Best SSD For Gaming 2019-2020Best Seller List USA Best Seller List UK
Best ssd for gaming 2019 Solid state drives or SSDs are the latest in high performance storage for computer systems. They offer much higher data transfer rates than traditional hard drives while consuming less energy and also having greater levels of reliability thanks to no moving parts. Best SSD Hard Drives 2019.These attributes make them extremely attractive to those using mobile computers but they are also starting to make their way into high performance desktops as well.
Features and performance can vary greatly in the solid state market. Because of this, it is very important to consider things carefully if you are purchasing a solid state drive for your computer. This article will take a look at some of the key features and how they can impact the performance and cost of drives to help buyers make a more informed purchasing decision.Best Budget SSD for Gaming /Best Under 50 SSD for Gaming
SSD or solid state drive is a modern form of storage device that store data on circuits instead of discs that are widely used on hard disk drives/mechanical drives. This ability of data transferring gives the SSD an incredible speed boost over the traditional hard drives, but you should keep in mind that the performance doesn’t come cheap at all.
When compared to the traditional hard drives, the SSDs normally cost a lot, with that in mind, you should also know that in many cases, the difference is stark. For instance, where you are paying $50 for a 1 terabyte hard drive, you may have to pay the same amount of money for a 120 gig SSD. Yes, that’s how big the difference can get.
With that said, a lot of people use SSDs for gaming, and believe that it has a direct impact on the performance. While that is true, the impact basically means comparatively faster load times, especially for games that are quite huge. Other than that, having an SSD for gaming won’t exactly give you a frame-rate boost if you are wondering.
Despite such a huge amount of success, SSDs are still battling to maintain their spot in the mainstream, and several major companies are doing their best to regulate the prices of the SSDs and finally make them more accessible as compared to state they are in right now.
Market is currently flooded with SSDs with companies like Corsair, Samsung, Intel, Kingston, Transcend, SanDisk, and many other companies trying to outrun the other companies; the market is at the moment is pretty saturated, and while it is a good thing, it also happens to be a downside, because this would confuse a lot of newcomers, and they might end up making the wrong decision. To rectify that issue, we have narrowed down some of the best SSDs.
Best SSD For Gaming 2019 Review
Best Budget SSD For Gaming
The Best and Budget SSD For Gaming Under 150$
Seems like Samsung isn’t done impressing us, the company just released their new 960 Evo, and we are more than impressed on how good It turned out to be. For those who don’t know, the 960 Pro is already one of the highest rated M.2 based SSDs in the market at the moment.
Now Samsung has released something more affordable for the consumers who are okay with slightly lesser speeds, but a great price to performance ratio. Say hello to the Samsung 960 Evo, a mid-ranger M.2 based SSD that is available in a variety of storage options starting from 250 GB and going all the way up to a whooping 1TB.
Needless to say this happens to be an enthusiastic grade M.2 based SSD that is checking all the marks there are to begin with. Now the good thing is that this one is far more affordable than the 960 Pro, and that’s good because 960 Pro was the professional grade SSD not built for every consumer mainly because of the high price point.
This one is well within the range of almost all the consumers in the market, and even the price for the base model isn’t all that high. Speaking of the base model, we are going to take a look at some of the most notable features of this SSD, and find out why it has managed to make it on our list.
For starters, the flexible storage options are really, really good, especially for people who aren’t willing to spend a ridiculous amount of money on an SSD, and despite it being an EVO model, the good thing is that the SSD manages to perform really fast in most of our real life tests. It may not be able to match the elder brother in benchmarking performance, but the file transfers are as good as things can get.
The overall performance shines through, and through; even when it comes to transferring files that are smaller, everything just goes as good as planned because it’s the small files that put more load on your SSD or your HDD.
We really welcome the M.2 form factor because that makes the SSD smaller, a lot faster, and better looking than the standard design.
Overall, it would be wrong and unfair to complain about the Samsung 960 Evo, and there’s no reason behind that. The SSD is good, and it’s fast, and easily one of the best M.2 based SSDs available in the market. Even though it doesn’t beat out the 960 Pro, it still manages to offer a lot of value for your money.
Best SSD For Gaming Overall
Another Very Best From Samsung
Samsung’s foray into the SSD market proved to be a really successful one, the company managed to bring out some of the finest SSDs we have seen and tested. They have released successful SSDs in the 2.5-inch form factor as well as the M.2 standard form factors.
Today, we are going to take a look at the Samsung 950 Pro M.2, as the same suggests the SSD is an M.2 based SSD, and it is one of the fastest, most powerful SSDs you can buy in the market right now. So, without further ado, let’s take a look.
