Week in Tech: SSD Update. Just Buy One

By Jeremy Laird on November 14th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

It’s been many moons since our last update on solid state of play. And now the SSD game finds itself in a bit of an odd spot. It seems like we’re on the cusp of a big transition, what with new PCI Express-based interfaces on the horizon. At the same time, existing SATA III drives feel like they’ve finally grown up, decided to give the ‘rents a rest and started behaving reliably and responsibly. The tech has matured and the end user experience is converging on something subjectively ‘good enough’. Just pick a drive at random from one of the decent outfits and you’re good to go. Then again, wouldn’t it be bloody annoying if you bought an SSD today only to find the entire market turned on its head by super-fast drives in the space of a month or three. What should you make of it all? Read on, chaps, read on…

The tl;dr bit
I reckon some of you are pretty pragmatic about this stuff. You just want the simplest possible advice for choosing an SSD and getting the benefits of solid-state storage. So, here it is.

1. If we’re talking about current SSDs, reliability and long term performance are what matter
2. The end-user experience from one decent drive to the next is very similar
3. Buy a recent-model Samsung, Intel, Crucial or SanDisk drive and you won’t go too far wrong
4. Bag a 240GB-256GB drive or bigger to get the best performance

And that’s pretty much it. Don’t worry about sequential versus 4k random access, compressible and incompressible, MLC and TLC, SandForce, LAMD or Marvell. It doesn’t matter. Just buy one.

Want to know more?
In that case, there are two ways of looking at this. One the one hand, we’re in the quiet before the storm of new storage interfaces. Peak read and write speeds of the latest SSDs have slammed into the wall that is the SATA III 6Gbps interface.

That’s why most of the sequential read and write benchmarks of the top drives typically show the same thing – 550MB/s or thereabouts. There are, of course, drives that plug into PCI Express slots that side step this limitation.

But what’s really needed is the next generation of storage-specific, hot- or at least warm-swappable interfaces. It’s called SATA Express and it’s on it’s way. Then again, maybe it’s called NGFF and it’s already here today.

Actually, they’re fairly closely related and here things get a bit confusing. NGFF drives are already shipping. None other than the latest Apple Macbooks have NGFF drives cranking out not a million miles off 1GB/s in raw bandwidth in some tests. But the status report for the desktop is a bit baffling.

Buy this one

The latest scuttlebutt, for instance, suggests Intel’s upcoming 9 Series motherboard chipsets won’t support SATA Express natively after all. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a board with an NGFF slot. But the attraction of SATA Express is that it’s backwards compatible with current SATA drives. NGFF is a whole new ball game.

Anyway, at this stage, it’s not really worth going into the details save for saying performance wise it’s a bit like the best bits of SATA and PCI Express combined and will allow, over time, for multiple GB/s of SSD bandwidth.

Back in the summer, some SSD outfits previewed some next-gen SATA Express products with impressive headline numbers. ADATA had a drive claimed to be good for 1.8GB/s in both directions and 200,000 IOPS courtesy of the upcoming LSI SandForce Griffin controller. I thought these products were slated to already be available by now, but things appear to have gone quiet.

The real kicker, of course, is that you’ll need a new motherboard to enjoy the SATA Express performance explosion, and as I indicate above, it’s not clear when this might be possible.

When you combine that with my general feeling that the latest drives are pretty darn good from a subjective experience point of view, I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of buying an SSD today.

Not a bad time to buy
Which brings me to the other side of this debate, which says SSDs have generally come of age. We’re now at the point where you can rely on certain brands to give you a drive that performs well out of the box and keeps doing so for several years. What’s more, you could say that random access performance is more critical, day-to-day and that’s not really limited by interface performance.

Because of that, the actual end-user experience is pretty similar across those brands. I’m not saying there aren’t any remotely worthy SSDs outside the quartet of brands mentioned above. The likes of Plextor and Seagate, among others, are worth a shout. There might even be the odd Corsair drive I wouldn’t kick out of bed on a cold morning.

What I am saying is that among the currently available newish-model and vaguely sensible-money SSDs, what matters is that the latest drives from those brands will give you a similar end user experience in terms of performance, have good reliability reputations and give you enough choice to be getting on with.

Or this one. It doesn’t really matter

Having said all that, some of you probably want a very short shopping list of drives to think about buying. So here they are and in no particular order:

Samsung 840 EVO and 840 Pro
Crucial M500
Intel 335 or 530
Sandisk Extreme II

If you want to really narrow it down, my two top picks are the Crucial M500 and Sammy 840 Evo. I personally wouldn’t bother to spend more.

Generally speaking, among those drives, the more expensive, the higher performing. I’m not convinced you’ll be able to feel the difference. But if you want to hedge your bets, you have the option of a faster drive like the Samsung 840 Pro.

One final caveat is that performance for some drives can fall off a bit with smaller capacities. Personally, I favour the 240GB to 256GB segment as a bare minimum capacity wise. Prices start at roughly £120 on a good day and it just so happens that this is the size at which the performance limitations generally drop away, so it’s win-win.

And that, folks, should have you covered. Sensible SSD advice for a happier populace. Until next time!

, , , , , , .

154 Comments »

  1. Stompopolos says:

    Sadly, here in New Zealand hardware prices get jacked up by an extra $200 or so, so I won’t be able to nab an SSD at a reasonable $/GB for some time.

    • mouton says:

      Which is ironic, seeing as China is RIGHT OVER THERE

      • Scumbag says:

        You mean its almost as close as the UK is with China?

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Well, given that New Zealand and Australia are far away from *everything*, I suppose it’s relative?

          • darkath says:

            People tend to think that Australia and New Zealand are to China what GB and Ireland are to France i guess :p

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        But it’s even right over there-er to the U.S. West!

    • Eagle32 says:

      Nonsense, you can get a Crucial M500 240GB to your door in a couple of days, from an NZ company with the drives in stock in Auckland for $250 NZ (~$206 US or £129).

    • Ivory Samoan says:

      I don’t know bro… we can get some pretty good deals from the importers these days – Pricespy + Deals @ Computer Lounge and PBtech = Just as cheap as most countries I reckon.

      New Zealand has caught up in most areas in terms of pricing, we’re ahead in quite a few areas as well to be honest.

      A bigger annoyance is our internet/mobile data costs.. wow, they are ridic.

  2. Ocki says:

    Bought a Samsung 840 EVO last month for my old Thinkpad T60. The effect is incredible. It’s so damn fast now. And doesn’t even fully use the new SATA-port of the SSD. When I have some more time around christmas I’ll definitely buy one more for my desktop.

    • skittles says:

      ↑This. I bought an SSD for my crusty old Asus laptop a while back. It now runs quicker than brand new machines I test in the shop. This thing is 5 years old now.

    • rapchee says:

      wait a second i thought this is good for sata 3 interfaces only. or the t60 has it? i was thinking about getting ssd for my lappie with sata2 but i got the feeling that the interface wouldn’t be quick enough. was i perhaps mistaken?

      • borkbork says:

        You’ll probably be hitting the bandwidth ceiling offered by SATA2, but that doesn’t mean it still won’t run super fast compared to your old 5400rpm laptop HDD.

