What is an SSD?
An SSD, or solid-state drive, is a type of storage device used in computers. This non-volatile storage media stores persistent data on solid-state flash memory. SSDs replace traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) in computers and perform the same basic functions as a hard drive.
But SSDs are significantly faster in comparison. With an SSD, the device’s operating system will boot up more rapidly, programs will load quicker and files can be saved faster.
SSDs store data permanently on an integrated circuit, which is a collection of electronic circuits embedded within a silicon semiconductor cell. Sometimes referred to as semiconductor storage devices, SSDs are more commonly known as solid-state drives, because they don’t have the moving parts found in hard-disk drives (HDD).
Because SSD flash memory can be written, transferred, and erased electronically, SSDs run much faster and more quietly than HDDs. But they’re also more expensive and have more limited storage capacity than HDDs. SSDs are often used on high-end machines or as secondary storage devices on consumer PCs.
What are solid-state drives used for?
SSD adoption began in high-performance technology areas and in enthusiasts’ PCs, where the drives’ extremely low access times and high throughput justified the higher cost. But they have since become an accepted option — or even the default choice — in lower-cost mainstream laptops and PCs.
But even SSDs need maintenance. If you have the equipment, you might as well get the best performance from it!
The latest NVMe SSDs have undercut mainstream drives on the slower SATA interface (which was originally designed for hard drives), but we shouldn’t expect to see the end of SATA drives in the near future.
Companies are still doing new things with SATA, like Team Group’s cavernous 15.3 TB drive. Existing SATA drives will have to continue to get more affordable in order to at least compete on price, but they can’t hope to keep up with newer NVMe drives on performance.
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The Best way to choose
Our first performance tip is to never use a traditional defragmentation tool on an SSD; it’s not required and could actually be harmful.
Among the key components in any PC, the storage drive is slowest: transferring bits in a fraction of the time your CPU and GPU take to process it or your RAM takes to load it. A poor-performing storage drive often leads to a big bottleneck, forcing your processor (even if it’s one of the best CPUs for Gaming) to waste clock cycles, waiting for data to crunch.
Blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs, which offer up to double the sequential speeds of the older PCIe 3.0 standard, have become common with Intel and AMD’s current platforms both supporting them. In a desktop, you’ll need either an X570 motherboard or B550 board on the AMD side, or a Z690 motherboard from Intel.
The Good Way to choose
Finding the best SSD or solid-state drive for your specific system and needs is key if you want the best gaming PC or laptop, or even if you just want a snappy productivity machine. To find the best SSDs for gaming and productivity, we test dozens of drives each year and highlight the best ones here. We’ve also added in a best SSD for NAS category.
If your desktop system can handle a PCIe 4.0 drive and you can pay a little extra for it, they’re the best SSDs for gaming. For example, the SK hynix P41, our current choice for best SSD overall, is rated for 7,000 MBps reads, 6,500 MBps writes and 1.4 / 1.3 million IOPS. That means less time waiting for game levels to load or videos to transcode. For most laptops, PCIe 3.0 drives are the best SSD choice, because they use less power.
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Upgrade your PC’s storage with the best SSD. Whether you’re looking to switch from a hard drive or you need more storage space, investing in a high-quality SSD is the way to go. It’ll help speed up your workflow, especially if you’re always working with large files and need faster access to them.
Believe it or not, raw speed isn’t everything. In regular productivity tasks such as web browsing or light desktop work, you may not even notice the difference between a PCIe 3.0 SSD and one with a 4.0 interface.
Most importantly, they offer faster read and write speeds, which is why creative professionals prefer them over HDDs inside their PC. Thanks to that speed and reliability, solid-state drives are a boon to any professional or business that must have their most crucial data accessible at a moment’s notice. Anyone who regularly deals with larger files, such as video editors and content creators, will find that using an SSD will save quite a bit of time.