The 950 Pro M.2 by Samsung is an NVME SSD, and it fits most of the modern motherboards or laptops that have the M.2 slot on them, the SSD is available in 256 and 512 GB options, and offer blazing fast read and write speeds.
In addition to the amazing performance given by Samsung, the SSD is also accompanied by a 5-year warranty which just makes things even better, and considering how this is an M.2 form factor, fitting it into most modern computers won’t be a problem as they are pretty small; just make sure you have an M.2 port on your motherboard and the clearance isn’t blocked by any other expansion card like a GPU. The performance is obviously no joke with the SSD as it gives you more than what you’d expect.
Overall, the Samsung 950 Pro M.2 is one of the most capable solid state drives in the market; it’s fast, it’s affordable, and it gets the job done.
Best Reliable SSD For Gaming
Intel Most Reliable pcie ssd for gaming
The next SSD we are going to take a look at is from Intel; for those who don’t know, Intel’s known for creating some of the best solid state drives in the market, and their 750 series is known to be a really, really powerful.
Apart from being just powerful, the 750 PCIe also happens to have the NVME standard and it’s one of the best performing SSDs we have on the list.
Want to know just how good the Intel 750 PCIe SSD is? Well, without further ado, let’s dive into details.
The Intel 750 SSD offers a blazing speed of 2,200 MB/s when it’s writing data, and a 1,200 MB/s read speed, and considering how the SSD is basically based on the PCI-express interface, it also opens up a lot of possibilities for other brands to walk the same way.
For those who are wondering whether or not this SSD can be used as a main storage device for those who wish to swing that way. Speaking of storage, the SSD is available in 400 GB, and a whopping 1.2 TB configuration; this actually came as a surprise because Intel has left absolutely no option in the middle for people who are looking for a different storage configuration.
Overall, the Intel 750 PCIe SSD is one of the SSDs you can currently buy in the market, even though it’s a bit expensive, but still a worthy choice for people who want no compromises.
Best Cheap SSD For Gaming
Best all-around for desktop use
Next up, we are going to take a look at a really great offering by Kingston or Kingston Digital; this is another NVME standard PCI-express SSD, and it offers blazing fast speed.
Before we begin looking into the details, Kingston’s foray into the SSD market wasn’t as huge, their budget oriented V300 SSDs didn’t leave the mark they were supposed to.
The company soon realized and released an aggressively branded Kingston Hyper X SSD, and the Hyper X Predator SSD; what we are seeing today is obviously a lot different than the HyperX that is available in the 2.5-inch form factor. So, without further ado, let’s take a look.
It’s odd to see Kingston ditching a full shroud unlike Intel, but the HyperX Predator comes with a beautiful matte black PCB with HyperX stamped on it, and the star of the show, sitting comfortably in the middle. It certainly is a sight to behold.
Looks aside, Kingston has promised that this is the fastest SSD that is provided by them at the very moment, however, is it as fast as the direct competitor Intel 750 PCIe which also comes at a cheaper price than the Predator.
Our testing revealed that in the Crystal Mark test; the HyperX Predator showed impressive speeds that easily went above 1,200 MB/s, however, the speed wasn’t as impressive as the Intel’s SSD going above 1,500 MB/s. Do keep in mind that the Intel 750 is definitely the cheaper, and faster option here.
While speed isn’t the biggest turning point for Kingston here, the HyperX Predator is certainly one of better NVME SSDs we have seen in the market. In simpler words, the Kingston HyperX Predator is an SSD built for those who prefer some style over substance.Reviews and Bench Marks
Best SSD For Gaming Laptop
Very Popular and Most stable sata ssd for gaming
We’re now moving on to the affordable territory. Much like the Samsung 950 Pro, the 850 Pro offers an impressive, if not the same level of performance on a much cheaper degree.
Unlike the bigger brother, this powerhouse comes in the 2.5-inch form factor and offers a SATA interface instead of the much expensive, and super-fast PCI-e interface.
However, that doesn’t stop the 850 Pro from absolutely destroying the competition; the SSD is fast, comes in a number of storage options starting from 128 gigs as the base model, and going all the way to 2 TB. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at it.
The 850 Pro is indeed one of the best SSD for gaming in the market right now, however, when compared to the competition, it’s a bit expensive. Luckily, the SSD manages to make up for that by offering one of the finest performance we have seen by a SATA SSD.
You also get Samsung’s impressive warranty, a lot of storage options, and a really nifty feature known as Rapid that basically speeds up the SSD’s performance. If the 850 Pro happens to be a bit on the expensive side for you, opt for the 850 Evo; the cheaper variant with some compromises on the performance numbers.
Speaking of performance, the 850 Pro manages to give us an impressive number; on the default settings, the drive managed to score an impressive 246 MB/s in sequential tests, and when the rapid mode was turned on, we saw a performance boost and the drive went to 287 MB/s. Needless to say, that Samsung 850 Pro is definitely the fastest 2.5-inch SSD in the market at the moment.