        I just wouldn’t put out money for a top of the line SSD, because you’ll miss most of the benefits. I’d just find something reliable and relatively cheap.

      • Kadayi says:

        Sata III is backwards compatible with Sata II (and maybe Sata I even, though I’ve not tested that), you’re just not going to be getting the maximum in terms of read /write speeds due to the Sata II connectors limitations. It’s still going to be lightning fast compared to your HDD though.

        If you do get an SSD but already keep your games on a separate HDD Steam mover is a pretty handy (and free) application: -

        http://www.traynier.com/software/steammover

        as featured on Lifehacker: -

        http://lifehacker.com/5626931/steam-mover-relocates-applications-to-free-up-space-on-your-primary-drive

        It allows you to relocate any installed steam games to a new folder or drive of your choosing . In fact it seems to work ok with other applications as well. I recently used it to relocate by BF4 install to the SDD drive and it worked seamlessly.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          Steam mover isn’t necessary. You can install to drives and folders of your choice now .
          Settings > Downloads > Steam Library Folders.
          Add locations and you can choose between them when installing a game.

          • HothMonster says:

            Steammover is still useful for moving content that is already installed to a different drive. That option is only presented on the initial install in the Steam interface.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            You can manually move installed Steam games too.
            Add a new install location like I said earlier. Close Steam. Move the specific game’s folder from steam/steamapps/common/ to the new location. Start Steam and “delete local content” for the game (don’t worry, it just thinks there are files still present, it won’t remove anything if you moved the folder already). Install it again and choose the new location. It will verify the file integrity of the existing files and be done.

            Alternatively if you want to move the entire Steam install with games.
            1. Exit Steam.
            2. Browse to the Steam folder.
            3. Delete all of the files and folders except the SteamApps folder and Steam.exe.
            4. Cut and paste the whole Steam folder to the new location, for example: D:Games/Steam
            5. Launch Steam and log into your account.

            And while I’m on the topic of moving – If anyone want to move the Desktop, Documents etc. to another drive too, you can. Just right click on them in your user folder and in properties, choose “move” to a new location. The documents folder in particular may take up a lot of space. (And the desktop folder if you are as messy as I am).

          • Kadayi says:

            Sure you can do all of that, or you can get steam mover to do the heavy lifting for you, and not have to worry about fucking it up yourself.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            Very true Kadayi. It’s probably more recommended to use the program for anyone not comfortable about the process. :)

  3. Bull0 says:

    There’s this rumour going around that SSD’s have a very definite amount of read/writes in them after which they fail. Don’t know if it’s true or not, don’t really know anything about it, I’m quite likely just recklessly spreading misinformation here

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I’ve had an SSD in my machine for over 2 years now and have never experienced any probl//’;##..,..#;### …>>>> ****&^43””@@/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

      • SIDD says:

        I would say check out the “ssd failure rate by manufacturer” (e.g. here: http://www.hardware-revolution.com/best-ssd-best-hard-drive-september-2013/ ) before you go shopping.

        I’ve had 5 of the buggers …. 1x Corsair, 1x Crucial, 2x Samsung and 1x OCZ …
        Only one of them have failed … Not surprisingly it was the OCZ … and ironically it was the one with the least amount of read/write activity…

        Lesson learned: Avoid OCZ like the plague until their numbers improve.

        • Jenks says:

          Got an OCZ Vertex 4 256MB for $70 last year on black Friday. No problems so far, under warranty for 4 more years, couldn’t be happier.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Unfortunately, warranties don’t mean butkus when they don’t cover your lost data.

          • Sakkura says:

            Learn to back your data up. ANY drive can fail at ANY moment.

        • DougyM says:

          Looks at rig with a 6 month old OCZ Vertex 4.

          Bugger.

          Have to say though that SSD is really the future, if the OCZ crapped out on me then i would not hesitate in getting another (more stable) SSD to replace it.

        • kubla says:

          That fits with my experience, the OCZ I had bricked at the first power cut.

    • mouton says:

      That was flash drives, I believe.

      • Sakkura says:

        Most SSDs use flash memory – specifically NAND flash memory. The same limitations apply, but they typically have several years’ worth of very heavy write activity in them.

    • BTAxis says:

      I think there’s a limited amount of writes, but this amount is so high that you’d have to use a drive intensively for years before you’d hit it. Plus, there’s a thing called wear leveling that tries to spread writes over the entire storage space evenly, to prevent a specific portion of the drive to give out before the rest does. This is also why you should try to keep a healthy chunk on your SSD unused, so the wear leveling system has room to work with.

    • Hawat says:

      The number is around 2-3k write for mlc ssd and 1k write for the cheaper tlc ssd. So for a 250 gb tlc drive like the samsung evo that is still going to take like 15 years for you to wear down the drive if you write 50gb a day, most people dont write nearly as much.

      • Sakkura says:

        TLC drives can realistically handle a lot more than 1k writes. And it’s not just about SLC-MLC-TLC, it’s also about the fabrication process node. The Samsung 840 (first TLC-based consumer SSD) has been tested to endure well over 3k writes.

    • Generico says:

      It’s true that NAND flash memory cells have a limited amount of read/write cycles before they go bad. And the more layers each cell has (this is the difference between MLC, TLC and such) the fewer cycles it can survive. However, all drives have methods of minimizing that damage, and you can expect any decent SSD to last on the order of 5 years under normal usage. If you do a lot of disk intensive stuff (99% of users don’t) it’ll be a bit less than that.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        Did you have a typo there? 5 years only (someone above claims 15)? Your goal seemed to be to show it’s not an issue as big as the comments before yours implied but that’s short enough for many users to be likely to encounter problems long before they think of replacing a drive for other reasons.

        There’s also the matter of having a way to easily detect it before it goes kaput so that you can replace it and clone the data rather than have it die and resort to back ups and reinstallations (I don’t think many people make regular whole clone images as a habit, just dump the valuable data in additional HDD copies), but not do it so preemptively, out of mere fear, that you lose money.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        An interesting article, thanks.
        For those that can’t be bothered to read it the tl/dr is that after 200Tb (ie 100Gb of writes per day for 5 years), all the SSDs are still working, although some have started to have to rewrite a few blocks using their spare ones.
        All in all, not a problem for the average user.

    • fish99 says:

      SSD failure rates are roughly in line with mechanic drives now, so you’re not dodging a bullet by avoiding them. People talk as if mechanic drives never fail.

      • vargata says:

        nah im using my HDD roughly 9 years ago without faults and im a geek, smashing it every day with gigs up and down (movies games etc), i’ve just bought a samsung pro SSD and its first data loss has happened just in the first 2 weeks. i use it just for system so if it fail i dont lose anything and store all my stuff on HDD. they are not reliable yet at all

        • fish99 says:

          Look at failure rate charts. These charts are averaged from thousand of drives, not just your singular personal experience.

          We had a mechanical WD drive fail just last month. It’s dead now and does nothing. Luckily we got most stuff off in the hour between it starting to go wrong and completely dying. It’s not the first one we’ve had fail either.

        • sophof says:

          I’ve had a HDD fail in the first week, by your logic that would automatically make SSDs better.
          Anecdotal evidence is the same as no evidence.

