5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD
The world is moving towards SSDs. They’re faster and smaller than a regular hard drive, and in many cases, you can get the same capacity drive for a similar price.
But when buying a new solid-state drive, there are a few important things to consider, including price, drive and device specifications, and performance.
So, if you have a new storage drive in your sights, here are five things you must consider before buying an SSD.
1. Check and Compare SSD Pricing
SSD prices have plummeted over the past few years. In 2010, the average price hovered around $3.00 per gigabyte, whereas, in 2021, you could find SSDs for as low as $0.09 per gigabyte (as is the case with the Western Digital 2TB WD Blue for $187). Of course, the price per GB for SSDs is only going to drop, too, as capacity increases, but prices remain relatively stable.
Relatively speaking, however, SSDs are still more expensive than traditional spinning hard drives, and this difference is not negligible. For example, a Western Digital Blue 1TB can be bought for $40. Compared to the SanDisk SSD PLUS 1TB, the WD Blue is half the price but many times slower than the SSD.
So in terms of being economical, HDDs beat SSDs without question. If your budget is strapped, stick with an HDD. However, SSDs have never been cheaper than they are today, and they’re quite affordable, so don’t be afraid to spend the cash. Even if you grab a 120GB SSD to use as a boot drive for your operating system, you’ll still notice the difference!
If you decide you’ll want an SSD, purchasing a larger capacity drive provides more value for money. For example, the Crucial MX500 1TB is $99 ($0.09 per GB). For an extra $67, you could double the storage capacity to 2TB ($0.083 per GB).
2. What Are the SSD’s Physical Specifications?
Whenever you buy hardware, you have to look out for potential incompatibilities. The best SSD in the world is useless if you can’t mount it in your system, right? Fortunately, SSDs are pretty much standardized (for the most part), so you’ll be okay as long as you pay some semblance of attention.
Most modern SSDs come in a 2.5-inch form factor, which happens to be the standard size for laptop HDDs. Such a drive is unsuitable in desktop computers, which usually require a 3.5-inch form factor, but you can remedy that with an adapter like this SABRENT 2.5″-to-3.5″ Mounting Kit for $7. Furthermore, most modern PC cases now come with integrated SSD mounting options.
Along with the standard 2.5-inch form factor, there is a secondary SSD form factor that you’ll find in heaps of devices: the M.2 standard (formerly called NGFF). M.2 SSDs are tiny and thin and fit into ultra-thin laptops and mini personal computers. M.2 drives come in three main types and can offer even faster read and write speeds than a regular 2.5-inch SSD. Furthermore, as they are very slimline, they’re useful in a wide range of hardware. For example, you can add an M.2 SSD to your PS5 to increase its storage capacity.
Just because you buy an SSD with a 2.5-inch form factor doesn’t mean it’ll fit right into your laptop. You also have to make sure the z-height, or thickness, is small enough for your laptop body.
Typical z-heights are 9.5mm and 7mm, with modern SSDs leaning more towards the 7mm side. Again, consult your laptop’s manual or user guide to see which thicknesses are supported.
Consumer-grade SSDs pretty much all have a Serial ATA (SATA) interface, although whether you should get a 3 Gbps SATA or 6 Gbps SATA will depend on whether your computer can handle those speeds. Nowadays, 6 Gbps drives are more common, but 3 Gbps are often cheaper if you can find them.
However, you can also get SSDs with a PCIe interface. Unsure what to buy? Our PCIe vs. SATA guide delivers in-depth information on the topic, but in short, a PCIe SSD is likely to perform faster than its SATA-based alternative.
One benefit of an SSD over an HDD is that SSDs operate silently because they lack mechanical parts. If you want to move past the whirring of an HDD as it spins up and the chitter as it looks for files, then go for the SSD.
The main benefit of an SSD over an HDD—and the reason why so many people live by the SSD once they make the switch—is the fact that SSDs are significantly faster. With SSDs, computers boot up in seconds, programs launch almost instantaneously, and files are transferred up to 10 times faster.
Which is to say, even the worst SSDs are still miles ahead of HDDs in terms of performance. If speed is your only concern, then there’s no question: SSD wins every time.
