Solid State Drives Explained

Solid State Drives Explained. An SSD performs the same function as your old hard drive, but at super fast speeds, and now they are getting cheaper too!

Solid State Drives Explained

Solid State Drives Explained

Solid State Drives Explained

SSDs read and write data to and from your computer using memory chips as opposed to the  spinning metal disc of a standard hard disk drive (HDD), which of course is slow, noisy and gets very hot.  Solid state drives can give up 100 times the performance of a standard HDD.


Solid-State-Drives-Explained-samsung-ssd-1TB hard drive

Solid-State Drives explained -Samsung SSD 1TB hard drive



By the way, Cheap SSD highly recommend the Samsung 850 Evo range, read about it here.

What is a Solid State Drive?

A Solid State Drive (SSD) is a device which simulates the function of a hard disk drive,  Usually, SSDs are made with NAND flash memory, which is a means of storing and accessing data, much like a computers RAM (Internal memory).

2.5” SATA is the most used connector type for SSDs, but flash cards and modules such as SD Cards, mSATA and all the way up to PCIe boards are also used for SSDs.

Solid State Drives Explained - A typical SSD

Solid State Drives Explained – A typical SSD

Your computer doesn’t know the difference between a SSD and standard hard disk drive, so It’s formatted and used as any other drive would be.

The faster performance and better battery life (for laptops) are the main benefits of upgrading to SSD.

Because a Solid State Drive has no moving parts, it is almost impervious to shocks and vibration,compared to fragile hard disk drives.

Without the need for a spindle motor to rotate the platters and an actuator to move the heads on the platter, a SSD generally uses much less power than its HDD counterpart.


There are a ton of benefits to be had (and a few minuses of course) if you upgrade your drive(s) to Solid State, so let’s take a look at each pro and con in the battle of SSD Vs HDD.


hdd explained

Inside a standard hard disk drive, all those moving parts slow it down.


SSDs are a lot faster at reading and writing data than hard drives are.  SSDs allow your computer to boot up much faster, typically 10-15 times faster, solid state drives also copy files faster and therefore load programs faster.


SSDs make little to no noise because there are no moving parts inside the drive, unlike the spinning metal platter in a  traditional hard disk drive. SSDs are in a “solid state” (as in, not moving).


An additional advantage of having no moving parts is that an SSD does not produce very much heat at all, which saves on energy and helps to prevent overheating of your computer, this is especially relevant for laptops which can often over-heat.

Running cooler also gives the indirect bonus of the cooling fan not having to work so hard, so saving even more energy and reducing noise from the fan.

These factors also make SSDs environmentally friendly compared with HDDs.

Of course, SSDs are just  naturally “cool” anyway 😉

Booting Faster

When I invested in my first solid state drive, I was totally stunned, and became an SSD enthusiast, when Windows XP booted up in about 12 seconds flat!

Some programs can run Faster

Having a SSD as your boot drive can also increase the speed that some programs run. E.G a big game that tends to load lots of data during play should run a bit faster and smoother.

Also, with the advent of TRIM SSD, read and write speeds can be up to twenty times faster on TRIM supported systems.

To take advantage of TRIM, your operating system and your Solid State Drive must both support TRIM for it to work.

Can Revive older computers & Laptops

solid state drives explained old-computer

Solid State Drives Explained – revive that old computer lol


Installing a SSD in an older PC or laptop can give it an amazingly speedy new lease of life and therefore extend its use for several more years.

it’s almost like getting a new computer and saves you money too by lengthening the life of your computer equipment.

Value for money

We have been able to buy SSDs for quite a few years now, but until recently they were far too expensive for the average computer user.

But now prices are dropping like a brick from a skyscraper, and almost every week there are super bargains to be had.

There’s still a little way to go to get truly cheap SSDs with super large capacities, but we are getting there for sure. A good example is a 512GB SSD, you can find these for around £100 at the time of writing.

SSDs now start at about  £25 on Amazon as I write, this is amazing as only last year the cheapest I could find was around £50, I personally, usually buy a SanDisk SSD,  when I’m looking for a bargain..

Although,for example, a 2TB SSD may currently be out of your average home user’s price range, power users will dive in there and buy them and this will eventually help bring prices down for all,.

60TB is the largest SSD available that I can find at the moment, but that costs $30,000  and meant for hosting servers rather than retail consumers at the moment.

No more defragging


Solid State Drives Explained -No more defragging


Thankfully, you will never have to defrag your SSD, (hooray!) If you do defrag your solid state drive you will probably do a lot of wear and tear damage to it and significantly shorten its lifespan.