    • Premium User Badge

      thedosbox says:

      Your information is a touch out of date.

      http://techreport.com/review/25559/the-ssd-endurance-experiment-200tb-update

      Their previous update was at 22TB of writes, or the equivalent of 20GB per day for three years. No issues.

      They’re now up to 200TB of writes, with a couple of failed sectors. That works out at an average of 100GB per day for five years.

      [edit] oops – just noticed ordteapot already posted this. Ah well, I could always do with a cuppa.

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      Your information is *true*.
      Each small region of the flash drive (I don’t remember if this is a byte or a few KB or what these days) is going to go through an *expected* number of cycles before it begins to become unreliable. When flash was *first* introduced, this number was less than a thousand. Which was fine, because it was just a replacement for EEPROMs back in the early 90s.

      Nowadays, typical cycle numbers are in the millions. SSDs, which really refers to flash and a special controller and software all in one, are specifically designed to arrange for your writes to be spread out evenly over the entirety of the available chips, so that you can’t through very odd patterns of use completely wear out a small sub-section of your available chips. This combination of factors combined gives a scenario where SSD failures aren’t generally caused by this issue, just like HDD failures stopped being caused by steady creeping-up surface exhaustion over time. HDD surface use and treatment and materiels improved, but other problems simply became the dominant reasons for their failures.

      SSD are now in a similar situation. SSDs *do* experience failures, but they seem to mostly be dominated at the moment by *bugs*. A lot of SSDs tend to have odd behavior when power is removed mid-write, which makes some enterprise users uneasy. Manufacturing defect issues do crop up. Some of the firmware loads on the SSD devices to manage allocation of space and track usage and so on have had bugs that have taken time to shake out. These issues are why people tend to stress that you select a more reliable vendor and a product line with a good track record.

      That isn’t to say that SSDs are scary beasts that are best avoided, but that they have their failure modes like any piece of tech, and knowing what they are is useful as a buyer.

    • tehfish says:

      One thing i would recommend about SSD reliability is to bear in mind that, unlike a HDD, you’re very unlikely to get ANY warning of imminent failure or any chance to recover files from them afterwards without specialist help.

      So be doubly sure to keep backups.

  4. db1331 says:

    A few of my BF4 squadmates don’t have an SSD yet. I love loading in ahead of them and taking the tank/boat before they can spawn in.

    • Ephant says:

      I have no idea how but Dice fucked something royally up when it comes to loading times:
      - BF3 HDD loading time on my machine: 0:25min
      - BF4 HDD loading time on my machine: 2:25min

    • Ross Angus says:

      GET TO THE CHOPPER!

  5. mouton says:

    Meh. I mean, I am sure SSD is great and comfortable and once I get one I just won’t stop telling everyone how it changed my life. But I just don’t see it as high priority, I got other components to upgrade, really.

    • falconne says:

      An SSD is the single best upgrade you can do to your machine. Unless your machine is 10 years old and you have to throw the whole thing away, this is the highest priority component to upgrade.

      • BTAxis says:

        Upgrading to an SSD mostly gets you a very rapidly booting system. For someone like me that’s not very important, as I don’t shut down my PC unless I need to get inside the case. The system typically runs for weeks between reboots. The speed gain from an SSD is much less pronounced in a case like this.

        • tetracycloide says:

          In addition to boot times buying a drive big enough to fit your programs as well as your operating system will yield similar gains to accessing any file for any reason. The idea that it’s ‘just for boot times’ is a myth, it does much more.

          • malkav11 says:

            You’re talking to gamers here. There are no SSDs big enough to fit my programs and OS both anywhere near consumer price levels.

          • Low Life says:

            “Consumer price levels” is such a silly term, because it doesn’t really mean anything. I’m a gamer and a consumer, and I do just fine with just SSDs on my computer.

            I’ve had all my games on a 300 GB drive for the last six years or so, and just last week I switched to a 500 GB SSD. It cost me less than 300 euros and it’s definitely enough to fit any games I actively play (+other software). I don’t have any need to keep games I’ve stopped playing on my hard drive – I’d rather keep my installed Steam library clean – so even the 300 gigs I previously used was plenty.

          • BTAxis says:

            @tetracycloide: You’re right, I never said it was “only” for boot times, I said it was “mostly” for boot times. I have used an SSD for a while now, and the speed gains I get from it are minor at best. Everything important is already in memory, so there’s not much point in speeding up disk I/O. I can’t speak for other people, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one in this situation.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Indeed; hibernate has worked solidly for years, and also means state of open windows and programs is preserved. Why would you need to boot outside of Windows updates or needing to make hardware changes?

            The days of leaky, crappy old 9X and its “reboot between every game” are mercifully, mercifully long dead.

            (The situation is not so rosy under Linux. Hibernate support is…variable…and it needs to reboot in more update cases, e.g. graphics drivers. Don’t expect SteamOS to fix deep issues like that.)

          • Premium User Badge

            phuzz says:

            Hibernate has only ever worked on pre-built machines for me, the ones I’ve built for myself never seem to hibernate or suspend properly. Not a problem, I’m in the habit of turning things off when I’m not using them.

        • Moraven says:

          It is pretty pronounced for pretty much everything. While my office computer does not have a good GPU or need it, it takes forever for everything to load and I see slowdown as I leave more things open. I keep trying to convince them to upgrade everyone to SSD. Its a world of difference.

          Win8 you get if you want a fast boot time.

        • fish99 says:

          Your PC is loading stuff all the time, whether it’s your browser, your web cache, Steam, a game or a level in a game, or whatever. When I go back and use anything with a mechanical drive in it now, it’s an unpleasant experience.

          Having said that I still think a mechanic is good for a big games drive, but not for games you play regularly, and not for an OS drive.

          • BTAxis says:

            I use an SSD for some games that have long loading times, and really the effect isn’t that spectacular. SSDs speed up I/O times significantly, but the majority of games already use memory and background loading tricks to minimize waiting times, so the only benefit you usually have is the initial start-up time. Of course it varies from game to game, but as a blanket statement this holds up very well. At least in my experience.

        • Premium User Badge

          Foosnark says:

          At my old job, my desktop had an SSD. At my current one, it’s a faster machine in all other respects, but no SSD — and it feels damned slow by comparison.

          That said, I’m holding off getting an SSD at home until I replace my machine, and I expect that’ll still be a couple of years.

      • mouton says:

        Well, I have to upgrade motherboard, CPU and probably buy more RAM. If I didn’t have enough space, I would also buy an additional HDD first.

        So no, SSD is not the “best” upgrade. It is awesome and all that, but very much non-essential.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        My desktop is kinda insane, I built it nearly 7 years ago and only really added more RAM and changed the graphics card on a whim, everything else is the same. Might be because graphics plateaued with the console cycle, but it runs most modern games just fine. My only resistance to an SSD would be reinstalling everything. If someone can tell me that’s not necessary, I might week be inclined to burn some of my precious beer money on one.

        • nrvsNRG says:

          Not that ive ever done it but you can clone your HDD using the software that comes with the Samsungs, although its better to do a fresh install.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            One thing is that I only really use my desktop for games, so reinstalling from scratch would only really cost me time re-downloading my steam archive on not the world’s fastest internet.

