The case for SSD: why you should kill your old hard drive

It’s easy to overlook the humble hard drive come upgrade time. With your building budget severely depleted by a video card that costs as much as a small car and a CPU that can break the speed of light the poor old hard drive ends up at the bottom of the priorities pile. However with the introduction of SSD technology it’s more important than ever to pay extra attention to these unloved goodies.

While system performance in the past was more about the speed of your CPU motherboard and memory SSDs can have a massive impact. Boot times are shredded while opening an application happens in near nano-seconds. The day-to-day activities of Windows all receive a huge shot in the arm when run off an SSD making this an upgrade that is well worth considering.

We’re now up to the fourth generation of SSDs and the most recent crop has shattered the already stellar performance ceiling set by the previous generation. There are two reasons for this – the introduction of faster drive controllers from SandForce and other manufacturers as well as the widespread adoption of the SATA3 interface.

At the same time we’re starting to see prices tumble and it’s now possible to pick up a 60GB SSD for less than $100 which is plenty big enough to house your entire operating system and a selection of your favourite applications.

There’s a slight hitch though – as prices become more competitive and speeds put our SATA3 controllers under maximum strain stability issues have raised their ugly heads once more. The new SandForce SF-2281 drives have been plagued with a BSOD issue with drives deciding not to work after a few weeks in the front lines.

Many manufacturers initially blamed the issue on faulty SATA3 performance and it’s been interesting to watch the blame bounce around between SandForce the drive manufacturers and the folks responsible for SATA3. However we spoke to OCZ about the issue and they claim it has since been resolved in a firmware update released several months ago. Regardless it’s definitely worth doing a little research into your chosen SSD to make sure its manufacturer has resolved the problem.

What to look for when buying an SSD drive:

1. Warranty
This is especially important with SSDs. Don’t accept anything less than 3 years.

2. SATA connection
There’s no point in buying a SATA3 drive if your motherboard can only handle a SATA2 connection.
3. SSD controller
When buying an SSD drive find out which controller it uses. SandForce rules the roost in performance while the competitors offer cheaper drives.

4.SSD memory type
Check if the drive is using synchronous or asynchronous memory. The former is almost twice as fast as the latter but comes with a premium price tag.