What is a solid state drive (SSD)?

What is a solid state drive (SSD)?

A solid state drive (SSD) is newer storage technology, but it’s still been around for a while now, and if you have a modern laptop, it’s likely that it uses an SSD.

As the name suggests, an SSD – unlike a traditional hard drive – has no moving parts. Instead, it uses NAND flash memory. The more NAND (Negative-AND) memory chips an SSD has, the more storage capacity it has. Modern technology allows SSDs to have more NAND chips than ever, which means SSDs can have capacities similar to HDDs.

Many SSDs come with SATA III ports, which means they can be easily installed in place of a HDD, and many also come in the 2.5-inch format that smaller hard drives also come in. However, the maximum data throughput of SATA III is 600MB/s, and while this is fine for HDDs, SDDs are capable of much faster speeds, which means if you have an SSD with a SATA III connection, the drive’s performance is actually being held back by its SATA connection.

On the left is the SATA III connection of a hard drive

To avoid that bottleneck, you can get SSDs that have a PCIe connection. These drives slot into the PCIe lane of a motherboard, enabling much faster speeds. However, if you have a smaller motherboard, or you use your PCIe lanes for other devices, such as graphics cards or sound cards, then you may not want an SSD taking up a lane.

Another increasingly common connection for SSDs is the M.2. If your laptop uses an SSD, it’s most likely using an M.2 connection, and most modern desktop PCs have motherboards with an M.2 port. M.2 SSDs are typically smaller than other SSDs, which means they can be easily installed without impacting your other components.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is the newest SSD technology, and offers incredibly fast data transfer speeds.

Comparison chart

HDD versus SSD comparison chart
Stands for Hard Disk Drive Solid State Drive
Speed HDD has higher latency, longer read/write times, and supports fewer IOPs (input output operations per second) compared to SSD. SSD has lower latency, faster read/writes, and supports more IOPs (input output operations per second) compared to HDD.
Heat, Electricity, Noise Hard disk drives use more electricity to rotate the platters, generating heat and noise. Since no such rotation is needed in solid state drives, they use less power and do not generate heat or noise.
Defragmentation The performance of HDD drives worsens due to fragmentation; therefore, they need to be periodically defragmented. SSD drive performance is not impacted by fragmentation. So defragmentation is not necessary.
Components HDD contains moving parts – a motor-driven spindle that holds one or more flat circular disks (called platters) coated with a thin layer of magnetic material. Read-and-write heads are positioned on top of the disks; all this is encased in a metal cas SSD has no moving parts; it is essentially a memory chip. It is interconnected, integrated circuits (ICs) with an interface connector. There are three basic components – controller, cache and capacitor.
Weight HDDs are heavier than SSD drives. SSD drives are lighter than HDD drives because they do not have the rotating disks, spindle and motor.
Dealing with vibration The moving parts of HDDs make them susceptible to crashes and damage due to vibration. SSD drives can withstand vibration up to 2000Hz, which is much more than HDD.
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