Safer data

Unlike a HDD a SSD is significantly less likely to get damaged or lose data on the drive if your laptop gets dropped or heavily damaged in some way.

Because the drive has no moving parts, there’s nothing much that can break in a SSD.  The laptop itself may well get damaged, but the SSD and its data will most likely survive.

SSDs are very resistant to extreme temperatures, shock and vibration.  Whereas HDD are extremely susceptible to these factors.

I have seen quotes of SSDs operating in temperatures of  -20 to 85 Degrees centigrade and over 90% humidity. SSDs also require little to no air airflow

These drives appear almost indestructible.

You may well of heard of, or even been the victim of a hard disk drive crashing if the computer was so much as nudged by someone while the disk was in operation. The HDD arm can crash into the platter and it destroys the drive and most, if not all, data is unrecoverable.

A Solid State Drive can withstand being thrown across the room and will nearly always survive, data intact.

When a standard HDD reaches its end of life and locks up, the data on it  is more often than not totally lost forever. This is the reason any expert will tell you to “back up regularly”.

Conversely, when a SSD reaches its end of life, it will not crash.  It just “freezes” the drive to prevent further writing to the drive, and all the data contained on it is fully accessible (Note: This may not apply to some older SSD drives).

I would still recommend backing up your data regularly though, just in case something else unforeseen happens (just covering my ass!)

solid state drives explained-just-covering-my-ass

solid state drives explained – covering my ass!


You can even install a solid state drive hanging in the air, upside or in any orientation you need to fit it into your desktop.

A SSD usually has no exposed circuitry, so it doesn’t matter if the drive is touching the metal case of the PC either,


All drives have a limited lifespan. An SSD’s lifespan is correlated directly with each cell in the drive and how many times it has been written to and erased.

Experts at PC Magazine commented on this in a review and said that a solid state drive is more likely to become obsolete before it started giving off read\write errors.

The average life expectancy of a mechanical hard drive, before it starts giving read\write errors is about 4 or 5 years of heavy use.

Even though SSDs are currently more expensive per gigabyte than HDDs, their expected extra longevity could offset some of that cost.

So, in the SSD vs HDD lifespan war SSD wins hands down.

Smaller size

A typical SSD is a lot thinner and lighter than your typical Hard disk drive.

Constant seek times

The performance of a SSD is almost constant across the entire drive. This is because of the high and reliable seek times offered by solid-state drives.

Removes a bottle-neck

Nowadays anything in a computer with moving parts becomes a bottleneck for data transfer, therefore standard Hard disk drives are often the determining factor of the speed of your computer.

Upgrading to a solid state drive can remove this bottle neck for good and set your computer free!


All of these great advantages should be enough to convince most people to upgrade their old hard drives, right now.

But, can it just be all positives?  In the real world, Of course not!

Solid State Drives Explained-crucial-500gB-ssd

Solid State Drives Explained-Crucial 500GB SSD


The very first Solid State Drive was used in an IBM supercomputer in the early 1970s. General consumers had to wait until 2007.

SSD Vs HDD – the flip side

Solid State Drives Explained - SSD Vs HDD

Solid State Drives Explained – SSD Vs HDD

If there is an upside, then there is usually has to be a downside right?  Luckily, as far as Solid State Drives go, the negatives are not too bad at all.

SSD prices

SSDs are still more expensive than the equivalent capacity HDD, though prices are falling fast and the prices of the two drives will meet soon enough.

Amazon usually has some solid state drive bargains on offer every day, so please check out their prices, which are usually very competitive.

It may also be worth your while to keep an eye on our SSD best sellers page which is updated hourly and our SSD News feed, updated daily.

Cheap SSD

If cash is tight, (see my article how to get a Solid state drive for Christmas) you could buy a small 64gb SSD for about £30 to £40 (it will be even less soon) and install that as your C: drive, (boot drive).

You could then use your old hard disk drive as a your computers’ second drive to store your files on, meaning there is no wastage of your old kit.

This setup would mean that you get to keep your boot drive clean & running optimally, but, because you would still be using your old hard drive for data you will not see much reduction in the noise or heat department.

My old computer, with windows XP, has been using a cheap 64gig Solid State Drive as my boot drive for years.

I have a 1TB HDD as my second drive for my data, and I’m still over the moon with it.

I am using that system now to write this post. This setup does not even support TRIM which would mean it would be a lot faster if it did.

Windows 10

Maybe it is time for me to finally upgrade to a TRIM O.S like Windows 7,8 or 10? 🙂

If you are using Windows 10, bear in mind that the operating system it takes up a lot of drive space and that programs\games\apps just keep getting bigger and bigger.

