Benefits Of A Solid State Drive – An SSD Primer

Laptop computers are now sporting a new option that is going to amaze most as a result of the visible speed improvement and many will never really understand why.

Some will boast of  how quick their new laptop starts while others will read the fine print to see that there is this new thing called a solid state drive which has replaced the hard drive. The latter will most likely comprise of those reading this article and wanting to know what a SSD is and how it does what it does.

Our article today hopes to be the beginning of efforts to tackle many of the questions surrounding solid state drives and today’s report will examine what exactly makes the SSD so special in today’s world of computing.  Follow-up reports will be added regularly to tackle the many questions the ‘new SSD enthusiast’ has about this new technology and we encourage comments and questions which will, in turn, form the direction we follow in assisting with your SSD education.


Solid state drives have been around for many more years than we would believe and have traditionally been relied upon in military, medical and aeronautical fields before their first entry into the consumer space in 2007.  By sheer coincidence, I was one of, if not, the first to receive a SSD enhanced laptop computer and remember writing a rather enthusiastic article which started things rolling for The SSD Review.  Even then, I remember going from a computer that took an eternity to start to one that started in 27 seconds.  I was amazed.

Although I would never pay such, that SSD pushed the selling price of that Dell XPS M1330 to just under $3500 and I went on to review other SSDs that were valued as high as $2500 for a 128GB capacity drive.

In fact, one company (from a very distant land) sent me a drive and made me promise not to send it back because of the probable implications of sending out such a high valued item at the time.

Today, we are seeing Ultrabooks that weigh less than 2.5 lbs are thinner than a pack of playing cards with a super speedy SSD that is one-third the size of a business card and the height of a 25 cent piece. Click on the picture for a high res enlargement.


The first question that most ask when entering an SSD conversation for the first time is, “What makes them so special?”  There are really a variety of answers for that question which will be different for each person.  For a university student or any professional really, how valuable is the data on your laptop?  I remember back when laptops first became  popular (dating myself here I know) and I dropped my work unit with a 380 page report on the hard drive that took me weeks to compile.  It then took me weeks to compile once again.  Would that security alone be worth the price of an SSD?

Lets take a close look at some of the benefits of a solid state drive that might appeal to the consumer:

START UP SPEEDThe typical SSD starts up in about 15 seconds compared to a hard drive which takes over a minute. In considering the value of your time, a typical person starts their computer 5 times a day which would be a savings of  3 3/4 minutes per day of just under a full day a year…waiting for your computer to start.  What is a full day worth to you?

NO MOVING PARTSAn SSD has absolutely no moving parts, whereas a hard drive has a disk that spins as high as 7200RPM typically, or 67 miles per hour on its outer edge.  As you can imagine, this becomes a natural concern for such things as battery life, temperature, and endurance.  The hard drive is depicted on the left with SSD on the right.


 TEMPERATURE – It is a given that a storage device that doesn’t spin at 67mph would be much cooler than a hard drive.  This becomes particularly important when consumers choose to utilize smaller laptops that are just over 1/2″ thick such as our Toshiba Z830 Ultrabook.

BATTERY LIFE – Since the first SSD review linked above, the increased battery life of laptops with SSDs has been very evident.  Today, we are seeing typical manufacturer advertisements of eight hour battery life while a few have been able to reach the ten hour mark.

blankPRACTICALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE – Solid state drives have been dropped from multistory buildings, run over by cars, used as hockey pucks while a player takes a slapshot and they have even been taped to the side of rockets simply to prove that they are as close to indestructible as it gets.

END LIFE DATA INTEGRITY – When a hard drive reaches end life and crashes, the information is gone.  When a SSD reaches end life, it does not crash.  It simply prevents further writing to the SSD and all information contained is fully accessible.  In fact, there have yet to be any predictions as to how long this information will last other than the life of the NAND flash memory for which the data is stored.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS – The typical SSD can function in extreme high and low temperatures along with its ability to withstand extreme shock and force.  A quick check of the specs of one of the recent drives we reviewed, the Corsair Force GT, shows that it is able to operate in temperatures from -20 to 85 degC, 90% humidity, up to an altitude of 10,000 feet and can withstand the force of 1500G.  No wonder the SSD is such a hot commodity in fighter jets! Here is a first hand demonstration that we observed while visiting Memoright at Computex:



SYSTEM PERFORMANCE – System performance represents the most important aspect of hard drive to SSD transition which is why we left it to last.  This is initially evident in start up times which are a result of the incredibly fast disk access speed of the SSD which is typically 90 times faster than the hard drive.  It also filters down to application loading and general system performance, the reason of which comes down to basic mechanics of the two:

  • a hard drive requests the information to which an arm must then hover over the magnetic disk containing data which, as we now know, spins at about 67mph.  Once it locates the information, it must pick it up from the disk and, in the case of the hard drive, several passes must be made which slows the hard drive significantly.
  • an SSD on the other hand, works similar to oil moving through a pipeline where all is moved in one trip.  In fact, because the typical SSD operates on eight channels (or paths to the controller), it is similar to eight pipelines returning with the information.

The below are examples of  a typical hard drive/SSD comparison which will clearly depict how hard drives slow while picking up larger files or in constant use.  These tests were done during article composition and compare our site storage drive, a Samsung 1.5TB HDD, to the Crucial M4 solid state drive that we use for a boot drive.

Although the absolute incredible speed of the M4 SSD is sure to impress, take a look at the access speed comparison between the two.  The access speed of the SSD, overall, is actually 668 times faster (33.4/.05), than the hard drive in this specific test where the performance decline of the hard drive becomes very evident.  This is the same for EVERY hard drive.