          • Premium User Badge

            drewski says:

            You could just backup your Steam library to an external HDD (if you have one handy).

            Or if you have enough space, back it up to your current drive, then grab a cheap external cradle and stick your old drive into it.

          • Killergran says:

            @Gap Gen
            Transferring your steam archive from one disc to the next is pretty easy. Just copy the folder.
            No need to re-download anything. Steam might have to re-check everything though, and when I tried transferring single games from HDD to SDD a while back it didn’t always work and I couldn’t figure out why.

            Oh, and hi RPS! Love you guys! Finally signed up! Yeay!

            *EDIT*
            Ninja’d on my first post! Awww :(

        • Paul B says:

          I’ve just upgraded my Uncle’s aging PC with an SSD. I backed up his drive using the free edition of Macrium Reflect then simply applied the image to his new SSD. It’s quite easy and all you need is a spare HD to hold the image of your old drive.

          Also, another great thing about SSDs is that Windows updates, especially big ones like 8.1, are a lot quicker to install. Added to that, Applications instantly load, and everything just feels a lot snappier.

          • Premium User Badge

            drewski says:

            The idea that people have hard disks just sitting around spare waiting to take an image for a SSD upgrade amuses me somewhat.

            I’m in favour of SSD drives, but it’s still something of an ordeal to have to go through the upgrade, and I say that as someone who’s spent 20 years fiddling around inside computers.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            I own several external hard drives that I have various poorly-organised backups on. Not that I ever look at the data, mind.

          • Paul B says:

            Being a geek and someone who keeps regular backups, I think it’s a case of me thinking that everyone else does the same when it seems that’s not true. Of course, you can get a cheap second hand drive off eBay but I understand – switching from a mechanical HD to an SSD is not easy. At least with the image method, you still have your original hard drive to fall back to if anything goes wrong, and the image should be smaller then your hard-drive capacity so you don’t need an identically sized backup HD.

        • fish99 says:

          Why can’t you just copy games from old drive to new?

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            True! It’s mainly about the OS, but you’re right that Steam games, etc, can probably be copied right over after the install.

    • vargata says:

      well, dont listen to them. you are right, i have SSD and its nice but not reliable at all. a good gpu or memory is lot more important upgrade :) (and an active Real3D monitor… nah that will change whatever you think about PC gaming)

      • chris1479 says:

        You own an unreliable SSD.

        Then you tell people to upgrade their GPU or memory.

        This makes no sense at all. If you owned a reliable SSD that worked properly then you’d have some yard stick to measure by, but you don’t, and that’s why it doesn’t make any sense.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Agree, I have a 2TB 128MB cache Seagate 7200 RPM SATA 6 and I never noticed excessive load times or delays running windows or games. I’d rather shove cost of the minimal gains on performance a SSD provide for significant gains that money would provide in a CPU, GPU, or even RAM.

      We’re just not there yet in terms of “must have” imho. Sort of like the early days of PCI vs. PCIE slot video cards. The only gains were on performance benchmarking software, not actual games or programs.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        Sata 6? The gains aren’t minimal, they just aren’t game-fps-gains (though again I don’t know if an SSD would help with the hitches and stutters many games get as they try to load new assets in, even if their overall frame rate is the same, I will soon find out though). Why would even faster future drives eventually become a must for you as you say, if you’re happy with the slow HDDs? You will always have the option of dumping money on other parts. But for many people a snappier PC with far less waiting on any given task, down to simple things like copying files over, is a pretty sweet upgrade even if it has nothing to do with gaming, which isn’t 100% of anyone’s activity on a computer.

      • chris1479 says:

        This must be the fourth or fifth comment on this page that comes from someone who either doesn’t own an SSD or owns one that is semi-broken and therefore has absolutely no objective means to compare their performance with and sans SSD, telling people to upgrade their CPUs instead. This is completely nonsensical.

        Look at CPU benchmarks, especially in gaming: A cheap and dirty processor from either Intel or AMD is MORE than good enough for 99% of PC games nowadays and their cost is negligible.

        The only perspective I can agree with you here is from the GPU angle, an SSD is something life-changing and awesome to purchase, but I wouldn’t purchase it at the expense or instead of a decent GPU. HOWEVER if you already own a perfectly serviceable GPU and have, say, 8Gb of RAM then in that case an SSD is hands-down the single greatest thing you can add to your PC.

        I suppose it all depends where you’re coming from, I mean if you’re running a PC from 2007 whose components are universally middling-to-shite then… well quite frankly I don’t think you’re the target audience for SSDs in the first place, they are performance parts for people interested in enthusiast levels of performance, not for people who enjoy the odd indie game and a round of minesweeper.

  6. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    just don’t buy OCZ

    • Sakkura says:

      OCZ is more than fine today. I’d much rather have an OCZ Vector than an Intel 335 or Crucial M500, which are really low-end drives that are overpriced to boot. No idea why Jeremy has such a massive hard-on for the M500.

    • kael13 says:

      I’ve used an OCZ Vertex 2E as my main drive for the last three years, a-thankyouverymuch.

      To Jeremy – Thanks for the info about future-tech SSDs, I was actually doing a little research on this the other day and didn’t come up with anything after browsing through Anandtech’s SSD section. I plan to upgrade my PC next year and I want something comparable to my Macbook Air’s crazy-fast SSD.

  7. nrvsNRG says:

    Just ordered my sammy evo 250gb and from reading around it looks like there is no need to partition this or worry about mixing my games/apps and OS with this size ssd. As long as i keep personal files like movies pics and music on seperate drive.

  8. Zanchito says:

    I got an Intel SSD quite some time ago, just 80 GB, as a system disk, and boy does it make Windows 7 fly. I totally recommend people getting an SSD for their start drive. If you’re worried about having to reinstall the system of ghosting an imago or all that stuff, I get you, it’s a pain, but even so, get one, you’ll be doing yourself a great favour.
    If you have heavy stuff like Steam or whatever, install it to a regular 7200 RPM disk, but you really want Win/Linux on an SSD.

    • chris1479 says:

      Seconded, I couldn’t agree more. I’m completely stumped at the number of people on forums sporting a 5400rpm Hitachi 80Gb Deskstar from 2005 saying that they’ve never noticed any slow downs and so it’s not worth buying an SSD.

      They don’t notice any slow downs BECAUSE EVERYTHING ON THEIR COMPUTER IS SLOWED DOWN. They have nothing to compare it to. And then they tell people with SSDs they’re wasting their money? Give me a break. I don’t know what this is about, I see something similar when people talk about say upgrading from a 60Hz monitor to a larger monitor with 120Hz or 1440p resolution or something: They start reeling out how pointless it is because “the human eye can’t see more than 60Hz” or “gaming at 1440p is expensive and you can’t tell the difference”. It’s just rage-inducing. I cannot believe for a minute that such people have ever used any such hardware, I think they slag it off because they can’t afford the kit and don’t want to see their hardware in a different light i.e becoming a bit fusty and outdated, no longer cutting edge etc.