Best m 2 SSD For Gaming
The next SSD we are looking at comes straight from Transcend, the SSD370S is bit on the affordable side. But don’t let it hold you back, despite being affordable, the SSD370S manages to give us an impressive performance numbers. Yes, it’s not as fast as the 850 Pro by Samsung, but it’s certainly good enough for people who are not willing to spend a lot of money. So, without further ado, let’s take a look.
Like we stated earlier, the Transcend SSD370S is currently the most budget friendly SSD available in the market, for starters, the SSD is available starting from 32 gigs model, and going all the way up to 1 TB. Yes, unlike many other companies, Transcend hasn’t given up on the entry level storage options.
Moving on to the performance bits, according to Transcend, the SSD is capable of giving 520 MB/s read speed, and 460 MB/s write speed when it comes to doing the work sequentially, however, during the testing, the speed was a bit lower, but that’s obviously different for different configurations.
Overall, the Transcend SSD370S is a really, really good SSD made for people who don’t want to dish out a lot of money, it won’t be giving you a ground breaking performance like the 850 Pro or 850 Evo, but it’s still impressive enough.
Best SSD drives For Gaming
Blazing Fast with 10 year of Warranty
Next up, we are looking at one of the best 2.5-inch solid state drives apart from the much loved Samsung 850 Pro. This is the SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD, and much like the Samsung 850 Pro, this is a solid performer when it comes to transfer rates over the SATA interface.
The SSD comes in 240 GB configuration and goes all the way up to 960 GB. However, that is not the selling point of this SSD, the biggest selling point is that this happens to be the only SSD that is available with a 10-year warranty. Yes, you’ve heard it right, the SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD comes with 10-year of warranty, beating out pretty much every other competitor in this regard. But what about the performance, you ask. Well, let’s see.
Despite being a SATA standard SSD, our testing revealed that the SanDisk Extreme Pro is definitely the fastest SATA based SSD in the market, the performance numbers were so good, that the SSD managed to trade blows with the Samsung 850 Pro. Sure, the performance isn’t as fast as what you’d expect from an NVME SSD, but do keep in mind that the price different alone would be massive.
With that said, if you are looking for an SSD that performs super-fast, doesn’t cost a lot, and is probably the one component that will outlive your entire PC, simply go ahead and grab this amazing piece of technology.
8. Crucial MX200 Best SSD 2018-2019
The next SSD on our list came as a surprise from Crucial. Now we all know about Crucial and how they are one of the best companies when it comes to buying memory, and their foray into the SSD business proved nothing short of impressive.
Much like a lot of other SSDs, the Crucial MX200 starts from 200 gigs, and goes all the way up to 1 TB, that’s not all, the SSD also comes with some enterprise level features that are normally missing from many consumer grade SSDs. With that said, let’s take a look at just how good the Crucial MX200 is.
If you are wondering just how good is Crucial MX200 is, then you should know that it is easily capable of trading blows with the affordable yet powerful Samsung 850 Evo; that comparison alone speaks a lot about just how good of a job Crucial did. The advertised write speed is 555 MB/s, and the read speed is 500 MB/s, do keep in mind that both of these speeds are in sequential working mode.
If you are wondering just how reliable this SSD is, as per Crucial, you would have to write 40 gigs of data on the SSD every single day for 22 years in order to make the SSD unreliable, and that is some impressive level of performance right there.
Sadly, the SSD only comes with a short, 3-year warranty that doesn’t make it as competitive as other drives in the list, but still, the MX200 is one of the most capable SSD drives on the list that deliver top of the line performance, an attractive price, and some really nice enterprise features.
Best Samsung SSD For Gaming
9. Samsung 850 Evo Best SSD 2019
Very Popular and Most Selling SSD In budget
If you think that the Samsung 850 Pro is on the expensive side for you, don’t worry. The company released an affordable SSD aptly named the Samsung 850 Evo, and today, we are getting a full look at the SSD, and finding out just how big the performance difference is this time around.
The drive starts from the standard 120 gig model, and goes all the way up to the expensive 2 TB model, and for those who are wondering whether or not it comes with the impressive RAPID feature that we found and loved so much in the Evo Pro, you’d be glad to know that it does.
Moving on, as we stated earlier that the SSD comes in a variety of different storage options that will be attractive to those who just wants an SSD as a boot drive, and not fully featured storage device.
Samsung as advertised that the SSD comes with a sequential write speed of 540 MB/s, and read speed of 520 MB/s; the endurance is pretty much everything you would normally expect from the high standards that are set for Samsung, the 120 and the 240 gig variant have the endurance rating of 75 TB, and the other variants of endurance rating of 150 TB.