That being said, not all SSDs are made equal. Consider these two options:
- the SanDisk Ultra 500GB ($54), which has a sequential read speed of 560 MB/s and a sequential write speed of 530 MB/s,
- the Samsung 870 EVO 500GB ($95) with a sequential read speed of 560 MB/s and a sequential write speed of 530 MB/s.
So, no obvious difference in drive capacity and no obvious difference in sequential read and write speeds, yet the Samsung drive costs nearly twice as much as the SanDisk SSD. Make sure you read the SSD specifications to gauge its performance versus other similarly priced and specced drives.
4. Storage Capacity
There’s an important distinction between the way SSDs and HDDs operate. While HDDs often have to deal with disk fragmentation, SDDs have a quirk of their own to worry about: garbage collection.
When data is written to an SSD, it’s written in chunks called pages. A group of pages is called a block. At any given time, the pages in a block could be all empty, all full, or a mixture of empty and full.
Image Credit: Music Sorter/Wikimedia
Due to the way SSDs are engineered, it’s impossible to overwrite existing data (which is possible with an HDD). Rather, to write new data to an occupied block, the entire block has first to be erased.
Furthermore, to prevent data loss, whatever information existed on the block must first be moved elsewhere before the block can be erased. Once the data is moved and the block is erased, new data can be written to a previously-occupied block.
Related: How to Securely Erase Your SSD Without Destroying It
This process, called garbage collection, requires empty space to function properly. If you don’t have enough space available, then the garbage collection process loses efficiency and slows down. This is one reason why an SSD’s performance degrades over time: it fills up too much.
To keep the garbage collection running at peak efficiency, traditional advice is to keep 20 percent of your drive empty. For a 250 GB drive, that means you should only use up to 200 GB max.
The last thing to consider is how long the SSD with last you. In our comparison of storage drive lifespans, it was clear that about 74 percent of hard drives survived beyond their fourth year. How do SSDs compare?
Unlike HDDs, SSDs have no moving parts, which is great for quiet operation, and it also means there are no parts to wear out. Hence, mechanical failure isn’t something that should concern you.
The downside, however, is that SSDs are more prone to power failure. Loss of electricity while the drive is running could result in data corruption or even full-blown device failure. Power outages can affect computers in different ways, though you can take some mitigating steps.
In addition, the memory blocks in an SSD have a limited number of writes. So if you’re constantly writing data to the SSD (on the order of gigabytes per day), then the drive can lose the ability to write any more data (though reading would still be possible).
The expected lifespan of an SSD is between five and seven years, which is the average point of failure. With every year that passes beyond this point, the chance of drive failure increases.
Are SSDs Right For You?
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t care about speed, or prioritize data reliability above all else, then you should stick with a traditional spinning hard disk drive. For everyone else, it’s about time to move onto SSDs if you haven’t already.
Everything You Need to Know When Buying an SSD
Alex Kidman, Chris Neill
Published 10 months ago:
August 4, 2022 at 1:30 pm
Image: iStock/Veni vidi…shoot
At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you’ll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW — prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.
Solid State Drives, more commonly referred to as SSDs, are a great way to speed up your computer’s loading times. A portable SSD will also make moving files from PC to PC a breeze, instead of something you need to set aside time for.
However, buying an SSD can be somewhat tricky if you aren’t across all of the confusing technical jargon. With a vast amount of options available, it can be hard to figure out which SSD is right for you, let alone compatible with your PC.
Here’s everything you need to know about SSDs, so you can choose the right one for you.
Table of Contents
What is an SSD?
When SSDs first burst onto the scene, there were two easy ways to tell them apart from their mechanical hard drive ancestors.
Firstly, they were generally smaller than the SATA mechanical drives that were the style at the time, but secondly, and more importantly, they were way more expensive. SSDs promised speed for sure, but you didn’t half pay for it.
As with any technology, time has been very kind to SSD prices, and the quantity of storage you can get for much more modest prices has risen astonishingly in just a few short years. If you break it down to a per-GB price, mechanical drives can still come out as a cheaper option, but that’s a difference that is rapidly reducing in importance, while SSDs become more reliable and stay way faster than mechanical drives will ever be.
