Hard Drive vs. SSD Performance

Stick a fork in the HDD

There’s a saying: “Once you go SSD, you’ll never go back.” It’s absolutely true. Personally, I was fine with my HDD storage (on an old Bloomfield system, if you must know). I didn’t usually shut down the system at night (power bills be damned!), so it was right where I left it in the morning. About the most painful aspect was when I would occasionally need to restart Chrome, complete with my 20 or so active tabs—it might take 15–20 seconds before all of the tabs were finished loading. Basically, I didn’t really think I needed an SSD enough to warrant the expense. And then I got a decent-sized 120GB SandForce drive and suddenly I needed lots more SSD capacity. 240/256GB is typically enough, at least for my purposes, but 480/512GB is the sweet spot where you mostly stop worrying about how much free space is still available.

Seagate 3TB HDD 2 Fork in HDD

Several years later, prices on SSDs have fallen to the point where most enthusiasts won’t even touch a new PC without one. And as someone who routinely ends up troubleshooting computer problems for my family and friends, doing malware scans on hard drive–based PCs is pure torture. Scan. Reboot. Scan some more. Reboot some more. And speaking of malware, running an active anti-virus utility can often make a huge difference in how fast a PC feels, particularly if you’re using a hard drive; all those extra disk accesses to check for malicious files and such quickly add up. Switching to an SSD, again, provides a healthy improvement to the feel of any PC, even systems that go as far back as the Core 2 Duo days!

With the talk of Intel and Micron’s XPoint Technology, which claims 1,000x increases in endurance and performance, along with a 10x increase in capacity, we’re rapidly approaching the point where hard drives may finally stop showing up in most new systems. Similarly, Samsung’s increasingly dense V-NAND chips (and other vendor’s 3D NAND technology) promise better performance and data densities with reduced pricing. There will still be people that want/need several terabytes of storage (or more), and for archival/backup purposes HDDs are still great. But the days of the spinning disk are numbered. Considering the largest HDDs are currently sitting at 6GB, SSDs have already surpassed that limit and continue to grow—albeit with stratospheric pricing. Samsung, for example, showed off a 16TB 2.5-inch SSD at the recent Flash Memory Summit.

We’re now at the point where a decent 250GB-class SSD can be had for well under $100. Sure, Crucial’s BX100 isn’t the fastest kid on the block, but it’s better than the Trion and priced to move. For those that don’t need more than 100–200GB of storage—and trust me, I’ve serviced a lot of PCs over the years where the HDD only had 50–100GB of data—such a drive should be a no-brainer. When we get to the point where a 500GB SSD costs around $80, only the pinchiest of penny-pinchers will continue to shun SSDs for their OS and applications. As far as we’re concerned, that day can’t come fast enough. Here’s hoping that 2016 proves to be the year that we cross the tipping point and start seeing SSDs on any new PC priced above $400.

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