On top of that, the SSD also comes with an impressive 5-year warranty. Our testing revealed that Samsung has delivered one of the most affordably powerful SSDs, and that is a good thing considering the high end SSD market is not in approach of everyone.
Best Vector SSD For Gaming
10. OCZ Vector Best SSD 2019
OCZ is another company that is trying to make sure it stays relevant in the competition, and their Vector SSD is definitely here to prove it that the company can survive and thrive; it is actually quite affordable than rest of the competition, and starts from 120 gigs, going all the way to 960 gigs.
The main question, however, is if the SSD is a worthy choice for budget oriented user? Well, without wasting anymore time, let’s find that out.
First things first, the OCZ Vector comes with 5 year of warranty, which isn’t the biggest warranty you will get, but still good enough. On the performance side of things, the advertised sequential write speed is 550 MB/s, and the 530 MB/s for the reading on the SSD.
Our testing revealed that the performance of the SSD was impressive enough on all fronts, however, if you are expecting performance like the Samsung 850 Evo or 850 Pro, you should know that it simply doesn’t get there, but considering the price difference, it’s justified. Overall, the OCZ Vector is an impressive enough SSD for budget oriented folks, and will keep you satisfied.
Best SSD For Gaming Under 150
11. Kingston SSDNow V300 Best SSD 2018-2019
Cheap Kingstone SSD 480 GB in just 140 dollars
The last product on our list is the Kingston SSDNow V300, it is perhaps the most affordable SSD on the list, with great price to performance ratio that hovers around an impress $1 per gigabyte, and that is certainly a good thing.
Before we begin taking in-depth look at just how good the SSD is, you should keep in mind that the SSD is targeted towards the budget oriented fellas, and if you are looking for ground breaking performance, you may want to swing the other way. With that said, let’s take a look.
The SSDNow V300 has been in the market for quite some time, that means it uses the older controller, however, in our testing, we realized that despite being old, the SSD managed to perform relatively good, and boot times weren’t as bad.
The sequential read and write also managed to be surprisingly good. One thing you should keep in mind though, there is absolutely no way you can compare this SSD with the Samsung 850 Pro, Evo, or even the offerings from Samsung as they are based on the newer chip versions. With that said, do keep in mind that this once was the fastest SSD available in the market.
So, onward to our top drive picks. Note that most of these drives are also available in capacities different than the ones we tested, so dig into each review for the details on that score, if you want a drive that’s bigger or smaller than what you see below.
Crucial MX300 (1TB)
Our Verdict: The 1TB version of the MX300 is a great all-around SSD with good-enough performance, advanced features, and solid software—at a very affordable price. Read Our Review
Our Verdict: Crucial’s new midrange SSD brings nice high-end data-protection features down to the mainstream. If you’re just looking for the best SATA SSD performance for your dollar, though, better options are available (from Crucial, no less). Read Our Review
Our Verdict: The SSD 850 EVO delivers most of the benefits of Samsung’s SSD 850 Pro drive, including class-leading endurance and very good overall performance, at a much lower price. But if you can find a 256GB-or-bigger Crucial MX100 or older SSD 840 Pro for significantly less, you might not want to pass those up. Read Our Review
Our Verdict: The Force MP500 is a no-doubt-fast PCI Express “gumstick” SSD, but it’s a mid-pack pick among the elite NVMe crowd. The main reason to buy one versus a competitor is if it sees a price drop. Read Our Review Best SSD 2018-2019
The interface on the solid state drive is most likely going to be Serial ATA. Why will this interface be important than? Well, in order to get the highest performance out of the latest generation of solid state drives means that you will need to have a 6Gbps rated SATA interface. Older SATA interfaces will still offer strong performance especially compared to hard drives but they may not be able to achieve their highest levels of performance. Because of this, people with older SATA controllers in their computer may want to buy an older generation solid state drive that has rated maximum read and write speeds closer to their maximum interface speed in order to save some on costs.
Another thing to remember is that interfaces are rated in gigabits per second while read and write times on drives are listed in megabytes per second. In order to determine the limitations on interfaces, I have listed the converted values below for the various SATA implementations for readers to better match drives to their PCs SATA versions:
- SATA III (6Gbps): 750MB/s
- SATA II (3Gbps): 375MB/s
- SATA I (1.5Gbps): 187.5MB/s
Remember that these are the theoretical maximum throughputs for the various SATA interface standards. Once again, real world performance will typically be a lower than these ratings. For instance, most SATA III solid state drives peak between 500 and 600MB/s.
