Why you may wish to install a SSD
If you have a late-model PC (either laptop or desktop) equipped with a powerful processor and plenty of RAM that you feel is just a bit slow to boot and start programs then a excellent option to speed it up more is to install a Solid State Drive in place of your primary hard drive.
As a matter of fact, an SSD will boost the speed of nearly any PC irregardless of processor as long as the PC has a SATA or M2 drive interface.
Most SATA SSDs are 2.5" in size - just right for a laptop PC. And with an inexpensive installation kit they will be right at home in a desktop PC.
Multi-Layer SSDs: What Are SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC, and PLC? This article explains the, sometime, confusing terms associated with SSDs. Very informative!
SSDs are very fast when compared to normal hard disk drives.
Everything is solid state in your PC with the exception of the mechanical hard drive. A mechanical, rotating-disk type hard drive is the main speed bottleneck in a PC system with a fast processor and super fast Dynamic Random Access Memory. Even the fastest 10,000rpm mechanical hard disk drives do not compare favorably to the speed of a SSD.
SSDs, composed of solid state flash memory, are super fast, especially at reading data. This means that a PC with a SSD installed will boot much faster than one with a normal hard drive. Programs will also start faster. (This assumes the Operating System and the programs are installed on the SSD, which is usually the case.)
Adding an SSD is the best way to supercharge your PC. Instead of the normal one to two minute boot time (or more) with a mechanical hard drive you can watch your PC boot in 30 seconds or less with a SSD installed.
In addition, all of your programs will start and respond faster as will as will system files and windows.
Solid state drives store data on flash memory chips, while hard drives store data on rotational media with magnetic surfaces. Because solid state drives do not use moving parts, they are both faster and less power hungry than traditional hard drives. Solid state drives are also more rugged; their solid construction strongly resists vibration and shock.
The latest SSDs have a SATA III 6Gbits per second interface that is backward compatible with the SATA II 3Gbits per second and also the older SATA I 1.5Gbits per second drive interfaces.
If your computer has a SATA interface you're fine. Unfortunately older PCs that use the IDE or PATA interface are mostly out of luck.
The interface speed is a maximum and does not really indicate how fast hard drives transfer data. Sequential Read/Write Speeds for many SSDs usually top 500Mbs/s. This is compared to the fastest mechanical hard drives that boast Sequential Read/Write Speeds that are substantially less than 200Mbs/s.
So even though it is both possible and desirable to install a SSD in either a desktop or a laptop PC and enjoy a great leap in overall system performance, SSDs have one major drawback.
SSDs are expensive when compared to normal hard disk drives.
SSDs come in sizes ranging from 32GigaBytes to 2TerraBytes (1920GB). SSD costs average just a little less than 40 cents per gigabyte with larger savings realized as drive size increases. This is expensive when compared to normal rotating disk hard drives that may cost as little as 4 to 10 cents per GigaByte.
The operating system must be either re-installed or transferred to the SSD to gain the maximum speed benefit from a SSD. This means that the entire Windows folder including Program and Users folders should be on the SSD to gain this speed benefit. Therefore the smallest usable size for a replacement drive is normally 128GB which will normally cost about $30 to $60 - for the drive alone.
64GB SSDs certainly have the capacity to hold the operating system but are a bit small especially if the SSD is the only drive installed. It is also wise to allow for future expansion.
Right now the ideal size for a SSD is 240, 250, or 256GB; (the exact size depends on brand, type, and length of warranty). This size SSD is a sweet spot, which has a good combination of speed, capacity, and affordability. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $125 for this size SSD.
A 480, 500 or 512GB SSD will normally cost anywhere from $80 to $200 depending on brand and model.
When you should consider installing a SSD rather than just simply purchasing a new PC
- If your PC is not more than five years old
- If your PC has a powerful processor - AMD A-9 or better, Ryzen 5, or 7 or Intel i5, or i7
- If your PC has a SATA III hard drive interface (Generally, if your PC is less than 5 years old it will have a SATA interface)
- If your PC is running well with no mechanical problems
- If your PC is running, at least, Windows 8.1 or, preferably, Windows 10
- If your PC has at least 4GB of RAM installed (8GB of RAM is preferred now)
Look at SSD hard drives, at Amazon.