  9. AsamiImako says:

    I’m looking at the 250GB Samsung 840 Evo. It seems it’s been getting the most praise for that size drive and at $180 it’s kinda hard to pass up. Hopefully I won’t be disappointed!

    • chris1479 says:

      I own one, and unlike certain muppets around here sporting their sweet unknown branded 5400rpm drive from 5 years ago and claiming it’s just fine, I’m telling you: It is f****** awesome and I never ever want to use a regular HD again except for mass storage.

  10. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    Frankly, using a SSD is such a quality of life enhancer compared to HDDs that even something like “choose something from Samsung, Crucial, or Intel” sounds nitpicky. Just buy one! I’m running my Windows 7 and a few games on a 60GB Corsair and stuff still boots up as fast as the day I got this rig back in January 2011.

    When I get a new rig in 2015 I’ll run everyhing on a 512GB/(maybe even)1TB SSD with any additional HDDs used for storage and only storage. I’ll take a hit, but fuck yeah it’ll be worth it.

  11. Beelzebud says:

    Seriously, just get one. You won’t understand how amazing it is until you use one.

    I got a 240GB Corsair in August and it’s the single biggest upgrade for a PC since my original 3dfx card. It’s that big of a deal! I’ll never run my OS or major games off a mechanical drive again.

  12. Casimir's Blake says:

    I’ve used both a 256MB Crucial M4 and a 120GB Samsung 840 EVO in my late 2007 MacBookPro.

    Both of them reduced boot times to well within half a minute from power on.

    Unless you’re running a file server, or cannot stand the slightest loading times in your games, there’s little lost by going for a 120-128GB model SSD if you want to save pounds. Sure, the raw benchmarks for many of them would suggest they’re slower, but many SSDs at this size are still many, many orders of magnitude faster than a hard disk. Most importantly the access time is down to sub-millisecond levels, which is the main reason SSDs boot OSs so fast.

    So splashing out on a 250~GB model is certainly not wasted money, but for booting an OS and running a few apps, a 120~GB model will still provide very similar performance.

    • Paul B says:

      Yep, agree, with smaller capacity SSDs you only get reduced sequential write speeds. Read speeds are just as fast. I doubt many people would notice the difference between SSD brands & sizes, whereas the difference between an SSD and a mechanical HD is very noticeable.

    • Wedge says:

      That’s certainly true, but the price per GB is optimal around the 256 drives now with sale/average prices being $80/100 for 128s vs $140/160 for 256′s. And having the extra space for the games that see big benefits from it (hi Planetside 2 @ 13gb) would be nice to have around.

    • chris1479 says:

      Mehhhh you’re not far off the mark but I’ve owned just such a drive, i.e a 60gb no-frills OS only SSD and ultimately I just had to upgrade to a 250gb EVO because while it’s great for OS performance, it’s really jarring to run games off a crap HD and then to be back on your desktop where everything even searching the net just flies.

      There’s a small premium for 250gb SSDs but it’s really the sweet spot in terms of the UTILITY of the drive, i.e you don’t have to be constantly watching it being constantly overfull and you can have a few big meaty games sitting on there no worries.

      • Paul B says:

        I think it’s because when I bought my 128GB SSD it cost the same price as a 256GB one does now. You’re quite right though, if you can afford it then a 256GB SSD is now the sweet spot, and will let you store some games on your SSD without having to delete your music collection etc.

  13. PopeRatzo says:

    I use an SSD for my system drive, but I would like to get one of those 240gig drives for my Steam folder. Problem is, my steam folder is bigger than 240gig and I thought that entire folder has to be on the same drive.

    Am I wrong about that?

    • BTAxis says:

      Yes – Steam allows you to install games in a location of your choice these days, and even if it didn’t you could direct your games to a place of your choosing via NTFS junctions.

    • Beelzebud says:

      These days you can set as many Steam Libraries as you want. My Steam games are spread over 3 drives ATM. the SSD for really demanding games, and 2 storage drives for the rest.

    • Widthwood says:

      Nah, 240 gb or even 120 gb would be enough. You don’t need to store EVERY game in your steam library on SSD – just the ones you are playing right now. You don’t even need to keep all your system folders on SDD in your windows install.

      You can move any file or folder you want to a different location, place a link to it where it originally was (not a usual shortcut, these are called symbolic links), and every program will use it as if it was still there (with read/write performance of its real location).

      Creating these links usually involves command line (mklink /?), but you can also do it simply from right click menu with http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html#download

  14. Mechjaz says:

    Hi, my name is Mechjaz, and I have a Steam and GoG sale problem.

    From a gameological perspective, getting a 128GB drive was one of the smarter things I’ve done. I used to have my 1TB drive filled to the brim with Steam games, an insurmountable backlog of indie bundles, sales, and plain old impulse buys. I would look at my Steam list and sigh, unable to choose a game, and ultimately close the window having played nothing.

    I realize this is an embarrassment of riches, but giving all that cruft the boot and switching to a snappy-loading SSD with limited space made me more aware of my games and meant I had to constrain my focus to fewer concurrent titles, which made me more likely to finish them. Rayman Oranges with ridiculously short load times was a dream.

    Oh yeah, and it loads things a bit faster, OSes boot quicker, etc. But let’s not forget what really matters: the games.

    Also, it’s hilarious to play Thief: The Dark Project or Dark Forces II with no loading screens. Somehow the pacing gets a little screwy getting slammed into action from mission to mission (barring inventory screens or cutscenes). Hopefully the PCIe SSDs will move that up into more recent games as well.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Yes, that’s an interesting idea, the fact that loading screens gave you a mental break that instantaneous load times take away.

  15. Deano2099 says:

    I am curious, those of us that bought in early, say 3-4 years ago, got a 128gig drive back before TRIM was a thing… has technology moved on to the point that it’s worth the upgrade?

    • Person of Interest says:

      TRIM will help performance for heavy workloads (think: review sites trying to stress-test products), but my suspicion is that it doesn’t heavily impact normal use. For years, Macbook Airs shipped SSD’s with no TRIM support, and they still felt fast and responsive.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Depends. How does your drive feel compared to when it was new? If it doesn’t feel much different, a new drive with TRIM won’t be a dramatic upgrade in all likelihood. The main tangible benefit of TRIM is that it prevents the worst performance degradation suffered by SSDs. If you’re drive has started stuttering or lagging, you will know about it! If it hasn’t, then it will likely be giving most the the “SSD experience” a new drive will give you.

  16. Person of Interest says:

    I’m gonna add some nuance to the article.

    There are a few things that matter to us in SSD’s:

    The most important performance characteristic, I think, is maximum read/write latency. This is reported in some reviews (AnandTech and StorageReview, for example), but not given enough attention. Basically, the promise of SSD’s is that you don’t feel you’re waiting for your computer. But if your SSD hitches and takes 20ms to return some streaming texture, you’ll see the game skip some frames. More recent SSD’s have good firmware that can return from reads and writes consistently, whereas SSD’s from several years ago sometimes had occasionally terrible performance (see Max ms graph: http://www.storagereview.com/images/crucial_m500_4k_write_latency.png ).