Several new interface technologies are starting to make their way into personal computers but they are still in the very early stages. SATA Express is the primary interface that is set to replace SATA in the desktop market. The interface on the system is backward compatible with older SATA drives but you can not use a SATA Express drive with an older SATA interface. M.2 is an special interface that is really designed for use with mobile or thin computing applications but is being integrated into many new desktop motherboards. While it can use SATA technology, this is a very different interface that is more like a stick of memory slid into the slot. Both allow for faster speeds if the drives are designed to use the faster PCI-Express transmission methods. For SATA Express, this is roughly 2Gbps while M.2 can reach up to 4Gbps if it uses four PCI-Express lanes.
Drive Height/Length Restrictions
If you are planning of installing a solid state drive into a laptop to replace a hard drive you also have to be aware of the physical size limitations. For instance, 2.5-inch drives are typically available in multiple height ranges from as thin as 5mm all the way to 9.5mm. If your laptop can only fit up to 7.5mm height but you get a 9.5mm heigh drive, it will not fit. Similarly, most mSATA or M.2 card drives have length and height requirements. Be sure to check the maximum supported length and height for these as well before purchaing one to make sure it will fit in your system.
For instance, some very thin laptops may only support single sided M.2 cards or mSATA cards.
Capacity is a fairly easy concept to understand. A drive is rated by its overall data storage capacity. The overall capacity of solid state drives is still significantly less than what can be achieved with traditional hard drives. The price per gigabyte has been steadily dropping making them more affordable but they still lag behind hard drives significantly especially on the largest capacities. This can cause issues for those that want to store a lot of data on their solid state drive. Typical ranges for solid state drives are between 64GB and 4TB.
The problem is that capacity in solid state drives can also play an important role in the performance of the drive as well. Two drives in the same product line with different capacities will likely have different performance. This has to do with the number and type of memory chips on the drive. Typically, capacity is linked to the number of chips. So, a 240GB SSD may have twice the number of NAND chips as a 120GB drive. This allows the drive to spread out the read and writes of the data between the chips which effectively increases performance similar to how RAID can work with multiple hard drives. Now the performance will not be twice as fast because of the overhead of managing the read and writes but it can be significant. Be sure to look at the rated speed specifications for the drive at the capacity level you are looking at to get the best idea of how the capacity might have an impact on performance.
Controller / Firmware
The performance of a solid state drive can be greatly impacted by the controller and the firmware that are installed on the drive. Some of the companies that make SSD controllers include Intel, Sandforce, Indilinx (now owned by Toshiba), Marvel, Silicon Motion, Toshiba and Samsung. Each of these companies also has multiple controllers available for use with solid state drives. So, why does this matter? Well the controller is responsible for handling the data management between the various memory chips. The controllers can also determine the overall capacity for the drive based on the number of channels for chips.
Comparing controllers is not something that is easy to do. Unless you are extremely technical, all it will really do is let you know if a drive is a current or past generation solid state drive. For example, the Sandforce SF-2000 is a newer controller generation than the SF-1000. This should mean that the newer one can support larger capacities and have higher performance.
The problem is that two drives from different companies can have the same controller but still have vastly different performance. This is due to the firmware that is included with the SSDs in addition to the specific memory chips they may use. One firmware may emphasis data management differently than another that can boost its performance for specific types of data compared to another. Because of this, it is important to examine the rated speeds in addition to the controller itself.
Write / Read Speeds
Since solid state drives offer significant performance speeds over hard drives, the read and write speeds are particularly important to look at when buying a drive. There are two different types of read and write operations but most manufacturers will only list the sequential read and write speeds. This is done because sequential speeds are faster thanks to the larger data blocks. The other type is random data access. This typically consists of multiple small data reads and writes that are slower because they require more operations.
The manufacturer speed ratings are a good basic measure for comparing solid state drives. Be warned though that the ratings are at their best under the manufacturer testing. Real world performance will likely be below the ratings given. This has to do partly with the various aspects discussed later in the article but also because data can be influenced by other sources. For instance, copying data from a hard drive to a solid state drive will limit the maximum write speeds for the SSD to how fast the data can be read from the hard drive.
One issue that buyers of solid state drives might not be aware of is that fact that the memory chips inside of them have a limited number of erase cycles they can support. Over time the cells within the chip will eventually fail. Typically, the manufacturer of the memory chips will have a rated number of cycles that they are guaranteed for. To mitigate the failure of the chips being worn out from constant erasing of specific cells, the controller and firmware will not immediately erase old deleted data.
The average consumer will probably not see a solid state drive’s memory chips fail within the typical lifetime (upwards of five years) of their system. This is because they don’t typically have high read and write tasks. Someone doing heavy database or editing work might see higher write levels though. Because of this, they may want to take into account the rated number of write cycles that a drive is rated for. Most drives will have ratings somewhere in the 3000 to 5000 erase cycles. The larger than cycles, the longer the drive should last. Sadly, many companies are not listing this information anymore on their drives instead requiring users to judge expected life of the drives based upon the warranty lengths provided by the manufacturers.
