SSD (solid-state drive) or hard drive? It’s a question that confronts most laptop users at some point in their lives. The answer depends on the type of user you are, and what your priorities are when shopping for a computer.
SSD drives have been around since the 1950s, but they haven’t become popular until recently. They’re great for lightweight laptops used as secondary computers, which require storage space for files only.
Hard drive options have been around longer than solid state drives. They’ve always been popular for gaming and multimedia workstations because of their high capacity and read/write speeds. They’re also less expensive than SSDs in terms of gigabytes per dollar or Rupees.
No matter how much you love your laptop, there are almost certainly ways it could be even better. Whether you want a longer battery life or faster operating speeds or more storage space, there’s probably something that could use an upgrade.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the specs on your device. You can usually find them by right-clicking on your computer’s desktop and selecting “Properties.” Depending on the make and model of your computer, these should include things like processor type and speed, graphics card memory and speed, available RAM (Random Access Memory), hard drive space (HDD), solid state drive space (SSD), operating system version number, RAM size and type, HDD capacity, and the BIOS version. These are all numbers that you can use to determine what kind of upgrade you might need to make.
There are many different variables to consider when choosing a laptop SSD or hard drive. However, there will always be a right choice for you, so long as you can answer the following questions:
Can I afford it?
What do I use my laptop for?
Do I need something that can be shared with another person or will it be just me using it?
How important is speed to me?
Once you have answered these questions, you’ll have enough information to choose the best laptop SSD or hard drive for you!
The choice between an SSD hard drive is ultimately up to you, but here are some pointers on how to choose the best one for you:
SSD or hard drive?
When it comes to computers, sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Sure, you might be ready to buy a new laptop because you want it to do more—be easier to carry while still having enough power for all your needs. Or maybe you’re just looking for an upgrade that will make your current laptop run faster. Either way, no matter what the reason, one of the first things you’ll need to decide on is whether you want a solid state drive (SSD) or a hard drive.
Fortunately, with so much talk about SSDs in the media recently and their increasing popularity among consumers, there are several factors at play that make this decision slightly easier. But before we get into those details, let’s go over exactly what each type of storage device is and what it does.
SSDs aren’t really any newer than hard drives—the technology for both has been around for decades now—but they’re relatively new in the consumer market and have only been used predominantly in higher-end devices like laptops and desktops until recently. They’ve become more common as their price has dropped and the technology behind them has improved over the years.
Laptops usually come pre-installed with an SSD or hard drive by default.
Do you want a faster startup time? If so, you should probably go with an SSD. The difference in performance between SSDs and HDDs is significant—it may seem like you’re waiting forever when you turn on your computer if it’s equipped with a regular HDD.
The lifespan of your storage device depends heavily on how frequently you use it. You can expect that a desktop computer or laptop used daily will have an HDD that lasts about three to five years, whereas an SSD could last anywhere from five to seven years. If you aren’t using your computer as much, opting for an HDD might be a better choice for you.
You should also look at other features of your computer when deciding between jumpers or HDDs. For example, if you have limited space on your laptop, going with an external hard drive might be the best option for you.
The added performance of an SSD affects the things that matter most: launching apps, opening files, switching between tasks and booting. If these are all things that take up a lot of your time on your computer or if they affect how effective you are while doing them, then an SSD may be a good investment for you. If not, then there are other factors to consider when choosing storage.
The price is usually one of them—SSDs usually cost twice as much as regular drives per gigabyte—but if performance is something you really care about, it may be worth the extra cost.
To find out, we tested the time it took to boot up a computer with a regular hard drive and then again with an SSD. We also measured how long it took to open Microsoft Word and Excel. On the same laptop, the Chrome browser launched in 14 seconds and Excel in 19.9 seconds with the regular hard drive, and only 1.1 and 1.8 seconds, respectively, with an SSD (see chart below).
“This is why people are so excited about these new drives—they can be as much as 10 times faster than a traditional hard drive,” says Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, which tracks tech spending for IDC. He thinks SSDs will be standard on laptops within five years.
O’Donnell’s enthusiasm is understandable: A recent survey by IHS iSuppli found that of consumers who were aware of solid-state drives (SSDs), 68% said they’d be willing to pay more for them if they knew performance would improve on their computers. And research firm IHS iSuppli predicts that shipments of SSDs will grow 29% annually through 2016, while shipments of HDDs will contract 2% during that time period.
How much local storage do you really need?
If you’re not sure how much storage space you need, here are some things to consider when figuring out how much storage you might need in the future:
- How large are your photos?
- Size of your music library?
- Number of videos on your drive?
- Do you prefer to keep everything stored locally on your computer, or do you want everything synced with an online service like Google Drive or Dropbox?
- What other apps do you use regularly and how big are they (Office suite, Photoshop etc.)?
When it comes to computers, we all want to avoid the dreaded spinning beach ball of death. The solution? Get as much storage as possible!
But how much local storage do you really need? That depends on what you’re using your computer for. If you just use your computer for the basics—email, web browsing, and word processing—you can get away with a 256GB solid state drive (SSD). But if you do more intensive work like video editing or 3D modeling, you may want to invest in a 512GB SSD instead.
Here’s why: Say you’re working on a huge video project that requires lots of storage space, or you’re using your computer to render 3D models and are saving them out every step of the way. Without an SSD, this would be a painstakingly slow process. But with an SSD, there’s no time wasted waiting for your computer to read or write data to the disk; data moves right over the faster connection between your computer’s CPU and the SSD.
Ultimately, if you have the money, it’s better to err on the side of too much storage than not enough—you never know when an extra 256GB might come in handy!
The thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need more than just the SSD—you also need a separate hard drive to hold all your files. The easiest thing to do is buy one big hard drive and partition it into two so your operating system (OS) can live on one partition and the other can be used for storage. It’s really easy to do with few downsides, and it’s easy (and cheap!) to upgrade later if you want more space. But whatever you choose to do, remember that even if you’re doing something like music or photo editing, you’re going to need extra storage for backup copies of your work.
If you have a lot of virtual machines or are doing photography or video editing, we recommend getting at least a 256GB SSD, and if you still have space issues then pick up an external hard drive or two. If you’re always running out of storage space on your current computer, then our final suggestion is to just get a bigger laptop instead of trying to push the limits of what your machine can handle.