Still, if you’re looking into buying an SSD, whether you’re upgrading a desktop rig, configuring a new PC for someone else to build for you or just comparing specifications on pre-built systems, it’s worth knowing what to look for to ensure that you’re getting the best value for money.
The key factor here that you can boil down to is still going to be that cost-per-GB basis, and if you can score a good deal on a lot of SSD storage for not much money, go for it.
As SSDs have evolved, the full picture of what you need to consider when comparing SSDs has become a little more complex. We’ll run through the terms you’re likely to see when SSD shopping, and why they might matter to you more or less depending on your needs.
Understanding SSD jargon
A traditional 2.5-inch SSD with a SATA connector. Image: Samsung
You’re probably aware that traditional computers – as distinct from the astonishing but brain-bending category that is quantum computing — think of everything as ones and zeroes.
Where traditional mechanical drives use platters to store all those single digits, rather like a stack of LPs, SSDs instead store everything in non-volatile flash memory. The reason why SSDs are so much faster has to do with the nature of writing directly onto flash memory that can keep storage even when power is cut.
Where a traditional drive has an access head – again, our LP analogy works pretty well here – that has to seek out bits on the drive, an SSD can simply send that data as an electrical signal directly to where your PC needs it to go. This is a lot faster, a lot more energy efficient and fair more durable too.
It’s important to note that while SSD storage can retain data even when power is dropped, it’s not immortal. Early SSDs also compared poorly to their mechanical counterparts because there’s a limit to how many times you can write, delete and rewrite to flash storage, although this is something that has improved markedly in recent years.
The bigger durability gain for SSDs is that they have no moving parts, which means that they don’t care at all if your laptop is moving while they’re trying to write. You can drop an SSD while it’s writing with few issues unless the impact cracks it or similar, whereas a small bump on a mechanical drive can lead to serious write errors. Many mechanical drives have fancy drive head parking mechanisms to limit this problem, but SSDs have simply never needed that kind of trickery.
Early SSDs, and some still on the market do still borrow from mechanical drives in terms of interfaces, with plenty of drives still using either SATA (internal) or USB (external) connectors for compatibility reasons. It’s great to be able to easily plug in an SSD and have it work, but the downside of these interfaces is slower transfer speeds, with the best SATA only hitting a maximum of 600MB/s.
Newer SSDs use what’s called NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express), a term you may see in marketing materials alongside PCI Express (PCIe) when discussing speed. NVMe can more directly address your computer’s processor, which means that it can ping data around at rates that are considerably faster than SATA can handle. At current peaks with an NVMe M.2 drive you could hit 3,500MB/s at peak – way faster than that SATA peak.
If you’re still paying attention, you probably noticed that we snuck in a new bit of jargon there in the form of M.2. That’s also a term you’ll see in SSD marketing materials, and it refers to a connection type and build size for SSDs specifically.
Whereas old school SSDs aped the style of mechanical drives with SATA connections, M.2 form factor drives are even more compact and rely on having the right connectors on a motherboard and typically NVMe on board, although you can get M.2 SATA drives as well. If you’ve got a laptop with an onboard SSD, especially a more modern ultrabook style model, the odds of it having an M.2 drive are very high.
One trap to dodge for laptop upgrades even if you’re sure your current system can take an M.2 drive is to ensure that you can actually take out the existing SSD. Some manufacturers solder their drives directly to the motherboard, thus making internal upgrades impossible.
Yes, Apple, we’re looking straight at you. If you want to run an SSD upgrade on a MacBook, you’ll either need a much older MacBook model or make do with an external SSD drive.
How Do I Match An SSD To My Needs And Budget?
We’re going to use a few practical examples here with drives available right now from Amazon and eBay to give you an idea of where certain models fit in the market, and why they might be a good or poor choice depending on your needs and budget. SSDs can be a better or worse fit for your needs, and it’s important to keep an eye on prices over time, because what you can get for a fixed sum is generally improving.
Crucial MX500 SATA 2.5-inch SSD, 250GB
Pros: It’s cheap and uses SATA, so it could be good if you’ve got an older motherboard without M.2 sockets.
Cons: It’s relatively slow – 560MB/s read and 510MB/s write and low capacity.