In which case I  would suggest a minimum of 128gb, or to be on the safe side a 256gb SSD, as Windows needs a fair bit of spare space to operate optimally.

If you intend installing just the one solid state drive on your computer, then the minimum capacity to use is 500gb really.

You could easily get away with 256gb drive though, if you won’t be storing lots of large data files, like videos, for example.

Remember, you need to leave around 20% free space on your SSD or it will slow down considerably, as I discuss in my article “SSD slowing down

Capacity-The largest SSD drive is…

I am led to believe that 60TB (previously 16TB) is the biggest SSD drive you can buy, at the time of writing.

The cost of this massive drive is not aimed at consumers for the time being, as it costs an absolute fortune, $30,000 I think (as I stated earlier), but within a year or so I expect that 5 TB to 10 TB  will be almost affordable for your average computer user.

This 60TB limit will be overcome soon enough anyway, but for now it is one of the largest SSD drives anywhere on the planet.  But don’t worry, capacities of SSDs and HDDs will align soon enough over the next few years, as will the prices.

If you are still unconvinced about how the solid state drive will take over the world in the next few years then take at look at the estimated worldwide sales;

SSD worldwide sales

  • 2009-11 million units
  • 2011-17.3M
  • 2012-39M
  • 2013-83M
  • 2016-200M (projected)
  • 2017-227M (projected)

Summing up the down side of SSDs

If you need to revive an old computer or upgrade your current desktop or laptop, an SSD SATA 3 is a total no-brainer.

The Solid state drive is a winner on almost every point.

Quite soon, SSDs will be fitted as standard on all new computers and the price will keep coming down and capacities will keep going up at an incredible rate.

The hard disk drive has been the main storage device for computers for decades for both desktops and laptops for a good reason, mainly the huge storage sizes and very low cost.

HDDs will hang on for a while yet simply because computer manufacturers can supply very large hard drives at a relatively small cost in their systems without if affecting the overall cost of the computer.

Because of the price, it may not always make sense to use SSDs on all computers. For most users, Having a small SSD as your boot drive and one or more HDDs as your 2nd\3rd drive makes economical sense.

Another option could be using external HDD for storage of data like pictures, music and video, which mostly doesn’t need the fast read times of SSD.


Solid State Drives are not affected by magnetism,
unlike HDDs, which can be damaged by it.



Have a look at Cheap SSDs Best Solid State Drives of 2016, Video review.

Solid State Drives Explained-SanDisk-250GB-ssd

Solid State Drives Explained – SanDisk 250GB SSD


Solid State Drives Explained

Related information

SSHD Hybrid – what is SSHD ?

HDD manufacturers have looked carefully at how they can compete with SSDs. Their answer is the SSHD hybrid drive.  SSHD stands for solid state hybrid drives.

What is difference between SSD and SSHD ?

These SSHD devices try to give you the best of both SSD & HDD by using a small amount of solid state memory (usually around 8gb) inside a standard HDD.

Your operating system will see the SSHD as a single drive and the onboard controller chip will decide which place is best for your data to be stored on.So basically you are getting a 8Gig SSD drive and a HDD in one.

For example often used programs and data will be stored on the SSD part of the drive for faster retrieval. You should see gains in speed of around 3 or 4 times faster than a standard HDD.

The SSD part of the drive acts as a kind of cache, the files you and your system  load the most, such as your operating system, are stored in the SSD part of your drive. These cached files remain in place even after you shut down and reboot, meaning after a few reboots your system will boot real fast.

When you first start using your new Solid State Hybrid drive there will be nothing in the cache, so the drive will be just as slow as a standard HDD.

But, as you use the drive more and more the controller chip will learn which files should be cached the most and its speed will gradually improve.

So don’t be too disappointed in your new SSHD’s speed at first, give it a day or two to suss you out!.

Are SSHD worth it?

You can read more about the Hybrid drive here.

SSD vs SSHD speed

Bear in mind, a SSHD will be nowhere near as speedy as a SSD, but it will certainly be a lot faster than your standard hard disk drive. There is no SSD v SSHD war really as a lot depends on your and your system’s needs

Take a look at this Seagate 4TB Solid State Hybrid Drive and the very decent price, when compared to a purely Solid State Drive.

Most peoples first thought about SSHDs are if they are reliable or not. I can currently only find anecdotal evidence on this subject (all positive) but you can see what Seagate has to say about SSHD reliability here

Installing a 2.5 SSD

If you already have a SATA drive installed (nearly all recent computers have SATA as standard) you will be fine with a 2.5 inch SSD.

We recommend this excellent 2.5 inch SATA 3 SSD 1TB on amazon

If you intend to start off from scratch with a new windows install you can Just swap the drives out, it is just a matter of removing the old HDD and reconnecting two leads to the new SSD.

