets.

    If, like most people, your files are in a mess and all sit in the C: drive, it is well worth taking a day to rearrange and sort everything. It will not only make your SSD decision easier (and cheaper!), but will save you in many other areas in the future.

    One final note: When you do get an SSD, move the location of regularly written files AWAY from the SSD - the pagefile, the hibernation file, temporary folders, cache folders, etc. This will extend the lifespan of the SSD.

    Here are some links that will help you further once you've made your decision :




    • Joe Videtto
      May 19, 2012 at 12:08 am

      Great things to think about - thx.

      I suppose the more relevant question would have been what are the moste common large-scale commercial apps that frequently access the hard drive during their operation, and hence would have the best performance / multitasking ability boost. For example, I play guitar, and using my computer in multitasking mode for both running recording programs while also generating synthesizer sounds. I believe the synthesized sounds get loaded from the hard disk to be played, and there may be frequent caching involved (not sure how I would find this out other than asking the developers or profiling the app while running). During hard-disk music recording, the recording is being written to the "hard disk" drive, not to RAM - Thanks for helping me 'think out loud' and more precisely about my needs. I can see how for these music applications, a large SSD might really enable better multitasking performance for music applications.

    • Joe Videtto
      August 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      Laga - are the drives you listed separate physically for some reason (e.g. performance, backup, or longevity), or are they just different partitions on the same physical drive ?

      • Laga Mahesa
        August 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

        At the moment I have 2 main drives:

        Drive 1:
        Windows, OSX, Downloads, Games, Masters

        Drive 2:
        Data, Archives, Media

        Drive 1 is high performance, high volatility. I'll moan about losing it, but the contents are expendable.

        Drive 2 is where all my important stuff goes. This category of drive I tend to NOT go for the fastest, just to maximize reliability, and is the one I backup when I remember. Having said that, not everything is backed up - there's too much.

        At the slightest sign of distress of either one, I clone it onto a new one and keep the original as a grand backup. The previous grand backup gets used as a scratch drive or a random external junk drive... or it just gets binned. :p

        I currently have 4 externals dedicated to movies, backups, tv shows and general mucking around. The largest is 2 TB for Movies, then 1 TB for TV Shows.

        I'm not worried about posting this particular tidbit in public, as I'm not in the states, lol. ;)

    May 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Hello, I would say the optimal size for an SSD drive if you are using windows 7 should be around 120 Gbs. I say optimal because if you have one that size, it should be more than enough for restore points, programs, and shadow copies. Keep in mind that if your drive does not have at least 15% of space free, system will not be able to create restore points.

    Mind you, I have a computer with a top of the line 60 Gb SSD drive. I only use the drive for operating system and a couple of programs where the SSD drive can provide optimal results. Out of of the 60Gb there were about 12 Gb free. What I ended up doing was creating a partition where I created different folders. Made one folder for temporary files, tmp files, internet temporary files and any temporary files for the programs running in drive. Once that was done, I also proceeded to create another partition to move and store the pictures, music, download folders. After all that was done, this system has around 26 Gb free.

    All in all, I would say optimal size should be around 120Gbs

  6. Alan Wade
    May 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    The size of the SSD should depend on your requirements. For example, I have a 60 gig SSD but only have my operating system and programs on it. If you intend to install games on one as well as your operating system then you should consider doubling the size as a minimum. As far as speeding up performance, it depends which operating system you have, for example XP dosnt play nice with SSD's whereas 7 does.

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