Whether it’s a PC or a Mac, it’s fair to say that everybody wants their machine to go faster. As such, I often get asked what the easiest way to speed up a computer is. And there’s a simple answer: buy an SSD drive.

It’s worth pointing out here I’m talking about a real tangible difference. The sort of difference that is obvious to everyone, regardless of their level of experience. Using an SSD (Solid State Drive) rather than a conventional hard drive will instantly turn your machine into a screaming performance monster: faster, more responsive and quieter to boot.

In layman’s terms an SSD is just a big lump of computer memory. Unlike a traditional hard drive which relies on the speed of its internals (the speed the platters spin for example) to deliver performance, an SSD has no such mechanical limitation, meaning data can be retrieved in a fraction of the time even the fastest hard drive could perform the same task.

How difficult to install?
SSD’s are available in the same form factor as a standard laptop drive. Physically performing the upgrade is simple. You take the old hard drive out (four or five screws usually) and you replace it with the SSD.
SSD’s use the newer SATA II connection type (like all modern consumer hard drives) rather than the older IDE standard, so if you have an older laptop, check which type you have first.

Which one?

The Crucial M225 SSD
The Crucial M225 SSD

Like all devices, there are good and bad variants. At the time of writing, the best devices in terms of performance and value for money are the Intel X25-M (best performance – opt for the recently released ‘G2’ variants which have G2 at the end of their product code) and the Crucial M225 (best value). There are heaps of others but if you want to cut down on the research: trust me these two SSD’s represent sound purchases.

Compared to a standard hard drive, SSD’s are considerably more expensive. You get far less storage space for your money. For example, you can easily get a 500GB laptop hard drive for under £100. Conversely, at the time of writing, £100 will only get you a 64GB SSD (the Crucial M225).
However, in terms of the performance difference – we’re talking night and day; not just the slight improvement you would notice from a memory or processor upgrade.

A new way of working?

The ReadyNAS Duo
The ReadyNAS Duo

If you have a lot of information on your computer, switching to an SSD (and probably losing a lot of the space you would have ordinarily enjoyed) may mean a new way of organising your data. If you have lots of media (music, photos, movies) you may want to off-load that kind of content to an external or NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive. Or, the ultra cautious should just wait until SSD prices fall enough to make a 500GB SSD an affordable purchase for mere mortals.

So what difference, really?
I’ve just upgraded my 2009 MacBook Pro 13” from a 5400rpm internal hard drive to a 128GB Crucial M225 SSD. The difference is unbelievable. Other people’s computers feel like a ZX81 now. Read the full facts and figures and watch the rough videos about that upgrade in this related post…