When all is said and done, it is evident that SSDs are the way to go if you can afford one and you are willing to take the trouble to install one. Much has been written about SSD drive endurance but the fact is that SSDs will usually outlast most PC systems with anything like normal use, assuming proper installation.
Common SSD Form Factors
The most common SSD uses a 2.5" drive and connects to the motherboard via a SATA cable. This type of SSD replaces the 2.5in Hard Disk Drive in your PC. This form is common in Laptops and can be installed with a mounting bracket for installation into a 3.5in drive space in a desktop PC. Throughput on a SATA SSD is normally in the 500-550 MB per second range, much faster than a common hard disk drive.
The next most common form factor is the M2 SATA which plugs into a M2 slot on the motherboard rather than being plugged in to a SATA cable/slot. This type of drive normally allows the M2 drive to be the boot drive containing the operating system and the normal 2.5" or 3.5" drive to be used as a data drive.
Then we have the M2 NVME drive which uses a M2 slot connected directly with PCIe which allows the drive to run at least 4X faster than a SATA SSD. This is the ultimate in SSD speed, achieving sustained throughput of up to 3GB per second!
What do those letters mean? NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is a host controller interface and storage protocol created to accelerate the transfer of data between personal computer systems and solid-state drives (SSDs) over a computer's high-speed Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) bus.
Note: As you can see from the above, if you want the fastest SSD drive, first you must be sure the M2 slot in your PC is connected by PCIe rather than SATA. Then, when buying your drive, you must specify a M2 NVME PCIe SSD drive, to take full advantage of the extra speed potential.
If you think SATA SSDs are fast, read about NVME SSDs.
Where to get Windows 10 and how to install it onto your new SSD.
I have not included any information about Windows 7 since it is about to be an unsupported operating system in January of 2020. Upgrade to Windows 10 or get a new Windows 10 PC. SSDs in Windows 8 PCs work fine but you cannot buy Windows 8 PCs any longer and you should have upgraded your Windows 8 PC to Windows 10 long ago anyway.
If you need a copy of Windows 10 to install on your new SSD you can get it at this Microsoft page. Use the media creation tool to download the appropriate version of Windows 10 to a USB flash drive (An 8GB or larger drive is necessary to hold the installer files.)
The media creation tool will download and install Windows on your flash drive as well a making the drive bootable so that you can create a clean installation by booting your PC with the flash drive. Normally you will press the F12 key when the PC starts to get to the boot menu. Be sure the flash drive is plugged in when doing this. Choose the flash drive as the start drive and then choose to do a clean install (Custom Install) once the installer starts.
Here is a good article from Windows 10 forum for installing Windows 10
Other things to look for
Generally anything you can do which will lessen the necessity for small, frequent writes to your drive will help to lengthen the life of your SSD. Things such as:
Invest in additional RAM
Since RAM is relatively inexpensive now it is wise to be sure you have at least 8GB installed along with your SSD.
A 64-bit operating system is a necessity for this. (If your PC's Processor is 64 bit capable you should always install a 64 bit operating system.)
More RAM will lessen the need for frequent writes to the hard drive.
Don't over fill your SSD
SSD drive manufacturer's recommend, somewhere in the fine print, that is not recommended to fill the drive more than 80%.
This empty space is necessary to allow the wear-leveling algorithms to work properly.
If you do not overfill your SSD it will last longer.
Store large files on a secondary hard drive
If your PC has a second drive bay it is wise to store large media files (movies, music, massive databases, etc) on a regular mechanical hard drive.
You can use the drive that your SSD replaced for this.
If your PC has only one drive bay you simply may need a larger SSD to avoid overfilling it. Or you can put your old hard drive into a USB enclosure and use it as an external drive to hold your large files.
Finally, it must be noted that SSDs are just now getting to be really popular. If, and when, SSDs get to be commonplace it is hoped that the price per gigabyte will be low enough so that almost everyone will be able to afford one (with a large capacity).
The speed advantage of SSD certainly makes them highly desirable now.