I was once asked to describe the SSDs performance, compared to that of a hard drive, in my own words and stated that it almost seems like the SSD knows what you are going to do before you do.  It is just that fast.  First time users are often amazed at the fact that every press of the keyboard is met with as close to instant response as one could imagine.  It is a very visible upgrade from a hard drive system and renders a great deal more enjoyment as well as productivity at the end of the day.

In case this article has reached you through one of the many search engines, we should mention that this is the third in our series of  SSD Primer articles meant to help us all along in our understand of solid state drives.




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    I’ve used a 40GB SSD boot drive in my desktop for over a year now with a 1.5 TB HDD for storage. It’s fast and I love it!

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    “When a hard drive reaches end life and crashes, the information is gone” (but, as you pose it, still recoverable by data recovery labs). “When a SSD reaches end life, it does not crash” (you mean, when it reaches the maximal possible number of writes until saturation?). “It simply prevents further writing to the SSD and all information contained is fully accessible”. Well, let’s not underestimate (“simply prevents”) the matter. There is not such an option as to “physically delete” data from SSD, it writes and writes, and writes on… until it can’t even accept even one more log or command. Then, it’s really tough to recover data from an SSD.

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      Your comments are appreciated. For the consumer, data recovery of a hard drive after a crash will really only be affected by a very small percentage of people and, even then, good luck in recovering all data. There is inevitably always loss of data. Although we will concede that SSD end life is such a new phenomena without accurate data to support ‘the general rule’ as one might say, it is believed that end life does not mean loss of data that exists on the drive itself. As you have stated, it simply means there is no further way to delete which is what we tried to portray in the article.

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    “A quick check of the specs of one of the recent drives we reviewed, the Corsair Force GT, shows that it is able to operate in temperatures from -20 to 85 degC, 90% humidity, up to an altitude of 10,000 feet and can withstand the force of 1500G. No wonder the SSD is such a hot commodity in fighter jets! Here is a first hand demonstration that we observed at Computex”

    The picture you showed is not Corsair Force GT Product. It is call Memoright. Please give credit where credit is due.

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      Thanks ahead but we never stated that the Memoright pictures were that of Corsair. We believed that stating that the pictures were taken at Computex followed by the Memoright branding on their display might be self explanatory.

      Just to be sure though we fixed up the introduction sentence for ya! Thanks again!

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    “668 times faster”?
    Oh, and I’m not sure what you were trying to say when you wrote “in the case of the hard drive”.

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    Great article

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    I like this article, but I think that other articles which offer a more technical examination of why the SSD is fast, why deletion is not an option on a “full” SSD, and how to get the best bang for your buck (whether in business or for gaming) are needed.

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    good Primer that introduces the novice to SSDs, Les : )

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    Thanks for your SSD Primer, Les.
    I justed started building a new computer, based on a OCZ RevoDrive3 x2 SSD as Boot drive, and the Revodrive Hybrid 1TB for folders for Image Analyzes devoted to Industrial Quality Control.

    I already use the OCZ IBIS 160GB as Boot drive on a computer, and it’s works fine since almost half a year.!


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    What is this? Correct every mistake that Les makes while writing an article? Geez guys, is this where we are heading as a society?

    Thank you Les. I thought it was a very good article for the newbie. I wish I could have read this years ago while I was trying to educate myself on all this SSD technology! I can’t remember what I paid for my 1st Intel 64GB E-Extreme SLC?

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    really interesting – and very informative, a well written piece
    i’m bookmarking this to ensure i can get back int he future A1

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    Firstable, thanks for taking the time to compile this invaluable info and share ti with us. I can’t imagine the effort required to put it all together. I got an email from Crucial advertising an M4 SSD which got my attention. Wanted to get a half a Terabyte drive, but it runs to about $600.00 + dollars, not exactly cheap. But I think the size of the SSD drive, its purpose for use, would determine the necessity of its purchase compare to how much per gigabyte it would be worth its cost. Needless to say, I embarked on searching the net for more info and came across ypur web site. I’m done reading with this article and won’t make a decision to buy an SSD until I’m done reading most if not everything on your web site. Gotta run, bookmarking your site to continue reading and educating myself before taking the plunge. I have a friend that doesn’t “trust” SSD yet, but I think he eventually will.
    Again, thanks for sharing and I will be back in a jiffy.

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    great articles, i did find this through a search engine and I thank you for listing the links of this series at the bottom of the post. just recently bought a very nice laptop with an HDD that’s bottle necking the setup with 5400RPM speeds (crappy i know but it explains why the laptop was cheaper than usual). these articles are definitely clearing up a lot of questions i had, appreciate it

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    thank you for such a nice article Sir !!

    Regards From India

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    can i run one ssd with my hard drive at same time if i can what would be the difference thank you.

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      I am not sure I quite understand as it isn’t clear whether you have a notebook or desktop system and then, if a notebook, which one. If your system permits it, I might suggest a SSD for system and applications with the HDD as a storage resource if you havent the space you need on SSD alone.

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    Great site, thank you for all the valuable information. I’m a film editor, researching storage solutions for my video work. I love SSDs, had great experience with them as boot drives and editing off of them I’m sure would be a breeze. But would a 2 or 4 standard harddrive RAID offer me comparable speed in scrubbing along a timeline or displaying waveforms on a track? What matters most in video editing “Random” reads or “Unsustained”?


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    SSDs are good for as your main for Bootup and reading but for storing larger files it isn’t really a great option mainly because of the price and a very whooping price for higher GBs. Maybe in the future if the prices of SSDs come down to HDD prices then it’ll be an All in One storage for all people.

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