Who it’s good for: If you’re giving a much older PC one last gasp of life, this could be a simple way to make your primary Windows partition quite a bit faster if it’s struggling on an older mechanical drive, with actual document storage in the cloud or on a secondary mechanical drive.
Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($49) | Dick Smith ($65.95) | eBay ($66.90)
WD Black SN770 NVMe M.2 PCIe Gen4 SSD, 250GB
Image: Western Digital
Pros: Much faster – read speeds of up to 4,000MB/s and write speeds of 2,00MB/s as a full NVMe M.2 drive.
Cons: No SATA3 compatibility, so you’d need a newer motherboard that supports it to work at all.
Who it’s good for: Those with motherboards that have unpopulated M.2 slots looking for just a little more storage, although this SSD is also available in 1TB and 2TB capacities (with higher read/write speeds).
Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($78.77) | Dick Smith ($81.87) | eBay ($97)
Sandisk Extreme Portable NVMe SSD (V2), 500GB
Pros: Ruggedised external storage with a USB-C connector, so it’ll plug into just about anything, doesn’t need an external power supply. USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 interface gives it read speeds that top out at 1,050MB/s.
Cons: You could get a lot more storage from an external mechanical drive.
Who it’s good for: If you want a super-light external drive you can shuffle between systems, this could be a good match, although we’d certainly compare priced options in external mechanical drives if we were considering this option.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($153.95) | Dick Smith ($149) | eBay ($159.95)
Western Digital WD Green 2.5-inch SATA SSD, 240GB
Pros: A good amount of storage for the money, WD’s Green drives use low power modes.
Cons: Stuck with SATA speeds.
Who it’s good for: Folks upgrading older laptops where it’s still possible to swap out the SATA drive, because WD’s Green drives sell themselves on their low power draw.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($41) | Dick Smith ($65.95) | eBay ($58.95)
Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.
2 NVMe V-NAND SDD, 2TB
Pros: 2TB is a lot of storage, and Samsung’s V-NAND technology can push up to the full 3,500MB/s on supported systems.
Cons: You have looked at the price, right?
Who it’s good for: System builders who want a very fast and high-capacity M.2 SSD.
Where to buy: Amazon Australia ($280.97) | eBay ($297) | Mwave ($299)
This article has been updated since its original publication.
More From Gizmodo Australia
Suitable Solid State Drive (SSD) — Kingston Technology
Client level SSD
SSD drives for enterprises and corporations
Servers / data centers
Some IT pros do not have a clear understanding of Solid State Drives (SSDs). Some people get the impression that all these drives are created the same, with no real difference between them, since they are just flash memory. However, it is not.
The way to create an SSD for client computers such as a laptop or desktop computer (device for daily use) is very different from how to create an SSD for data center applications. Workloads are very different. Server workloads typically maintain 100 percent duty cycle 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year round. But when we work on our computers throughout the day, even in a virtual machine, we use only minimal resources with a lot of downtime.
The drives placed in the server must meet the necessary requirements for constant demand and performance to work in heavy use. You can’t just take an SSD out of a laptop and expect it to run in a data center, it’s like expecting a standard car engine to power a truck. Datacenters require enterprise-class drives that are purpose-built for predictable, scalable performance.
Ensuring Solid State Drive Performance
Solid state drives are being used in more data center applications than ever before. Initially, after their introduction, solid state drives were not very well known. IT pros have been a little afraid of them, but as they have gained more confidence in the technology, SSDs are starting to be used for higher performance applications, and this is where this type of performance stability becomes important.
When designing datacenter-compliant SSDs, the focus is on performance stability as it relates to input/output operations per second (IOPs) and latency. To test this, benchmark scripts are created that test each I/O operation over a very long test pattern.
What vendors look for when installing them and what IT architects want to see is straight-line stability when benchmarked against their workloads. Absolute 100 nt stability is never achieved, but efforts are made to prevent sawtooth or so-called «Christmas tree» configurations from occurring while providing I/O and plotting performance measurement data.
A drive that is not configured properly can cause significant performance fluctuations. At one point in time, the drive can perform 50,000 IOPS, then performance drops to 20,000 IOPS before recovering to 60,000 IOPS. While high numbers look great for technical specs and sales information, performance spikes don’t represent the full history of performance. Instead, Kingston’s enterprise-class data center SSDs are designed to deliver consistent levels of performance, even if that may mean giving up some of the top performance levels.