TRIM / Cleanup
A process of garbage collection can be used within the firmware to try and cleanup the drive for improve performance. The problem is that if the garbage collection within the drive is too aggressive, it can cause write amplification and shorten the lifespan of the memory chips. Conversely, a conservative garbage collection may extend the life of the drive but significantly reduce the overall performance of the drive.
TRIM is a command function that lets the operating system better manage the data cleanup within the solid state memory. It essentially keeps track of what data is in use and what is free to be erased. This has the benefit of keeping the performance of the drive up while not adding to the write amplification that leads to early degradation. Because of this, it is important to get a TRIM compatible drive if your operating system supports the function. Windows has supported this feature since Windows 7 while Apple has supported it since OS X version 10.7 or Lion.
Bare Drives vs. Kits
The majority of solid state drives are just sold with the drive. This is fine because if you are building a new machine or just adding extra storage to a system, you don’t need anything more than just the drive. If however, you are planning on upgrading an older computer from a traditional hard drive to a solid state drive, then you might want to look into getting a kit. Most drive kits include some additional physical items such as a 3.5-inch drive bracket for installing into desktops, SATA cables and most important cloning tools. To properly get the benefits of a solid state drive as a replacement, it must take the place as the boot drive of the existing system. To do this, a SATA to USB cable is provided to allow the drive to be attached to an existing computer system. Then a cloning software is installed to basically mirror the existing hard drive onto the solid state drive. Once that process it complete, the old hard drive can be removed from the system and the solid state drive put in its place. A kit will generally add around $20 to $50 to the cost of the drive.
What Is a Solid-State Drive (SSD)?
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a data storage device for your computer. In everyday use, it provides the same functionality as a traditional hard disk drive (HDD)—the standard for computer storage for many years. In fact, you wouldn’t even know whether you’re using an SSD or HDD if it wasn’t for the differences in how they operate. HDDs store their data on spinning metal platters, and whenever your computer wants to access some of that data a little needle-like component (called the “head”) moves to the data’s position and provides it to the computer. Writing data to a HDD works in a similar fashion, where parts are constantly moving. SSDs, on the other hand, don’t move at all. They store their data in blocks. When the computer wants some of that data, the SSD just says “okay, here it is.” This is a simplified explanation, of course, but you might have noticed that the SSD’s process seems a bit more direct and efficient. It is, and speed is the primary advantage of an SSD over a traditional HDD. This makes an SSD the single best upgrade for your computer if you’re looking for a way to make it operate faster.
A new SSD can speed up your computer in several ways:
- Boot times will be significantly reduced.
- Launching applications will occur in a near-instant.
- Saving and opening documents won’t lag.
- File copying and duplication speeds will improve.
- Overall, your system will feel much snappier.
SSDs have their downsides, however. For starters, an SSD won’t hold as much data per dollar as an HDD. For the same $100, you could buy either a 120GB SSD or a 2TB HDD. That means you’re paying around 83 cents for every gigabyte on an SSD versus five cents for every gigabyte on your HDD. That’s a huge difference in cost, and the gap only grows as you compare larger drives. Luckily, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. In the days of cloud storage and streaming media, SSDs provide plenty of space for most people. For those who need more storage than is affordable with an SSD, SSDs and HDDs can coexist on the same system (and we’ll discuss those in depth a bit later), so you can enjoy the speed benefits of an SSD without sacrificing on storage.
In this post, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about getting started with your first solid-state drive, from buying the one that suits you best to getting it set up and running most efficiently in your computer. We’ll even take a look at a few advanced techniques for those of you who are ready to do even more with your super-fast storage device.
How to Choose the Right SSD
Choosing the right solid-state drive for you isn’t difficult, but the process can be a little overwhelming with so many brands available. In this section, we’ll show you what you want to look for when choosing a drive and offer up a few recommendations that have worked well for us.
All SSDs are fast, and will feel like a great upgrade from a HDD, but when you’re spending significantly more money on a drive that provides less storage you want it to be one of the best. You also want a reliably piece of hardware, and these are both fairly hard to gauge if you have little experience with the technology. Here are the qualities you want to look for in an SSD when you’re shopping around:
- High maximum speeds: Max read speeds are around 400MB/second, and max write speeds are around 300MB/sec (note: that’s megabytes per second). These numbers do not have to be exact. A little faster or slower won’t make a significant difference.
