The story of electronics is that new advances are constantly being developed and that your current devices will soon be obsolete in favor of smaller, faster and better tech. However, you don't always have to swap your computer for a new one when you want a faster machine. You can make internal improvements that will extend the life of your current laptop, while also increasing its speed and durability. It probably sounds too good to be true that a three year old computer will suddenly be able to compete with newly-released models, but it is possible if you make the switch from a mechanical hard drive to a solid state drive (SSD). 

What's the difference between a mechanical drive and an SSD?

The main difference between these two hard drive types is simple: movement. A mechanical hard disc drive, which has been used in computers for the past several decades, is made out of spinning magnetic discs, almost like a tiny record player. These discs look similar to CDs, but they are stacked within the drive, ready to store data as the use needs. A mechanical head, like the record player needle, writes information to the discs as they spin. Discs within the drive have different purposes, and they are organized to help the computer find stored data for later use. Therefore, a mechanical drive has consistently moving parts as it operates programs and applications. 

A solid state drive, on the other hand, does not have any moving parts. Data is stored in an SSD using semi-conductor chips. These chips have been used for short-term data storage (RAM) on laptops and desktops for a long time-- they are the chips that govern volatile memory in motherboards and other non-moving components. However, modern solid state hard drives are using these same chips for long-term storage. These chips, referred to as NAND cells, provide re-writable storage without the moving parts required in a hard disc drive.

Why is an SSD superior?

Any technology that relies on moving parts can fail more easily than technology that does not. Moving parts wear out. They can be broken. In the case of a hard disc drive, the magnetic heads that write the data onto the disc can be misaligned or they can erase data that has been previously written. This happens when the delicate balance of the drive is upset by outside force. Dropping a laptop, for instance, that relies on a hard disc drive, results in data loss or in total corruption of the hard drive itself. When the moving parts are not present, the laptop becomes much less fragile. More modern mechanical drives have some protections in place, but these are not always effective in preventing damage. 

Furthermore, moving parts mean that as the parts age, they lose efficiency. Have you ever complained that your computer is "slow" or found it frustrating that it takes forever to load a new program or download a file despite the fact you have plenty of available space on your hard drive? It's because the working parts of the drive itself are not as efficient in writing and storing data as they once were. Moving parts also perform slower overall. When movement is removed from the equation, "travel time" no longer becomes an issue for data storage. In fact, one test showed that once a standard, working hard disc drive was replaced with an SSD, performance speed jumped 56%.

Why aren't SSDs used in all computers?

It's possible that in the near future, they will be. However, until very recently, manufacturers preferred hard disc drives because they were much more affordable. Consumers are still more likely to gravitate to a product with similar specs that offers more storage for less money. However, upgrading to a large SSD is becoming more common because the technology is becoming cheaper to manufacture. 

If you think that it's time for your to leave your hard disc drive behind for something more advanced, talk to a PC repair company, such as Nation's First Office Repair, about making the switch.