    Reliability also matters. Unfortunately, there aren’t comprehensive reliability studies available yet, just anecdotes from IT professionals who administer large fleets of SSD’s (and OEM’s/manufacturers who won’t say a word). My impression, from reading stuff like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6717146 , is that SSD’s cannot yet be considered qualitatively more reliable than HDD’s. Importantly, a lot of HDD’s give warning signs that they are about to die: I’ve copied data off of several personal drives that start to go bad, before they become totally unresponsive. SSD’s seem to experience sudden death more often.

    There are lots of things that probably don’t matter to us:

    There’s the Rated Program/Erase Cycles (a.k.a. Endurance), which will be as low as 1,000 cycles / 5 TB for consumer SSD’s and up to 100,000 cycles / 10 PB for server SSD’s. This is determined mostly by the cell type (SLC for server, MLC/TLC for desktop), process (25nm, 20nm, etc), total capacity (64GB to 1TB) and reserve capacity / spare area (as low as 9%, up to over 50%). For typical workloads, this number doesn’t matter; I have three 256GB SSD’s in various computers, and they all report < 50 P/E cycles after over a year of use.

    There's sequential transfer rate, which will be 200MB-600MB/s or more, depending on the SSD controller and SATA/PCI-e interface. This is an impressive number to quote, but I suspect it doesn't matter that much to us: when I check Resource Meter after a game level load, very rarely does it indicate that the SSD was saturated. It makes a difference when copying files to/from another SSD or extracting a large archive, but in practice I don't care if a file transfer takes 5 seconds or 10 seconds, since I'm already prepared to wait.

    4K read/write throughput is also an over-quoted statistic. Review sites often run tests with ridiculous numbers of simultaneous requests (queue depths 32 and up) that no one sees in real desktop use.

    Some SSD's include an on-board capacitor that guarantees data is written in case of power failure. We probably don't care about this because we all use write-behind disk caching for better performance, so even with the capacitor we're screwed unless we have an uninterruptible power supply.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Importantly, a lot of HDD’s give warning signs that they are about to die: I’ve copied data off of several personal drives that start to go bad, before they become totally unresponsive. SSD’s seem to experience sudden death more often.

      Yoinks. Yeah, that doesn’t fill me with glee; I’ve avoided semi-disaster* several times because dying HDDs did it in a slow trickle of bad blocks that could be caught and migrated early.

      Didn’t Intel make a big song-and-dance about their SSDs failing safe when they got into the game, i.e. they start failing writes, but the sectors will “jam” in the last good state, so you can still read? Potential for exciting filesystem corruption aside, has this been proven by experience?

      * I had backups, but restoring from those is always faff and somewhat out of date.**
      ** Although the whole volume-shadow-copy-backed backup system in Win 7 seems pretty solid, and isn’t as dreadfully slow as it used to be.

      • Person of Interest says:

        The Tech Report SSD endurance experiment linked by a couple commentators reassured me that SSD’s know how to deal with normal rates of errors and block failures, like HDD’s do. In hindsight, it should have been obvious to me that the built-in error correction prevents data loss in this situation, or else there’s no way these things would be market-ready.

        I worry a little about sudden failures due to bugs in the drive’s firmware (search for “ssd firmware brick”), but you can probably avoid those issues simply by not being an early adopter. Wait for a few months after a drive has been released, and for its firmware revisions to settle down. And read a tech news site, so you find out if a bug is discovered for your model, like I did with my Crucial M4.

  17. motoki says:

    I just built a new PC with an M500 960GB and have been really happy with it so far. I know I went a little hog wild getting that high of a capacity but I wanted it to be my main HD on this PC and didn’t feel comfortable with less than that but also didn’t want to do a dual SS/non-SS setup.

  18. irongamer says:

    Just get one, you will wonder why you had not done so sooner. I picked one up last year for $90 to reduce load times for Planetside 2 and GW 2. I also used it for some ArcGIS projects. The drive I got is only 128 GB and has the OS on it. I would install a game or two on it that tend to have long load times and those load times were reduced greatly. The majority of my games live on my old 1TB drive and do not have significant load times. Just the faster boot is totally worth it.

    I have a Samsung and it comes with some software to help you setup windows and your bios to increase the drives performance. It is hands down one of the easiest performance boosts you can do these days if you are moving from a platter based HD.

    There is so much “hem and haw” over performance and endurance. If you are going from an old HD to this you don’t have to pay very much for an insane performance boost. Just get one, you’ll love it.

    This is the drive. I picked it up on sale.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147163

  19. GamesInquirer says:

    I ordered an 120 GB Samsung 840 Evo a few days ago, I’m still waiting for it to arrive as there was a mix up with my order, it wasn’t shipped when it should have been. It was on sale for 75 euros while the performance drop compared to the larger capacity versions seemed small and mostly in write, not read speeds, though IOPS were halved. I bought it as a test to see if I’ll also get a 250GB SSD to install games on (500GB would be great if prices drop, games are getting pretty big), then use my current HDDs for large files that don’t need speed and backups. I’ll also test Windows 8 while I’m at it, I’ve heard they offer an overall 10% or 15% gain in gaming performance. Anyway, I’m glad it’s on the list of recommended stuff. The store I bought it from has all the Samsung SSDs in limited availability, maybe they’re getting ready for a new range, or perhaps they just didn’t sell and they’re clearing stock.

    An article about general setup and maintenance would be nice. For example, I’ve assumed that an SSD simply is likely to die within a handful of years (and this article suggests similarly by stating “you can rely on certain brands to give you a drive that performs well out of the box and keeps doing so for several years”) contrary to some HDDs which easily live for many (my current PC has some HDDs inherited from two builds back). What would make the SSD live longer? Should they be set up without a paging file, should I avoid frequent defragmenting or scanning and place regularly replaced data (like HD TV shows I watch and delete that I will use HDDs for, due to capacity in my case) elsewhere?

    • Person of Interest says:

      I disagree with people who say you shouldn’t use your SSD for swap space. What’s the point of having an SSD if you don’t use it where it’s most noticeably useful?

      I don’t know of any reliability studies or published failure rates for SSD’s, so I assume most of I read about how to keep your SSD healthy is old wives’ tales. Here are my own tales:

      SSD’s have endurance ratings that say how many writes each NAND cell is rated for. I can’t find anything online that studies what happens when an SSD approaches this rating: do individual cells fail and get taken out of circulation? Is there data loss, write errors, or silent correction?

      The earliest SSD’s, and the current server ones, use SLC NAND, which records one bit of information per cell. Next down the food chain are MLC NAND drives, which usually record two bits into a cell (four discrete states) and make up almost all consumer SSD’s. Lastly is TLC NAND, which records three bits per cell (eight discrete states) and is only used in the Samsung 840 EVO at this time. As you go from SLC -> MLC -> TLC, you go down in price, down in the number of rated writes, and up in errors which must be corrected in firmware. The same things change as you shrink the process down (in nanometers). Crucial’s M500 uses 20nm NAND, Samsung 840 EVO uses 19nm, and many other manufacturers use 25nm or above.

      I chose not to get the 840 EVO because the TLC NAND is new, and its long-term reliability is not proven in my mind. SSD’s can also fail or lose data due to firmware bugs, but you can’t predict whether a particular model or revision will have bugs.