- Good real-world speeds: The SSD manufacturers generally will not provide real-world read and write speeds, as they’re guaranteed to be slower than the maximums. Fortunately, many online reviews contain speed test results. On Amazon, you can often find users who’ve posted screenshots of their test results (here’s an example). Seeing this data can often be discouraging because the real-world rates are quite a bit lower. If the test results reveal read and write speeds of about 2/3 of the maximum (in the sequential and 512KB block tests) you’re good to go. If you apply this to our maximum speeds above, that comes out to read speeds of about 265MB/sec and write speeds of about 200MB/sec. If you want to figure out if a more expensive SSD is worth the money, its real-world test speeds will be higher than 2/3 of its reported maximum capabilities.
- Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash memory: When shopping for SSDs, you’ll run into two kind of memory: multi-level cell (MLC) and single-level cell (SLC). The primary difference is that MLC memory can store more information on each cell. The advantage here is that it is cheaper to produce, and SLC is often cost-prohibitive for the average consumer. The downside is a higher rate of error, but an SSD with error-correcting code (we’ll discuss this momentarily) can help prevent these problems. (You can read more about MLC here.)
- SATA III Support: Most SSDs use the Serial ATA (SATA) interface, but not all use the latest version and this can limit the performance of your SSD. This is because SATA I can transfer data at 1.5 Gbps, SATA II at 3.0 Gbps, and SATA III at 6 Gbps. To ensure your SSD has enough bandwidth to transfer data as quickly as possible, you want it to be compatible with SATA III. You’ll also want to make sure your computer is SATA III compatible as well. If not, SATA III-capable drives will still work as all versions of SATA are backwards-compatible. Just know that you may not get the most out of your SSD if your computer doesn’t support the most recent SATA specification.
- ECC memory: Error-correcting code (ECC) memory does what the name implies: it provides your SSD with the ability to detect and correct common types of data corruption so you don’t end up with unusable data on your drive. An SSD with ECC memory is more reliable. (You can read more about ECC memory here.)
- A history of reliability: Reliability is a very hard thing to gauge, but there are a few tricks you can employ to get a good idea. First, look for an SSD that is made by a manufacturer who has been in the business for a while (I like OCZ and Crucial). The technology is fairly new, so you don’t want to go with just any company who has recently decided to jump on the solid-state bandwagon. Additionally, look at the rating each SSD receives in online shopping reviews. If it is rated a 3.5 out of 5.0 or higher, this is often points to a reliable drive. When the ratings are lower, you may want to look elsewhere. Even reliable companies make unreliable SSDs sometimes, so keep an eye on reviews to avoid buying a lemon.
Which SSDs meet these criteria? This changes over time, so we’re going to defer to our friends at the Wirecutter, who will keep their SSD buying guide up to date as things change. It’s not an end-all-be-all suggestion, so if you want to shop around and weigh your options, keeping the criteria mentioned in this section in mind will help you find a good, reliable drive.
How to Install Your SSD
Installing your SSD will be different depending on your computer, so we highly recommend looking up a guide for your specific model of laptop or desktop. That said, if you have a desktop, our guide on building a computer should at least steer you in the right direction.
More important is figuring out where all your data will go. Most HDD owners are accustomed to having at least 500GB of storage, if not upwards of 2TB. Downsizing to 120GB or 240GB—the most affordable and popular SSD sizes—can be a tough job. If you’re using a desktop, you can use your SSD for your operating system and another hard drive for your data. If you’re using a laptop, you can either try to fit everything on the SSD, or use an external drive for the data that won’t fit (like music and movies).
Once you’ve figured out a plan, it’s time to actually switch to the SSD. Here are your two options for doing so:
Option One: Start Fresh and Copy the Essentials
When upgrading to an SSD, the most obvious option is starting fresh with a new install of your operating system. While this might require a little more of your time, you’ll have everything configured perfectly when you’re done. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Install your operating system of choice on the new SSD.
- Copy the contents of your home folder from your previous HDD to your new SSD. If you can’t fit everything, start with the essential system files and settings, then migrate the media you have room for.
- Go through the list of applications on your old HDD and install them on your new SSD. Run any updates, or save yourself some time by downloading the latest versions from their respective sources. Windows and Linux users can employ Ninite to get the latest versions of popular free software titles for their machines. OS X users can head to the Mac App Store to download the latest versions of their previous purchases.
- Copy any important documents (or other files) you have room for on your SSD.
- Put the old HDD in an external enclosure (like these), if you haven’t already, and keep it handy for a month or two. This will help you see what files you use often and which ones you don’t. If you find you’re using something often, copy it to the SSD. If not, leave it on the external HDD for occasional access.
Again, this method requires more work but also handles the task of cleaning up your system at the same time. It may be more tedious, but it is an efficient way to solve two problems at once.
