Reduce Waiting Times – The Power of Solid-State Drives

Reduce Waiting Times – The Power of Solid-State Drives

Please wait forever...

When I get up of a morning I turn the computer on, make myself some breakfast and by then my computer should be almost ready to use. I need a new PC!

Source: multiple customers of mine!

Today I want to talk about the cause of most slow PCs – the hard drive – and what we can do to combat waiting times.

History

Back in 1957, IBM developed and shipped the world’s first hard drive, The IBM Model 350 disk storage unit. At a size of 60 inches wide, 68 inches tall and 29 inches deep, this model held 50 disk platters with a combined capacity of 5 million characters. In today’s measurements, that’s a whole 3.75 megabytes of data.

The IBM Model 350 Disk Storage Unit being loaded onto a Pan Am aircraft
Source: Computer History

Over the next 60 years, hard drives got considerably smaller and yet their capacities grew exponentially.

Standard hard drives today all use the same technology to read and write data. Within the casing lies multiple spinning aluminum or glass disks called platters. These platters are coated with a magnetic layer and use heads across them to read the information. Most drives spin at either 5400 or 7200RPM. To me, they are a mechanical piece of art.

Information on hard drives are literally stored all over the place. When lots of applications ask for different pieces of data, the hard drive has to queue up these requests, find the first bit of data by moving the heads into the correct position, read it, and then move onto the next bit of data, which could be located on the opposite side of the platter.

The inside of a modern day hard drive
Source: Pediaa

When it comes to physical size, most hard drives come in the 3.5″ form factor, although multiple models were also released with a smaller footprint. Back in October of 2001, Apple announced the first Apple iPod, which included a tiny 1.8″ hard drive with capacities of 5GB or 10GB to hold 1000 or 2000 songs respectively.

A First-Generation Apple iPod showing the internal 1.8″ Hard Drive
Source: AppleToTheCore.me

In terms of storage capacity, the biggest drive available to buy is Seagate’s 16TB Exos/IronWolf series, and not far behind is Western Digital’s 20TB drive soon to be shipped in early 2020. In comparison, you would need almost 4.5 million IBM 350 drives to hold the same amount of data even though the drive is 184% smaller. Mind blowing, really.

Speed

Holding a lot of information on a single drive is one thing, accessing the data quickly can become a bit of a challenge depending on your application.

Most of my customers use hard drives every day in their desktop or laptop computers. Whilst these store all of their information such as documents, pictures and videos, they also store all the programs installed as well as the operating system. This is where speed can be dramatically reduced.

Unlike old computers that only processed and calculated tasks when a command was entered, such as DOS or even the Commodore 64, today’s computers are always running tasks and applications in the background. Even whilst you may think nothing is happening, Windows could be installing upgrades, your antivirus is completing a scan and your email client is checking for new emails.

Having all these tasks complete simultaneously, especially when trying to start your computer up or open a new program, is a lot of information for your hard drive to read and write and thus is the main cause for slowness on many PCs. This is known as a bottleneck and is usually the reason we stare at loading screens and loading icons like these for most of our lives:

The ‘spinning wheel(s) of death’ from Windows and macOS
Source: Anthony Antonellis – Giphy

Flash-based Storage

An alternative method of storing data is on flash-based chips. These are the same technology you would find most commonly used in mobile phones and tablets. Usually quite small, they involve no mechanics or moving parts, resulting in faster read/write times and smaller queues. It wasn’t until the early 2010’s that these chips were big and fast enough to be used for storage in computers, although costs were significantly higher than traditional hard drives. These chips were formed together to create Solid-State Drives (SSDs).

A Flash-based NAND chip
Source: The Register

SSDs provide not only higher speeds, but also greater durability. The mechanical parts within traditional hard drives are prone to wear over time, draw higher levels of power and are super fragile. SSDs on the other hand use minimal power and can’t be damaged from knocks and bumps and that’s a huge plus for mobile computing in laptop and tablet PCs.

Today, the cost of SSDs has dramatically reduced and there is now several hundred models available from a myriad of vendors. Checking out your local PC store, you’d find a small 120GB SSD for around $35-$40.

Out In with the Old, In with the New

SSDs provide a great way to upgrade your current PC without having to replace it entirely. A lot of my clients are under the impression that their slow PCs need to be thrown out whereas popping in a SSD gives it an entirely new life free from waiting times and slow downs. I generally recommend that if your computer came with at least Windows 7, upgrading the hard drive to a SSD and possibly a memory/RAM upgrade will get you back on track (with a few exceptions).

Yes, you can (most likely) give new life to your existing PC!

Not only does this help the hip-pocket, it also prevents a lot of e-waste from hitting landfills and dumps making it an eco-friendly choice.

Eradicate the Wait

Is your PC running slowly? Sick of waiting 20 minutes just to load a program? As you can see, upgrading your drive to a SSD may be the solution for you! Best of all, it’s much cheaper than buying a new PC.

Ask us what we can do for you to eradicate those waiting times – simply book your appointment now!

One Response

  1. […] First of all, how well is your computer running?If it’s running okay and doesn’t take an excessively long time to load, move on to the next question. Otherwise, if your computer is super slow, don’t upgrade just yet. I recommend you read my post about upgrading to SSDs. […]

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