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The Essential SSD Guide

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Solid state drives save energy and can start your Windows in mere seconds. CHIP helps you make the right choice and give you a few pointers on switching to an SSD environment, as well as setting up a SSD RAID

From status symbol to an indispensable commodity, SSDs were once seen as unaffordable prestige objects, but their prices are gradually sinking into the depths. In fact, Samsung and OCZ are engaged in a full-fledged price war. Two years ago, consumers had to fork over about RMS for each gigabyte. Today, Samsung is giving use the same amount of Flash storage for roughly $8.3 (SSD 830). Its competitor OCZ has pushed the price down to a record-breaking depth of $0.66 (Vertex 2 OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G). In the face of the SSD-onslaught, conventional hard drives that use magnetic storage are retreating further and further into the background.

What to Bear in Mind When Making a Purchase

Price is not the only thing that matters. You should also ensure that the product features a high transfer rate (the read and write speeds), low access times and low power consumption figures. People who use older computers might need an adapter for the 3.5-inch drive slots, as SSDs usually come in 2,5-inch form factors commonly found in laptops.

In the face of the SSD-onslaught, conventional hard drives that use magnetic storage are retreating further and further into the background.

In the face of the SSD-onslaught, conventional hard drives that use magnetic storage are retreating further and further into the background.

From a technological standpoint, since SSDs are comparable to USB drives, the SATA connection version has a massive influence on the performance speed of an SSD. It wouldn't make sense to connect a USB 3.0 drive to a USB 1.0 port, as this does not allow for optimized performance and the fastest data transfer speeds. Similarly, the latest SSDs are always supported by the latest SATA connection, which is currently SATA III (SATA-600). This is why many users are only too happy to switch over to an SSD setup the moment they replace their motherboards.

Watch Out for Old HDD Customs and Habits

Since the Flash cells on SSDs have a limited lifespan, a controller ensures that they are rewritten in a consistent manner. If you try to defragment the SSD, you will interrupt the controller's activities and thus shorten the lifespan of the storage device. A similar problem arises when cloning programs are used. These programs transfer the content of the hard drive with hard drive-specific optimization’s. If you want to transfer your system partition from a hard disk drive to the SSD, you will need specialized software such as the SSD Migration Kit from O&O or Migrate OS to SSD from Paragon. Fortunately, many SSD manufacturers bundle a migration tool with their products, which makes it unnecessary for you to purchase the aforementioned software. The process of transferring data is quite simple, and we've included an illustrated workshop that explains the process on the next page.

You will need specialized software such as the SSD Migration Kit from O&O or Migrate OS to SSD from Paragon

You will need specialized software such as the SSD Migration Kit from O&O or Migrate OS to SSD from Paragon

SSDs Are Outpacing Traditional Magnetic Hard Disk Drives

Currently, most users purchase SSD drives with a storage capacity of up to 250GB. They are not atrociously expensive and can accommodate the operating system along with a few programs. Films and other multimedia files do not require extremely speedy transfer rates, and thus can be stored on the larger capacity HDDs. This is often the configuration users are going for, which is much more economical.

After the capacity, the writing speed plays the most important role. The fastest conventional hard drive (Western Digital Velociraptor WD1000DHTZ) can read a 4.2GB film in about 15 seconds. This speed is comparable to the speed offered by the fastest SSD (Samsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD512, 14 seconds). However, the Velociraptor takes a lot more time to write the film (25 seconds), while the SSD only needs 14 seconds. In order to fully exploit this advantage, you should take note of the ratio between the reading and writing speeds. For example, an SSD might be able to read data at blisteringly fast speeds, but its writing speed is nowhere near as impressive, therefore making it less useful. Finding a balance between both speeds would be the smarter thing to do. If the writing speed of an SSD is almost as high as its reading speed, then you have the ratio you need.

Samsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD512

Samsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD512

The power-consumption does not carry as much weight. SSDs require less energy than magnetic drives, since they do not contain any electric motors and mechanical components that need to be moved with the help of a lot of power. The Velociraptor, which is considered to be a magnetic hard drive that is very environ¬ mentally friendly, consumes 4.6 watts of power, while the most power-hungry SSD only consumes about two watts.

So, to summarize, what you should be looking for in an SSD is a balanced performance ratio {in both read and write speeds), something that consumes less power without sacrificing performance and a price that won't leave you on a bread-only diet for a week.

SSDs As External Storage Solutions

It's not something that's particularly common, but you can actually find SSDs that function as external disk drives. The reason why you won't find them as commonly is because they're very pricey when it comes to cost per gigabyte. They're also smaller in capacity, usually in the 64GB to 512GB range, making them not very practical if you're looking to carry around larger storage space to complement your mobility. External SSDs will also be wasted if you plug it to slower interfaces such as USB 2.0, though eSATA, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 variations are already available on the market.

External SSDs will also be wasted if you plug it to slower interfaces such as USB 2.0, though eSATA, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 variations are already available on the market.

External SSDs will also be wasted if you plug it to slower interfaces such as USB 2.0, though eSATA, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 variations are already available on the market.

There is, however, one great advantage an external SSD has over a typical magnetic external HDD: SSDs are shock-resistant. Since the device does not contain any moving parts, external SSDs do not run the fear of losing your important data when you accidentally drop it. That makes it great for working professionals who need to keep their content safe and the blazing transfer speeds. Still, considering the expensive prices and general impracticality, we suggest that you invest in SSDs in its PC-internal form.

Boosting SSD Performances

While SSDs are already fast enough, you can actually make it perform even better. The best way to do this is to rig two SSDs in a RAID configuration, which will double the already impressive speeds. It's not even particularly hard to do, and you can try it out if you have two SSDs laying around. You can find our guide to configure this in the next pages.

The fastest

·         Samsung SSD 840 Pro (MZ-7PD256)

·         Transfer rate - reading/writing: 520/443 MB/s

·         Price: Approx. $304

The cheapest

OCZ Vertex 2-1VTXPL120G

OCZ Vertex 2-1VTXPL120G

·         OCZ Vertex 2-1VTXPL120G

·         Price/GByte: Approx. $0.6

·         Price: Approx. $79

The largest

Intel SSD 320 SSDSA2CW600G3

Intel SSD 320 SSDSA2CW600G3

·         Intel SSD 320 SSDSA2CW600G3

·         Capacity: 600GB

·         Price: Approx. $950

The greenest

Verbatim 2SSD128 Upgrade Kit (47371)

Verbatim 2SSD128 Upgrade Kit (47371)

·         Verbatim 2SSD128 Upgrade Kit (47371)

·         Power consumption; 0.3 watt

·         Price: Approx. $243

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