      Your best bet is to treat SSD’s like HDD’s and always have reliable backups for important data.

      • GamesInquirer says:

        So if the drives do indeed have a given write capability, with some (and rather affordable per GB, like that Samsung range) models potentially far less than others, why is it bad advice to avoid having functions that constantly write on them like the paging file (note I didn’t say you should put the paging file on a HDD, the alternative I imagined would be to go without a paging file at all, especially for people with tons of ram I don’t think it would cause issues)? I wasn’t telling anyone’s horror tales, just asking questions based on what I know about SSD and such functions (which I guess isn’t a lot) and hoping for a definitive well researched RockPaperShotgun article to answer them really. At the very least there should be some hints and tips for how new buyers should do things differently to how they handled HDDs for best performance, how to conveniently transfer Windows/OS installations without issues etc.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Disabling the page file isn’t really the best idea. Having one gives Windows more flexibility in what to do with your memory, and it may well decide (probably correctly—MS put a lot of research and effort into this) that it makes more sense to page out non-working-set parts of processes to instead make room for filesystem cache.

          Plus you’d presumably rather that if some combination of factors means you do need a sudden peak of memory, the system slows down a bit, rather than programs start crashing. (Nobody handles OOM errors gracefully, and if they do, they use libraries which don’t. Bang.)

          As for defragging, IIRC Windows will automatically omit SSDs from it.

    • Quinnbeast says:

      It’s worth checking out the MS Q&A on solid state drives. For example:
      ———————————–
      ** Should the pagefile be placed on SSDs?
      Yes. Most pagefile operations are small random reads or larger sequential writes, both of which are types of operations that SSDs handle well…. In fact, given typical pagefile reference patterns and the favorable performance characteristics SSDs have on those patterns, there are few files better than the pagefile to place on an SSD.
      ————————————
      http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive/2009/05/05/support-and-q-a-for-solid-state-drives-and.aspx

      Most users are fine to install their SSD and leave Win7 to manage the page file along with any other settings that might be detrimental to the drive itself. Try not to go reading too many random tech threads on the subject, because ‘fact’ tends to get steam-rollered by ‘opinion’.

  20. HisDivineOrder says:

    When considering SSD’s, everyone should be given one warning:

    Avoid OCZ.

    • Sakkura says:

      That’s not useful advice any more. Recent OCZ drives like the Vector are better than eg. the Intel 335 or Crucial M500 that are recommended here.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think the newer ones are much improved in terms of stability, but the 3 series etc are pretty iffy (which is why they’re so cheap and being sold as ‘reconditioned’). I bought a 240 GB Vertex 3 about 6 months ago, and although I’ve not had any read/write failures with it, it has been temperamental at times following the odd BSOD it’s decided not to play ball to the extent that I’ve had to re-install my system from backup before (fortunately I backup nightly as I use the PC for work as well as play). I think if you’re looking for stability then for now you’re better going off with something like the Samsung or Intel at present.

  21. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Honestly I’m still pretty comfy with spinning plates. Maybe after my next big reformat I’ll grab one.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Same here. I don’t mind load screens, and I’d rather wait until 1TB models are available with a sub-$150 price.

      Yeah, I’ll be waiting for a while.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, since I’d be looking at a new motherboard (to get AHCI, and move on from Core 2), and that means a Windows reinstall for that, I can wait until after we’ve had the new-console-generation surge and get something that’ll trump the lot (read: run all the games comfortably) for the next five years or so.

      • Sakkura says:

        Well, AHCI is kinda old-fashioned anyway, as is SATA3. By waiting a little longer, you may jump straight to SATA Express and NVMe. NVMe is the succesor to AHCI, which is still mainly designed for mechanical hard drives. NVMe takes full advantage of SSDs.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Uh-huh. I suspect i3/5/7 must be due to be replaced with the Next Big Thing (In Yet Another Incompatable Socket) any month now, too.

          • Gargenville says:

            Can’t wait for it to be barely faster than a 2500k and offer a host of new and exciting features completely irrelevant to desktop PCs again.

  22. Shooop says:

    According to PC hardware gurus Maximum PC and their fancy benchmarks, Samsung is your best choice. You’ll see a boosts when moving to an SSD from an HDD to your boot speed and how quickly a lot of programs respond no matter who makes it though.

    But the only thing you’ll notice different about games will be shorter loading times. It’s not a necessary upgrade at all for most people, and definitely not gamers because you won’t be able to fit a lot of games on one unless you have a 5-digit salary and can buy a TB sized one. It’s a luxury you can set aside a savings plan for.

    I’ve been keeping Windows and more commonly used apps like Photoshop on an EVO 640 and my games, pictures, and videos on an old fashioned platter HD. I don’t need to shave seconds of my game loading times, but cutting the time it takes to boot my machine and starting up Adobe software to about 5 seconds is a good thing for me.

    However, I may experient with moving a game or two over to my SSD with Steam Mover just to see how much difference it makes with load times. For science.

    • GamesInquirer says:

      I was under the impression that in games the frame rate will remain practically the same overall but there may still be obvious improvements by eliminating split second stutters and hitches you often get due to how many handle asset streaming poorly (personally I’d rather have the often criticized early Unreal Engine 3 style texture streaming where the gameplay remains smooth even if the textures delay properly forming, over frequent halts whenever the game needs something new). Or is that mostly up to the RAM? I do have 16GB these days and still notice such things. Then there are still plenty games with frequent or long loading, for fully separate levels (almost every FPS, even the “open” Crysis) or segmented worlds (like Source), far from everything is developed as a seamlessly streamed open sandbox. I also wonder if it would help with something like the Dolphin emulator which has constant, obvious freezes in many games (try Tatsunoko vs. Capcom) as every asset is loaded in on demand the first time it’s used, making me still prefer such titles on my Wii for the silky smooth unhindered 60fps experience despite the low SD resolution.

      • LionsPhil says:

        More games should be Just Cause 2.

      • Shooop says:

        That’s a deficiency built into the Unreal Engine 3, which although popular isn’t the only engine games use. Having a drive as fast as an SSD only really makes a difference when the game has to access the files on the hard drive. Which isn’t very often.

  23. fish99 says:

    Got 4 SSDs now. My desktop has a 120GB boot SSD, and a 240GB Steam SSD, plus a 1TB spinner for files/games I pretty much never use, and then both of my laptops have 120GB SSDs. 3*Kingston, 1*Intel. I dunno why the article doesn’t mention Kingston, they’re absolutely as good as Crucial, Sandisk or Samsung, and definitely better value than Samsung. The intel ones used to be head and shoulders above anything else, but they’re using sandforce controllers for a lot of their drives now like everyone else.

    There’s a pretty obvious divide in the comments above, with a large majority of the negative comments coming from people who never owned one.

  24. comnting says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting a SSD for a long time, but one thing I’ve wondered about is the ease of swapping programs around. I mean, obviously I’ll want to have the game I’m currently playing on the SSD. But since SSD space is limited, once I’ve beaten that game I’d like to be able to easily move it to the HDD (but leave it installed, so I can fire it up to drop in on some MP with friends or something). Is there any utility that will allow me to move the physical location of software between SSD-HDD while keeping links intact and steam not freaking out?