This stability ensures that customers do not get frustrated with poor performance, but rather gain a predictable advantage in managing their storage clusters. Much of what provides this straight-line stability has to do with the SSD firmware structure, the size of the SSD spare memory expansion, and the size of the write cache.
Better predictability enables our customers to build applications with consistent performance and meet SLA requirements.
What about the host host commands that are sent to the drive?
With so many background operations, such as the TRIM command, memory cleanup (garbage collection), and host computer commands, they all need to be taken into account in terms of firmware tuning. In terms of hardware, on SSDs we use a large DRAM cache to store all or most of the disk mapping table and use it as a write buffer for incoming writes to the SSD.
The behavior of latency values is the same as for I/O operations. For example, if the latency value increases to 5ms, then jumps to 500ms, and then drops back to 5ms, then there is a problem, because this performance instability can manifest itself somewhere in the application.
Over the years data center customers have become much more sophisticated and in the past an SSD vendor could provide them with a good customer grade drive and they would work with it and then just remove it and replace it with another cheap customer drive if there was a problem. any failure. However, data center customers today prefer SSDs because they know there are differences in performance stability, so the drives are tested to meet them.
The best enterprise SSDs today use large DRAM caches and are tuned at the firmware level for stability. In fact, about 90 percent of what smooths out this linear relationship is done in the firmware code, which is a big difference for Kingston products.
SATA is not quite Plug & Play compared to NVMe
In today’s market, approximately 80 percent of SSDs that enter service are still equipped with a Serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SATA standard supports relatively high data transfer rates and uses a relatively small motherboard area, which means more drives with excellent RAID profiles.
There is a significant trend in the storage industry to move from SATA to NVMe (non-volatile memory express) as the NVMe standard was designed from the ground up for flash SSDs. flash memory. In fact, many of the recent analyst forecasts suggest that there will be a major shift in mainstream servers over the next couple of years as NVMe is expected to surpass the I/O and latency limits associated with traditional hard drive interfaces.
Over the past decade, SSDs have been built using HDD interfaces, and it initially made sense, but storage experts have known for years that there is a better interface for SSDs. PCIe is a great interface for SSDs, but today many servers are limited in their capabilities and the sheer number of available PCI lanes.
The simple fact is that people cannot use this upgrade overnight to move to NVMe.
Kingston’s criteria for consistent performance are the same for both SATA and NVMe builds. NVMe inherently provides lower latency and faster I/O, so customers obviously expect more performance from an NVMe drive.
When selecting the right enterprise SSD, data centers should look for SSDs that will lower latency values and limit any possibility of I/O outages.
Finally, the customer should consider whether their infrastructure is ready to use the newer faster storage interfaces. SSDs matter, and the choices customers make for their data centers are becoming increasingly important.
Selecting the right SSD matters
Choosing the right SSD for your server is important because server SSDs are optimized for predictable latency while client SSDs (desktop/laptop) are not. These differences result in improved uptime and lower latency for mission-critical applications and services.
Enterprise Drive Explanation: Should I migrate to NVMe?
Cameron Crandall of Kingston can help you decide whether to migrate your storage server to NVMe SSDs.
4 errors when purchasing enterprise SSDs
All SSDs are the same, right? This is not the case, and often client SSDs are used in applications where enterprise SSDs are more suitable, as client drives wear out too quickly due to intensive workloads.
Copy and Replace vs. Predictability: The Importance of SSDs with Predictable Latency
Some businesses continue to use client SSDs for demanding server tasks and then replace them when they cannot maintain the required performance standard. Learn why these cost savings are not worth it and how enterprise-class storage can improve organizational efficiency.
How edge storage will power 5G
Is the world ready for 5G technology? While apps, devices and more are claiming 5G readiness, networks are struggling in the meantime. A true 5G network relies on edge computing to keep data closer to consumers.
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How to check the SSD after purchase
- Computer store
- HDDs and SSDs
- How to check the SSD after purchase
Article author: Sergey Koval
Published: 17 June 2021
Understanding what SSD checks are needed and how to perform them to ensure its long and productive operation.
