The Benefits of SSDs

Solid State Drives offer significant advantages over traditional hard disk drives – and there are industry efforts that make strengthen their position as essential storage devices when compared to hard disk drives.

Here is a breakdown of some of the major advantages:

  • Light Weight –  Because the SSDs have no moving parts, they require no motors, platters, heads or other electronics required by hard disk drives.  Instead, they consist of flash memory chips, a circuit board that holds the chips, controller chips and an interface for connecting the drive to the host device.  The drives don’t require the shock protection and other physical components that add more weight to hard disk drives.  The light weight of SSDs helps to keep devices into which they’re installed lightweight as well.
  • Silence –  Because there are no moving parts in SSDs, the drives don’t make noise.  This makes them ideal alternatives to hard disk drives in any applicaton where the noise of a hard drive is an issue.  For example, a notebook computer may be used as part of an entertainment system that stores and plays videos.  With an SSD in this entertainment system, the viewers would be able to watch (and hear) the entertainment without the annoying background noise of a spinning hard drive.  Similarly, an external SSD can be used to store and distribute data, music or video, and will not interfere with the enjoyment of the content that a hard disk drive normally does.
  • Less sensitivity to fragmentation – When data is written to hard drives – or SSDs – the data can end up being fragmented.  What this means, ultimately, is that the drive must jump from one sector on the drive to another – often on a physically separated area (on a hard drive) or a logically separated area (on an SSD) to get to the next bit of data.  On a badly fragmented HDD, this results in substantial performance problems.  Because the ‘discs’ on an SSD are just logical locations on the flash memory chips, fragmentation is much less of an issue because the ‘jump’ from location to location on the ‘discs’ is not a physical process.  This is not necessarily to say that fragmentation isn’t an issue with SSDs – there are products that ‘defragment’ SSDs by making the data stored on the memory chips physically closer on each chip, but for most purposes, fragmentation in flash drives is a non-issue when compared to hard disk drives.
  • Low Power –  This is an extremely important issue for the designers of portable devices or devices powered by the USB bus.  Because there are no moving parts, the relatively high power required to spin the hard drive motor, move the hard drive heads, and generally to keep a standard hard disk drive working is not required by SSDs.  In notebook computers, replacing an HDD with an SSD means the computer will work considerably longer because there’s no HDD draining the battery.  External SSDs may be powered by the USB bus and may not require an external power supply plugged into a wall socket in order to operate.
  • Robustness –  Hard disk drives are relatively easy to damage.  Drops, falls and possibly even suddenly removing power from an HDD can damage the drive or its components.   SSDs are much less sensitive to these types of damage because there are no sensitive physical components that can be damaged.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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