    • Premium User Badge

      jrodman says:

      There are such tools, but you have to be a bit adventurous to troubleshoot the odd problem. Obviously you can just roll it back if there’s trouble.

      Steam itself supports this functionality these days though, so there may not be a big deal.

      In my experience, for a lot of games it just wont’ matter. That is if you aren’t playing all AAA type stuff. I leave these on my spinning drive. Games with huge boatloads of textures I move over to the SSD temporarily. I’ve done some manually with mklink and such. I haven’t looked into automated tools beyond the now-obsolete steamtool.

      • comnting says:

        Hmm, if steam does it natively, that’s like 90% of my games, and I guess moving manually + adding a symlink wouldn’t be too hard.

        • kael13 says:

          Steammover will swap games between Steam libraries if you wish to do so.

  25. NothingFunny says:

    If you want a good speed boost and large storage but dont have much money – look at Segate hybrid SSHD. They are much faster than regular HDDs (only a bit slower than SSD, you can search a video of a test) and cost like 130$ for whole 2TB.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Or stick a USB key in the back and dedicate it to ReadyBoost, which is basically a software hybrid drive. Another step down in performance, but another huge step down in cost and faff. In practice I’ve found it to have a pretty hefty impact given how trivial it is to do. (Putting the SD (yes, one S, i.e. memory card) in my laptop meant that Visual Studio startup went from ~10 seconds to ~2; the USB key in the gaming box likewise slashed TF2′s map loading times once it had learned that pattern. Admittedly neither matched spindle drive is desperately fast.)

  26. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    Given I’m on a laptop for almost all my gaming these days, a SSD will definitely be a high priority upgrade…but I’m just not sure I can justify it at all, really. I don’t *need* faster loading times, and I’d guess the limited CPU in this thing would be as much of a problem as the HDD. Plus I’m pretty uncertain as to how to go about installing the operating system onto a new drive, given I’ve no OS media, only an installation partition on my current drive.

    So it’s a nice idea but yeah, not sure how practical.

    • Premium User Badge

      stoopiduk says:

      My Samsung drives both came with software and a USB 3.0 cable. Plug it in, it clones your OS drive to the SSD, and you’re good to go.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The great thing about moving to a new drive is that the old drive can act as a backup for your copying shenanigans.

      The bad thing is you have to be careful to copy the right way around. (And, obviously, the new drive cannot be a single sector smaller, unless you’re simultaneously getting into the dance of resizing filesystems, and the usual culprits I know of can’t do that without modifying the original first.)

  27. Premium User Badge

    stoopiduk says:

    I have a 250Gb Samsung 840 EVO and a 128Gb 840 Pro in my desktop.

    Great purchases. Definitely worth saving for the larger drive, juggling your games between an SSD and standard drive leads to making terribly difficult decisions on which of your children you love the best.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    I wonder, would I be able to replace my HD with an SSD without reinstalling Windows? Just clone the contents and swap drives?

    • Kadayi says:

      Yep works fine. I used EaseUS freeware version to clone my existing HDD windows install onto my SSD (it even has some SSD migration option), changed the boot sequence in the system BIOS and it worked fine. Software is here: -

      http://www.todo-backup.com/products/home/free-backup-software.htm

      At the end of the day it’s just a HD, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t read. One thing though is if your on a slightly older MB like me (rocking an original i7) is that you’re leveraging your SATA III ports. Initially I erroneously had my SSD plugged into a SATA II port. Still worked, but nowhere near as fast as when I plugged it into the right one. :)

    • Tams80 says:

      Make a repair disk/usb before you swap using Windows. Sometimes Windows won’t accept the clone and needs repairing.

    • Shooop says:

      Yes.

      The Samsung EVO drive I bought even came with software to clone an old drive and move it to the new. But you may need a USB to SATA cable like this one:
      http://preview.tinyurl.com/pgxeyeu

      But it’s almost always a better idea to just start Windows over fresh because it’s a terrible hoarder.

      • Kadayi says:

        ^ true enough. But cloning will work in a pinch.

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        Glad to hear it. I have too many things installed and configured to reinstall.

  29. Dobleclick says:

    For your next article I would be very interested in hearing your opinion on hybrid drives, combining the SSD speeds with traditional HDD capacities. Thanks!

    • LionsPhil says:

      And if you do, how that compares with a plain old spindle drive and a decent-ish USB stick doing ReadyBoost. (A proper hybrid drive should be better, but by how much?)

  30. Tams80 says:

    I just got an 250GB 840 Evo for my laptop. About 230GB usually. I’m kind of regretting not get the 500GB one, but at over £200 it was asking a bit much. It’s a shame as the higher capacity you go, the better value you get. I’m definitely not prepared to go to 1TB process though.

  31. mbp says:

    Is is possible to install an SSD in an existing PC and move the operating system to it while leaving most of the installed programmes on the old HDD? I have about a Gb of games on my old hard disk and I cannot afford an SSD that big so I would like to leave the games where they are and move the operating system to a new fast drive. I would also prefer not to have to reinstall all those games (and yes I am an old codger who enjoys firing up the old classics every once in a while for a bit of gaming nostalgia).

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      If you use Steam, you can leave the games where they are, and after you’ve installed windows steam will run from the old harddrive*, and you’ll have the option of installing new games to the SSD. Games that you’ve installed individually will be more tricky, although many will just run from where ever they’re installed. Older DOSBox games should work ok.

      * First you have to delete/rename a file called clientregistry.blob from the Steam directory, then run steam and it will have to login again and will set everything up.

    • Shooop says:

      Unless you’ve saved the programs you want on another drive on another drive to begin with, not unless you have a lot of time on your hands and know how to use the command line.

      Windows doesn’t update its registry entries to accommodate moving installed programs around. Your best bet would be to just clone the drive, and then uninstall/reinstall the programs onto your other drive or back up what you must have and start over.

  32. SuicideKing says:

    Well i own about 4 SSDs, 3 in my desktop and 1 in an old borrowed MacBook from 2007 or 08.

    Three Intel drives: Intel 320 (120GB, OS and programs), Intel 330 (MacBook, only Windows 7 installed) and an Intel 313 (20GB, page file).

    One 256GB Samsung 840 for games.

    Well worth it. I can barely tolerate systems with their primary drives being HDDs. I think the 330 on the MacBook is the only thing that makes the MacBook tolerable (1.8GHz Core 2 Duo, with 2GB DDR2-667).

    I think everyone should also look through this SSD endurance experiment (ongoing) on Tech Report:
    http://techreport.com/review/25559/the-ssd-endurance-experiment-200tb-update

  33. Megakoresh says:

    thanks for the tip!

  34. Gargenville says:

    I agree with the gist of this article. Here are my firsthand experiences with the leading brands based on years of use:

    OCZ Vertex 2: really fast, came with cool stickers
    Crucial M4: really fast, lame looking
    Samsung 840: really fast, came with uncool stickers

    All in 128GB. The larger models are kind of pointless for me because all my actual mass storage still happens on a stack of mechanical drives, and all the SSDs hold is Windows and a couple of programs.

  35. Brothabear says:

    SSDs Literally just fucking BUY ONE