Actual performance of desktop SSDs may differ materially from those stated by the manufacturer. Therefore, after purchasing and connecting an SSD, you should test it in several ways to make sure that the device is working and that it is connected correctly. In addition, in some cases, additional manipulations with cooling or settings will be required to ensure stable operation of the drive.
The check should be carried out according to the following criteria.
This is the most important indicator of the performance of a solid state drive, which affects not only its performance, but also the health of the computer as a whole.
The average operating temperature is considered to be within 45 °C; in idle time, the drive can heat up to 40 °C. When recording large files for a long time, the temperature can rise to 50 ° C and reach peak values of 65 — 70 ° C. This data may differ from model to model, please refer to your purchase specification for details.
The temperature from the sensors can be considered utilities, for example, the universal AIDA64 or specialized software for monitoring the status of drives — CrystalDiskInfo.
If the monitoring results exceed the norm for a particular SSD, increasing the internal air circulation or placing the drive closer to the blowing fans will help to correct the situation.
A different picture emerges with drives in the M.2 form factor. They are able to withstand temperatures up to 65 — 75 °C. Exceeding the limits will lead to a forced speed reset — throttling, which is provided at the sub-program level. For example, for Samsung SSDs, Dynamic Thermal Guard technology is responsible for temperature control.
If M.2 drives get excessively hot during normal user tasks or are used heavily, additional cooling needs to be considered. Some models of motherboards provide heatsinks for M.2 slots, or they will have to be purchased separately.
To prevent overheating of the system, do not install SSDs from servers and storage systems in home PCs. These discs are designed for very intense and directional airflow.
Branded SSDs must pass a multi-level system of checks during production. However, the risk of marriage, although insignificant, is always present. Therefore, it does not hurt to pre-test the SSD to avoid failures and loss of important data.
The SSD resource can be checked using the already mentioned CrystalDiskInfo program or download a proprietary utility, such as Samsung Magician or Western Digital Dashboard. The condition indicator, or as it is called in some applications — health, for new drives should be 100%, and the depleted resource should be 0.
The SSD Life application deserves special attention, which, in addition to the health of the disk, can demonstrate its operation time and the number of inclusions.
If everything is in order with the health of the drive, the next step should be testing and identifying possible errors. To do this, you need to get acquainted with the technology for assessing the state of the disk — SMART.
SMART is a subroutine built into each drive that provides control, analysis, and status reporting.
You can access SMART information using the Hard Disk Sentinel or CrystalDiskInfo applications. These utilities allow you to perform read and write tests, as well as perform advanced or brief self-diagnostics. For a new SSD, the report should not contain errors, and all sectors are identified as healthy. If the drive of a purchased ready-made PC or laptop with an installed OS is being tested, it is assumed that some of the cells will be determined to be blocked.
If the check revealed errors or damaged cells were found, you can return the SSD for expert diagnostics under warranty and subsequently receive an equivalent replacement.
Please note that disk health information is only available on home SSDs and a very small number of server models. Some diagnostic utilities may not see server SSDs at all and read at least some parameters from them.
The final stage of verification is testing the write and read speeds. The theoretical standard can be considered the speeds declared by the manufacturer in the SSD specification, however, in reality, the speed of the SSD depends on several factors:
- volume and number of recorded or requested files;
- the presence of parallel tasks performed by the OS;
- connection interface;
- slot design parameters.
A practical indicator that can be taken as the norm can be tests performed by computer enthusiasts and independent laboratories.
To measure speeds, you can use proprietary tests from manufacturers of solid state drives or the development of independent laboratories — AS SSD Benchmark and HD Tune.
If the tests show too low results, do not rush to issue a return drive. The reasons for the performance degradation can be:
Connection via legacy interface. The 2.5» drive requires a SATA III interface to realize its potential. Previous generations limit write and read speeds. If we talk about M.2 drives, then in entry-level boards, two lines can be output per slot, instead of the required four.
Settings in the BIOS. To show all possible speed, the SSD must be in AHCI mode. Often, the system automatically identifies a new device and selects the appropriate mode. But if this does not happen, you will have to switch manually.
TRIM function if a drive that is already in use is being tested.