It’s time to talk about solid state drives, or SSD’s. This is one of the more expensive components, and one you aren’t likely to find when buying a new computer. Regardless, it’s definitely something you should know about, and an upgrade that results in a huge performance improvement. If you don’t want to read the whole post, know this: NEVER buy a SSD that uses asynchronous NAND (more info below).
Because SSD’s have no moving parts and use flash memory, they are lightning fast compared to a hard drive. They are also far less likely to take damage if you drop your computer, a great benefit for laptops.
Solid state drives have a downside: compared to your average HDD, they are VERY expensive. While a 500GB hard drive will cost you less than $60, a 500GB solid state drive costs up to $200. On desktop computers, there is a compromise. You can put your OS (Windows, Linux, or OS X) on a small SSD, along with your most frequently used programs, and keep all your documents and normal programs on the HDD that your computer came with. Amazon has several quality drives available at relatively low costs.
As previously mentioned, under no circumstances should you purchase a SSD that uses asynchronous NAND, rather than synchronous NAND. We’d have to get into the internal workings of a SSD to explain the difference, but know that an asynchronous NAND is about half the speed. Advertised statistics are very deceiving, as they don’t actually reflect the difference. Currently, the only two companies we know of that use asynchronous NAND are Kingston, Silicon Power, and PNY. They have recently started switching out advertised products, so you can’t be sure what you will get. It is safest to avoid them all together. Brands like Crucial, Samsung, and SanDisk continue to use synchronous NAND. They cost a little more, but it’s definitely worth spending an extra $10 to get an effective product.
If you want to keep all your old data and programs, you’ll need to clone your old drive, which is a complicated process. If you don’t want to do it yourself (or don’t have the equipment), Expresstek clones and sets up drives for only $50.