For more information please refer to our guide on how to install an SSD in a desktop; I used to call this article “Installing a 2.5 SATA 3 SSD” but that has been updated now.

If you have already made a  backed up image of your original HDD, you could clone it onto your new SSD in minutes and be up and running in no time.


PCI Express SSD

I did not mention this piece of kit earlier to save confusing the issue.

This PCIe card will give any desktop computer with a PCIE slot SATA III SSD capability this is for desktop computers with motherboards that still have the old style IDE drive connectors instead of SATA.

The PCIe card was designed to replace the old and slow AGP and PCI slots that most motherboards used to come with.

PCIe connected SSDs use one of the highest bandwidth channels in your PC for super fast speeds, taking your SSD even further and faster than your standard SATA connector, which typically runs at about 6 gigabits a second whereas PCIe can handle roughly 15 gigabits a second.

Be careful though, there are some pitfalls to getting the maximum speed from a PCIe card with an SSD, a lot will depend on the version of your PCI slot, older ones are only 2X speed for example.  To get the full 15 gigabits a second previously mentioned you may need a SSD that has a natural PCIe connection.

If you are not too worried about wringing every last drop of speed and are happy to go with the standard 6gbs everyone else is happy with  then I like the look and price of this one on Amazon (see photo below), it  also has a free SATA port so you can hook up another SATA drive or device to it if you so desire, very useful.

strong>solid state drives explained- Pcie express ssd card

solid state drives explained- PCIE express SSD card

Solid State Hard Drive for PS4

Seagate SSHD for gaming.

Did you know that it is easy and economical to upgrade your PS3 or PS4 with a Hybrid drive?

You can store 25 or more PS4 games on this 1TB drive. Installing it does not void your warranty.

The Seagate 2.5 inch SSD Hybrid Drive for PS4 improves game performance, boots quicker and loads games faster. Click on photo for users reviews and more information at Amazon, it’s a SSHD best buy.


Solid State Drives Explained-Seagate 1TB Hybrid Drive For PS3-and-PS4

Solid State Drives Explained-Seagate 1TB Hybrid Drive for PS3-and-PS4


Free SSD speed test software

I have a nice little free Windows program for you to test the speed of your SATA 3 SSD. It’s a tiny app that doesn’t even need to be installed,  you just run the program.

To download your free copy please unlock the content with a simple “like”.

Or you can check your drive manufacturer for free SSD Utilities here.

SSD Form Factors

There are currently four popular form factors of SSDs.

The standard form factor for SATA3 SSD is 2.5-inch, which fits inside a standard computer’s hard drive bay making it a simple replacement job.

SATA, is an abbreviation from “Serial AT Attachment”. Each version of SATA is faster than the previous version.

  • SATA 1 (1.5 Gbit/s, 150 MB/s)
  • SATA 2 (3 Gbit/s, 300 MB/s)
  • SATA 3 (6 Gbit/s, 600 MB/s) (there are further small revisions to SATA3 but you get the idea?)


eSATA, the “e” stands for external, is a variant of SATA meant for external connectivity for example a external SSHD or maybe a SSD portable hard drive, I love these USB devices personally.


solid state drives explained-samsung-m3-portable-ssd-usb-drive

Solid State Drives Explained – Samsung M3 SSD USB drive


mSATA is a smaller form factor for SSDs which is about one eighth the size of the standard 2.5-inch drive, but you will need to make sure you have a  mSATA socket on your system’s motherboard.

You can also get nifty looking mSATA drive casings quite cheap too, check out these mSATA drives and external cases

M.2 is the other small form factor for SSDs which is about the size of a stick of gum. M.2 SSDs are designed for tablets and ultrabooks because these devices have very little internal space to play with.

solid state drives-explained-samsung-ssd-850-evo-m-2

Solid State Drives Explained -Samsung SSD 850 Evo-m.2

SSD IDE & SSD ATA drives

For those wanting to upgrade old computers\laptops without a SATA connection. You can get SSD IDE drives, but be aware that the speed up difference will usually be nowhere near as dramatic as a SATA SSD would be.

Solid State Drives Explained -Kingspec PATA SSD

Solid State Drives Explained -Kingspec PATA SSD

It is worth taking the time to read the Amazon reviews on the IDE SSD drives link I just gave you. IDE is also known as ATA, just to confuses things nicely.



For more information on SSDs please see our SSD Videos page.

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This article is an update to What is a Solid State Drive?

Solid State Drives Explained (c) 2016




Solid State Drives Explained – All you need to know – Read before buying — 2 Comments

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