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What is SSD?

The following is a short introduction to hard disks and Solid State Drives and their peculiarities:

SSD stands for Solid State Drive. Essentially, a SSD is a mass storage device not unlike a hard disk – however, a SSD does not have any mechanical and moveable parts – thus its name “Solid State Drive”. Technically, the technologies employed for either mass storage device – hard disk and Solid State Drive – are fundamentally different. Let’s take a look inside of these devices:

A hard disk (always the image on the left) stores data on rotating magnetic disks and by necessity must mechanically locate the data on the magnetic disk with its movable read/write heads. In contrast, a SSD only consists of Flash storage chips (always the image on the right) and one or more controller/cache chips. Therefore, a Solid State Drive doesn’t require any mechanical components such as motor and read/write heads – this reduces power consumption and shock sensitivity on the one hand and development of heat and noise on the other.

The Solid State Drive’s triumph over hard disks has long since begun. For quite a while now, modern SSD’s exceed access times of hard disks many times over. The only drawback is that the storage capacity of current SSD’s is relatively small in comparison with hard disks and their price relatively high. For this reason alone, SSD’s are often unjustly belittled. However, in other and at least equally important aspects (speed, access time, power consumption, operational availability, background noise, heat development, etc.), SSD’s significantly win over hard disks since a long while and new SSD’s continue to raise the bar. To somewhat soften the impact the factors of capacity and price it is common today to equip a desktop PC with a low-priced SSD and “little” storage capacity for OS and the most important programmes and, as a second drive, a low-priced yet comfortably running storage giant (a hard disk) for data archiving. These SSD’s cost between Euro 80 and 200 (depending on the storage capacity desired) and considerably speeds up the work at a computer. The “lights” usually go on shortly after installation of a SSD: Depending on the SSD model used (e.g. from a USB stick), installing Windows 7 takes between 10 to 20 minutes and starting Windows 7 and installing and starting programmes only takes a fraction of the time a hard disk used to take to perform the same functions. Finally, SSD’s make it fun again to work with a computer.

Solid State Disk has also become a common designation, however, Solid State Drive is the correct technical name.

To find out about the pros and cons of a SSD for a desktop and/or Notebook, please see our table Why SSD?

The following images show a 3.5 inch desktop hard disk. Please note the complicated mechanical parts susceptible to defects:

A 2.5 inch Notebook hard disk is based on a very similar yet scaled down technology, including the complicated mechanical parts susceptible to defects:

At the end is a photo of a 2.5 inch SSD without any moveable parts and without a motor. This Solid State Drive by Kingston offers 512 GB storage capacity: