Mechanics Of the SSD

The solid state drive hit the consumer market in 2007 and has sold like wildfire since with sales of 1.4 million in 2008 growing to somewhere in the area of 14 million annually today.  Where the ssd was once only available in mission critical military, medical and aeronautical equipment, it has now brought an entirely new look to retail computer sales and is available just about everywhere you turn.  Dell was the pioneer computer manufacturer to include the ssd as an option and Sandisk and Samsung were the first out of the gate with their 32Gb single level cell drives.

Would you believe yours truly can be credited with the first available ssd review known to exist on the web?  The article was entitled, ‘Comparing SSD Performance to Mechanical Performance In a Dell Laptop‘ and it hit the web on August 29, 2007.  In looking back, I find the article amusing as I was like a kid opening a Christmas present then and, really, I am no different with my new Intel ssd even now.  So lets say you are one of the 14 million people who want to jump in to the ssd arena today and you have suddenly found your way here.  How can I help?  Read on!!!

The ssd functions in an entirely different fashion than the hard drive and an understanding of the basic mechanics will help us understand why the ssd is so much faster right from the outset.  I have to give the hard drive credit though because its entire operation is absolutely amazing.  First, we have a magnetic disk that spins as fast as an incredible 7200 rpm.  To complement that,  there is an arm that must position itself above the disk and then a contact within that arm that is able to store and retrieve information while this disk is spinning so fast.  The problem lies in the fact that the arm can only pick up so much information and then must come back to the exact same spot for the rest.

The time from when the request for the information is made until it is found is called the access time which, with hard drives can average around 8-9ms  This doesn’t sound like much but consider the fact that the access time compounds for every pass the arm must make to get that information.

The ssd on the other hand is like the shiny new toy.  There are no moving parts and, for the most part, there is very little access time as a result.  A ssd simply stores and retrieves information on NAND memory chips.  Its kind of like a library in a way where there is an address that tells where to get or store the information and its simply done. For this reason, we see that an ssds access time is only around .1ms in many cases.  This is why you will see such a difference in the starting and basic operations of the two systems.  Lets start with a traditional video by Samsung which is very amusing (below) and then carry on to a bit of classic Floyd in the here followed by a video depicting the opening of many programs consecutively here.