People purchasing a new laptop computer are being confronted with making a choice between solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD), and desktop owners will probably see this option opening up to them soon, too.
Solid State Drives are cousins to your thumb drives and flash cards – they store your data on a non-mechanical device – no moving parts. There are no mechanical failures (and subsequent data loss) even possible with a device that doesn’t try to spin a platter at thousands of revolutions a minute, which is how a hard disk drive operates.
Sure, an electromagnetic pulse can wipe out an SSD. But you can do the same with a HDD. Stay away from nuclear weapons and x-ray machines with these babies, unless they are heavily shielded. Keep that degausser away from both devices. A stray cosmic ray particle might do damage to an solid state drive that wouldn’t phase a hard disk.
But try a short drop of your laptop with a HDD in it, and if it lands right, the disk is popped off the spindle or scratched by the needle and it is dead in the water. With a SSD – nothing. Unless you drop it hard enough to actually crack it, and then it is dead, too. So, probably, are your laptop’s display, keyboard, and motherboard.
The downside – SSD’s are expensive when compared to the more technologically-mature hard disk drive. There are dozens of manufacturers of hard disk drives, and only a handful of solid state drives. On a price-per-gigabyte comparison, a laptop with a SSD instead of a standard HDD costs about 60% more, for either a Mac OS or Windows-based system. And the biggest SSD available today is only 64 gigabytes.
The upsides – reliability, durability, and speed. Because the solid state drive is reading electrons and not spinning a platter with a needle, a cold boot can be nearly twice as fast, and opening large documents nearly as speedy when compared to a HDD.
Another upside is energy consumption. Unless you have a high end HDD with great energy saving features built in, the cost of spinning that platter makes laptop’s batteries last about 20% shorter than with a SSD.
Manufacturers are ramping up production capabilities for solid state drives, and we should see larger, faster, and cheaper SSDs on the market within a couple of years, making the decision of going with a solid state drive the right consumer choice.