Option Two: Migrate Your Data from Your Old Hard Drive
If you don’t want to start with a fresh installation of your operating system, you can always migrate your OS (and other data) to your new SSD. Chances are, however, that you’re not going to be able to fit everything. That means you’re going to have to start deleting files on your main drive until it is small enough to fit on your SSD. Because you don’t want to lose that data forever, start by making a backup of your drive. Once you have a complete backup, you’re ready to get started.
Windows users can follow our SSD migration guide for the complete instructions. It comes across as a complex process, but shouldn’t take too much time. You also won’t have to reinstall Windows. Mac users can follow our MacBook SSD installation guide. While the guide focuses on installing an SSD in a MacBook Pro’s optical disc drive bay, if you skip to the second half you’ll find instructions on performing a data migration as well.
If You Don’t Have a Second Hard Drive: Use an External Drive and the Cloud to Combat Storage Constraints
Regardless of the size of your SSD, it’s never going to beat the storage capacity of a HDD. If you don’t have a secondary hard drive installed in your computer, you’re going to need to store your excess data elsewhere. An external HDD and the cloud are two of the best ways to get around the storage limitations of your SSD.
Unless you have enormous collections, an SSD with a 240GB (or higher) capacity should be able house your operating system, documents, music, and photos without issue. It’s when you get into the business of music creation, video editing, professional photography, and other work that produces large files will you regularly run into a storage ceiling. An external drive is often the easiest solution, so you’ll want to pick up one with a large-enough capacity to suit your needs. If you’re looking for a portable drive, the Seagate GoFlex series is worth a look as it not only works with USB 3.0, but can be connected to other ports like Firewire 800 and Thunderbolt by way of adapter. This also provides you with some assurance of compatibility with future technology.
When an external drive won’t do the trick, and you really need to downsize your space-hungry media collection, the cloud can come to the rescue. Most of the best solutions come from Google because they’re both simple and free. Google Play Music allows you to upload your entire audio collection, and doing so will allow you to delete any songs you rarely listen to (or at least move them to an archival hard drive) while still maintaining direct access to them from anywhere you have an internet connection. Picasa can do the same thing for your photos. (Personally, I prefer Flickr, but it isn’t free.) When it comes to other data, you have plenty of options. Google Drive is great for various files, Simplenote for text, and Evernote for rich text and PDFs. It doesn’t matter so much which services you use, but rather that you start making regular use of the cloud if you have heavy data needs that can’t be adequately served by an external or secondary internal drive.
Optimize Your SSD for Optimal Performance
For the most part, there isn’t much you have to do to optimize your SSD. It’s already really fast and should do it’s job without any adjustment. That said, you can achieve better performance and longevity with a few adjustments.
The very first thing you should do after installing and setting up your SSD is enable TRIM. What is TRIM, exactly? Wikipedia offers a concise explanation:
TRIM is a command [that] allows an operating system to inform a solid-state drive (SSD) which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be wiped internally.
Basically, it prevents your SSD from being overused. Just like any component, SSDs have limited lifespans. TRIM helps keep your solid-state disk alive a bit longer, so you want to have it enabled if your drive supports it. Here are instructions on how to find out and enable TRIM in Windows and OS X.
Don’t Defragment Your SSD
When data is stored on a drive, it often ends up in various parts that aren’t all in the same place. This is called data fragmentation. It slows down HDDs because the drive’s head needs to move from place to place to read all the little bits of information. This can be fixed using a process called defragmentation, which is built into recent versions of Windows (7 and higher) and OS X. Because the location of data on an SSD is pretty much irrelevant, as it can quickly access any of it regardless of where it is, defragging a SSD is not only unnecessary but bad for the drive as well. SSDs have a limited lifespan that’s determined by how much they’re used. While most will last as long as you’d ever need, defragmenting the disk involves reading and writing data unnecessarily and those actions will shorten your SSD’s lifespan. OS X and Windows should know when you’re using an SSD and turn off defragmenation automatically. That said, it’s important to remember not to defragment your solid-state drive. It provides no real benefit and can shorten its life.
For more tricks on getting the most from your SSD, check out our guide to taking full advantage of its speed. Now that you have an SSD, certain things—like Hibernation—are much faster than they once were, and are really worth using.
You should now be well on your way to a better, faster computer with your solid-state drive. Most of us here at Lifehacker have been enjoying the benefits of SSDs for a few years now and can’t imagine going back to a traditional hard drive. Despite the limitations and the cost, they’re one of the best investments you can make. We hope you enjoy your SSD as much as we’re enjoying ours!
Well, that pretty much wraps everything up. The SSD market has evolved a lot, and constantly evolving as the time passes by. Still, it’s a long way from being a mainstream storage standard for the solid state drives, as the prices are still not as competitive as traditional hard drives. With that said, we hope that the SSDs soon take over, and are accessible by everyone who is into building computers.