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SSD Vs. SATA Drive Performance

by Ashley Poland

Solid state disks (SSD) are an entirely electronic alternative to your standard SATA hard disk drive (HDD). SSD uses flash memory chips to store your data, as opposed to the head and spinning platter configuration of your current HDD hard drive. While the cost per gigabyte for an SSD drive is too costly for standard consumer use in 2011, the SSD is definitely the next step in hard drive technology.

Boot Speed

When you first turn on your computer, the hard drive takes a second to spin up before it can read the drive and start booting. This leads to a significantly lower boot speed than SSD, which starts the second power hits the drive. In testing done for Computer World, Lucas Mearian found that his SSD booted Windows XP in 20 seconds, while his HDD took 40 seconds.

Read/Write Speeds

The SDD has the advantage in read/write speeds -- period. Your average SSD advertises 250 MB per second read speeds and 100 MB per second write speeds. In testing, this holds true depending on your brand of SSD and HDD. Bear in mind, of couse, that speeds vary depending on your brand of drive. Also, speeds drop over time; as you fill and use your drive, you'll likely notice a much slower read/write speed.

Durability

Because an SSD features no moving parts it's more durable and extremely klutz-friendly -- which is why it's used primarily in mobile devices. An SSD isn't susceptible to magnets, vibration or drops. They also produce less heat, which is better for the heat-sensitive components of your computer. This durability makes SSD a practical decision for users on the road or in high-impact environments where damage to an HDD is more likely.

Resource Use

One of the main claims to SSD's superiority is that they use fewer computer resources, including battery life. In Mearian's tests for Computer World, he found that battery life was only extended by five minutes when the SSD was in use. The SATA drive's random access time was 17 milliseconds -- significantly longer than the SSD, which clocked in well under one millisecond. However, the SSD uses more CPU than HDD.

Endurance

While SSD drives are in most ways superior to HDD, they may present a lower endurance over time and more likely rate of failure than your standard SATA HDD. Which is to say: hard drives fail. It's a fact of life. The kind of SSD you're likely to buy on the consumer market has a highly variably lifespan: anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 write/erase cycles. AN SSD's lifespan is highly variable to the type of drive you purchase, measurements the manufacturer uses to increase lifespan and how you use the drive.

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