The majority of people consider the performance of a computer based on the time it takes to open applications and boot-up. They are partly right in assuming if a computer is fast based on those factors but most have the wrong reasoning behind why a computer ‘feels snappy’.

Why does a computer feel fast? (Visit “Noob’s Computer Hardware Guide” to understand the parts that make up a computer)

Misconception: A powerful CPU, lots of RAM, and a fast GPU will make your computer fast. While this is true in certain circumstances such as editing videos, and completing more intensive tasks, most users will never notice the difference between using a $300 CPU versus a $3000 CPU. The same applies for GPU and RAM. You only really need enough – more won’t make it faster.

Reality: Actually, people’s association with a powerful computer generally revolves around type of storage medium used (SSD or HDD). Solid-State-Drives (SSD) are much faster than Hard-Disk-Drives (HDD). These two drives are used to store your documents, movies, applications, etc. on your computer in the long run. Because SSD’s are faster in writing and reading information off of the drive, when you open an application, it takes less time to retrieve all the appropriate information to open the application. Whereas a HDD is slower and thus, takes more time to retrieve information to open the application.

So what’s the difference?

Internal Design:

  • SSD: They have no moving parts and are made up of computer chips that store the data using 0s and 1s.
  • HDD: Inside the drive are spinning discs, similar to CDs and DVDs, that rotates around. There are lasers that read and write information onto the disk using 0s and 1s.

Performance:

  • SSD: Much much faster. Because there are no moving parts, data can be retrieved almost immediately. Without a power hungry motor to spin the discs like in HDDs, SSDs also use less power.
  • HDD: Much much slower. Because of spinning parts and having a physical laser that has to shift back and forth to read and write data of the discs. Although as of currently, HHDs can store more information and do not suffer from aging as much as SSDs.

Price:

  • SSD: These cost way more than HDD if you want the same capacity – around $80 for only 240GB.
  • HDD: For only $50, you can get 1TB (or 1000GB) of storage capacity.

How to choose between HDDs and SSDs?

Personally, in my own desktop (Project Drair), I have both an SSD and HDD. Many people choose this option when building desktop computers too because it provides them with the speed of SSDs for applications and other programs that they often use. But since SSDs are currently still more expensive than HDDs of the same capacity, I also have an HDD to store larger files that do not require speed (e.g. movies, documents, etc.). Utilize both an SSD and HDD in your computer if you want the best of both worlds.

On the other hand, this is sometimes not possible when it comes to laptops because there isn’t enough physical room to contain two drives. In this case, I would recommend that the average user should go with an SSD (or it might be called “flash” storage for certain websites) because it will make the experience much more enjoyable. After all, most people associate speed with how fast applications open (which is most affected by the speed of the storage medium).

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