Solid State Investment…

Upgrading your hard drive to an SSD – Solid State Drive referring to the Flash memory as Solid not moving – is the best bang for buck upgrade there is. Upgrading other parts can be costly and involve many parts – upgrading cpu will often require new motherboard and ram , even then it may only give you a small percentage improvement. Changing to a fast video card can gain a lot of improvement in games but top end video cards are an expensive habit – over $1000 for top of the line. SSD upgrades can be quite cheap, and will bag you a considerable speed improvement. The speed you get with an SSD only improves certain aspects of your computer but it is all the good bits. Boot up time, applications loading and switching will al become a lot snappier.

32GB is not enough, no matter what the salesman tells you. Say to him no, bad salesman, 32 is not enough. If you buy a 32GB SSD and install Windows 7 Ultimate you will have 7Gig free, I have movies that take up more space than that. 64GB is the minimum for a Windows PC, if you want to actually install applications on top of windows go with 64GB. I can see the advantages of 128 as well, big apps like Photoshop, Premier, Cubase would quickly fill a 64GB drive, so for workstation type machines 128GB would be the minimum. Buy as much as you can afford over 32GB, if all you can afford is 32GB don’t bother, keep saving and buy the cheapest 64GB you can afford. In-fact the price difference between 32GB and 64GB is only $35.

It is the technology behind all SSD’s that gives them their advantage over hard drives, the technology makes all the difference. A typical hard drive uses disks that spin at high speed with a magnetic head – just like the head in your old tape deck – that scans over the drive as it spins. Where as SSD’s use flash chips like your phone or iPod. The flash ram means no waiting for a spinning disk, everything becomes much more instant.

So what are hard drives still good for? Hard drives will always be around, SSD and hard drives are both complimentary technology, being so different they can work together. Spinny hard drives will always have the capacity advantage, even consumer hard drives are available in 3TB – Terabyte capacities, TB = 1000 Gigabytes -, the largest SSD any human can afford is the 256GB drive at $800, 12 times smaller than the 3TB, $350 Western Digital Drive. Luckily the things an SSD does do are so good it makes it all worth while.

The best value drive at the moment is the Kingston V100 64GB SSD at $123 Au$ online, a good drive at a great price. The Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB SSD is the best speed and value, while it’s $350 price tag means its not the cheapest it has plenty of performance, with 410m/sec read and 210 write throughput .

There are a number of new technologies hitting the SSD at the moment, the Corsair Performance 3 is one of the first SSD that has SATA3 and makes use of it. Ultimately the drives will shift away from the SATA interface, OCZ Reva PCI-e card drives remove the SATA bottleneck by putting the whole SSD drive on a card, incredibly fast – upto 3 times quicker than a standard SSD – and incredibly expensive, the kind of price that people say ‘if you have to ask you cant afford’.

Not everything is rosy though, the main dis-advantage is the limited number of writes a drive will handle. At the individual memory cell level current generation SSD cells have a write life of 10,000 cycles. Sounds like a lot, but not. There is also the added problem that as manufacturers produce smaller memory cells to fit more memory into a chip the write life span gets shorter, small cell equals quicker death. There is much intelligence built into each SSD to deal with this issue, wear leveling that ensures you don’t write to the same spot on the drive, garbage collection logic like TRIM. TRIM handles delete operations ensuring they don’t degrade performance.. The other down side to an SSD upgrade is it won’t improve the frame rate of any games, only the load times in games are really effected.

Don’t use your SSD as the download drive for your torrentz, its just stupid, it won’t speed up your downloads and it will kill your drive. Don’t de-fragment the drive there is no need, it will just cause un-necissary writes on the drive.

The ultimate setup at the moment is a fast SSD boot drive and a large capacity hard drive for data. This is the best of both worlds, you will still need to get the biggest SSD you possibly can but it will be used properly.

Doing the hardware upgrade is only part of the equation. You will also need to consider how you will move the operating system onto the drive. For Windows a clean install is always the best route. You could also use a package like Norton Ghost to copy over your current boot drive to the SSD. If this is an appealing option some drives come with a complete upgrade kit including usb cabe and transfer software.

In this case size takes priority over pure speed. The truth is, the biggest gain is simply getting an SSD, the various speeds are just icing on the cake. Especially if you stick with the well known brands Samsung, OCZ, Kingston all make great drives. So decide on you price point and go for the largest drive you can, if you can afford to look amongst the best models – OCZ Vertex 3 Pro will be the new speed king when it’s released next month – but if not don’t worry just plug it in, install windows and enjoy.