How long do you sit around waiting for your computer to reboot, or apps to load? Probably far too long. Once you get used to near instant load times you won’t want to go back. You get that performance on your smart phone and tablet, so why not expect it from your computer (which is many times more powerful right?)
Part of my crusade for improved computing efficiency includes getting every ounce of performance out of your computer that you can.
Solid State Drives are memory cards similar to those you use in your camera but configured as hard drives. No moving parts like a regular hard disk which spins plates of magnetic media and reads the bits as they fly past the read head (sounds prehistoric already doesn’t it). SSD are just flash memory which is fast to write to and unbelievably fast to read from. With these drives it’s possible to boot Windows 7 in as many seconds, and launch large, disk-intensive apps like Photoshop in 2 or 3 seconds vs around 60 seconds that it can often take.
SSD drives are not cheap, though this will change as their uptake increases. Right now you’ll pay around NZ$120 for 40Gb or $230 for 80Gb. To replace an existing 240Gb drive will cost you up to $800 which is prohibitively expensive for most users, but… take this into account:
The Rocket+Box we sell at Kloud has a relatively small SSD drive built in (no more than 60Gb) but here’s the thing. Most business I come across, my own included only have 10Gb or so of documents they regularly access. Your typical operating system will take up around 10Gb, add another 10Gb of applications you run and you find that 40Gb of fast local storage is plenty for most people.
If you’re dealing with large media files you are best to put those on a network attached storage device (NAS) for a number of reasons. Firstly they are accessible on your local network without needing to share files from your own computer. Secondly most NAS boxes offer some level of redundancy (using RAID across multiple physical drives for instance) so if a disk dies you simply replace the it with a new one and your NAS box rebuilds itself. This is typically not the case for your local hard drive.
Ideally, your local documents should only be “offline copies” of what you have in cloud storage. If you’re using Google Docs or similar you’ll find you won’t need to be storing or working on files locally at all, and if you are there are options for auto-syncing your local files with cloud storage (Memeo Connect for instance). If you’re a design house then you can use your NAS for storing your graphics media and have a backup policy in place for syncing with bulk cloud storage (like Amazon S3) or copying to portable drives to take offsite.
It is still true that SSD drives lose their performance over time. Estimates vary from 12 months to 2 years before they start noticeably slowing down, but this is improving all the time. For me, paying ~$150 every couple of years for a drive that will save me so much time and hair-pulling is totally worth it. You can simply re-image a new drive with a copy of your old one which is relatively easy to do come replacement time.
There are ways to increase the longevity of your drive. The most important is to turn off the disk defragmenter as it is unnecessary on an SSD drive and running it will actually degrade the performance. Windows 7 normally detects you have an SSD drive and will automatically have disabled the defragmenter but it’s worth checking. (Go to the control panel, search for ‘defrag’ and load the defragmenter. If your SSD drive isn’t listed in the list of drives that appears then you’re all good).
The other main thing you’ll want to do is either turn off the swap file (aka virtual memory) or shift it to another drive. There’s plenty of advice on how to do that out there already e.g. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Change-the-size-of-virtual-memory
Ideally you should have a lot of RAM – say 8Gb for a typical business PC and turn off virtual memory completely. Make sure you have more RAM than you need and continue to monitor it! Alternatively move the swap to another drive, but don’t put your swap file on the SSD.
I hope that’s given you some good intel on why you should be using an SSD drive in your computer. Do yourself a favour – make the change!