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Your computer has a new choke point that can be easily remedied with a single hardware upgrade. At one time computers were slowed by weak processors or dial-up Internet connections. Now that multi-core CPU’s and broadband access are ubiquitous, the rate-limiting step is your spinning mechanical hard drive. Booting up your computer is a normal expected inconvenience…two to three minutes of idle time wasted as you stare at the hour glass icon while your computer diligently reloads the operating system and programs from the hard drive to system memory. Hard drive maintenance (defragging, error checking, and virus scans) can grind your PC to a halt. For various reasons, now is a great time to upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD).
1. Smart Phone Technology for the PC
Imagine if you had to wait two minutes every time you turned on your smart phone or tablet. Because of the solid state memory in these devices, they boot within seconds and are ready to use almost immediately. My Surface Pro 2 tablet runs full versions of Microsoft PC software and boots up in seconds, whereas my more “powerful” desktop computer takes minutes before I can do any work. The difference is the SSD in the Surface 2 tablet and the old and slow technology of the spinning hard drive in my PC.
2. Evolution of SSD Technology
Many companies from CPU giant Intel to smaller memory chip makers are vying for the SSD market, no doubt hoping to land mega supply contracts for PC and laptop makers. This has driven the price down and the memory capacity up, at the benefit of the consumer. It used to be that choosing SSD meant compromising on capacity with the operating system installed on the SSD and data stored on a convention hard drive. With affordable SSD’s in the 500GB to 1TB range, you can now have the advantage of both speed and capacity.
3. Price/Performance Ratio
Just to be clear, there is still a substantial increased cost of going full SSD and high-capacity spinning hard drives are more affordable than ever. It is up to you to decide whether the advantages are worth the price. When users upgrade to SSD they universally gush about the huge jump in speed and performance, elimination of lag time, and rejuvenation of their old computers. It is often described as the single best PC performance upgrade. If you have ever written a computer program, it can feel like the computer is an extension of your mind. When you eliminate the lag time, you can get that feeling every time you work on your computer. The responsiveness is that dramatic.
4. Enhanced Reliability
Early SSD technology gained a dubious reputation with some fears that a limited number of reads and writes would shorten the life span of an SSD. However, with improvements in technology have come improvements in reliability and longevity. With no moving parts, there is improved longevity with no possibility of a catastrophic hard drive head crash. Hard drives have delicate moving parts and microscopic mechanical tolerances that can be vulnerable to impact and vibration. SSDs are largely immune to rough treatment.
5. Windows 10
The best time to upgrade your main drive is when you change your operating system. With millions of users switching to the well-received new version of Windows 10, it is a great time to take full advantage of the upgrade. You can do a clean install that will eliminate bloatware and unnecessary background processes. There is a rumor that Windows 10 will be the last version of Microsoft Windows, and it is currently free to upgrade from Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Wouldn’t it be nice if this was the last operating system you ever have to install?
6. Reliable Migration Software
But you don’t have to perform a complete reinstallation of your operating system. Several companies offer affordable or free migration software that allows you to clone your current hard drive onto a new SSD. In the past you had to pare down your user files to have everything fit on a small capacity SSD. But if you choose one of ample size, you can copy your OS and your files to the SSD.
7. User Friendly Upgrade
If you have ever replaced computer memory or a conventional hard drive, you can probably handle this upgrade yourself. The SATA power and data cables are L-shaped and fool-proof to connect. SATA III drives are backwards compatible to SATA II systems with a slight decrease in speed. It is always important to back-up your data which is very easy to do with a large capacity thumb drive or cloud technology. Redundancy of your data back-up is highly recommended. If you want to upgrade your laptop, there is a USB to SATA cable available that allows you to clone your current drive to a new external SSD. You then swap drives in the laptop.
8. The Cloud
Since most people now have multiple computers (home and office), tablets, and smart phones, it makes sense to keep your most used files in the Cloud. The capacity of cloud-based storage has increased and the subscription costs have decreased. That means you probably don’t need a Terabyte main hard drive. 480-500GB SSD’s are affordable now and are likely all you need for local storage on your PC. You can always purchase a second 1T SSD later when prices come down further. Because of the thin 2.5” form factor, two SSD’s will fit in the place of a single 3.5” hard drive inside a tower computer drive bay (with several adaptor bracket designs).
9. The Ultimate Back-up
If the new SSD boots and functions normally, what should you do with the old hard drive? In the days of small SSD capacity it was usually recommended to reformat the hard drive to remove the original operating system to reclaim the storage space for your data. However, you can now buy an SSD large enough for both your OS and your data. A good solution is to simply unplug the power and data cables from the hard drive and leave it in situ as back-up hard drive. If you are really paranoid you can remove it, place it in a static free package, and keep it off site in case of disaster. It is still important to maintain incremental back-ups of your files on the cloud and/or thumb drives.
10. Improved Productivity
For a small investment in money and time you will have a much more immediately responsive computer. Boot up should only take seconds. Your apps will load faster. Data and imaging programs will runs faster. System maintenance chores such as virus scanning will take only a fraction of the time. Disk defragmentation is not required to optimize SSD performance. Think of all the time you have ever wasted while waiting on your computer. From now on that time could belong to you.