What Is a Solid-State Drive (SSD)?: A Complete Guide

what is a solid state drive

What type of hard drive does your business use to run its computers?

If the answer is that you don’t know but you wish they ran quicker, then read on.

This article discusses solid-state or SSD drives. They’re the successor to traditional hard disk drives. And they can transform a sluggish experience into a turbo-charged dream.

We ask the question what is a solid-state drive? You’ll learn how an SSD drive works and the advantages it brings. And you’ll discover where to grab a bargain online.

If you want your laptop or PC to switch on in 20 seconds then continue reading. You’ll soon be trashing your obsolete hardware for this super-speedy tech.

What Is a Solid-State Drive?

hard disk drive (HDDs) stores all your files and data like spreadsheets, documents, and applications.

Traditional hard drives use moving parts to access information. Like a record player, the head moves back and forth to read or write the correct data.

Unfortunately, all this moving about means HDDs are more likely to fail.

Data access speed is slow as the computer needs to find the right part of the disk. And if the information isn’t backed-up and the drive dies then all your business accounts are lost for good!

The New/Old Generation of Drives

A solid-state drive or SSD overcomes the limitations of hard disk drives.

They use a technology called flash storage or NAND flash-based memory to save data. There are no moving parts so they’re less likely to fail. And they’re significantly faster too due to lower read-access times.

Believe it or not but SSD drives are over 40 years old.

The first solid-state drive for computers saw its launch in 1976. It held a not-so-impressive 2MB of storage space and measured 19 inches wide.

It was also priced at $9,700 which underlines one major drawback of SSDs.

Affordable SSD Drives

The reason why many business computers still use obsolete hard drives is down to one simple reason: cost.

Sold-state drives were traditionally priced in the hundreds of dollars. Storage sizes were also smaller than HDDs. A typical 300GB hard drive would be half the price of a 128GB SSD a decade ago.

The good news is that the industry now offers affordable SSDs with higher storage.

That means you can swap your slow hard drive with a brand new SSD for under $100. But before we share the great bargains to be had, let’s learn more about how does a solid-state drive work.

How Does a Solid-State Drive Work?

Have you ever used a USB memory stick also called a flash drive?

It slots in your computer and offers instant storage at lightning speeds. If you were to open the casing you’d see a simple chip. That chip acts as the ‘magic’ behind the technology as data is stored inside the circuitry.

SSDs work in a similar way.

They use a NAND flash memory chip which stands for Not And. That phrase relates to an electronic term for logic gates. But in essence, the chip doesn’t require power to retain any data stored within it.

Instead of the magnetic plate that hard drives use, SSDs save information on a grid of NAND cells.

Each of these grids or blocks act as their own storage facility. The SSD controller or processor sits outside these blocks. Its job is to know where the data resides in each block.

If you know anything about RAM or random access memory then this will sound very familiar. The technologies work in a similar way but the main difference is that SSDs continue to store data when they’re switched off.

SSD Advantages

To help outline why every business should consider SSD for their workforce, we’ve collated the list below.

Super-Speed Drives

How long does it take for a solid-state drive to access information? Before an answer forms in your mind, the SSD drive has already fetched the data!

Solid-state works in nanoseconds or a billionth of a second.

They don’t have the limitations of waiting for a mechanical arm to move to the correct part of the disk. Or for that information to travel back for processing.

The impact is a super-fast experience, especially when starting-up or booting your computer.

Super-Speed Start-Up

Anyone who’s switched on a laptop after a large Windows update knows it takes forever to load.

The computer has to finish installing the files before the task of loading the operating system. But what if those precious minutes could be converted into several seconds?

SSD boot times average only 20 seconds.

That means when you press the power button you’re ready to begin work in under a minute. No more delays. And no more putting off large security patches that need a system reboot.

Durable and Resistant

Due to the lack of moving parts, solid-state drives are less likely to break down. Even if you dropped your laptop the last piece of hardware to be affected is your SSD.

One issue with older generation SSDs was their reliability over time.

They had a finite number of reads/write cycles which meant their shelf-life was arguable. However, the newest generation of drives overcome these issues making SSD the drive of choice today.

Uses for a Solid State Drive

SSD drives are no longer the plaything of those with a big wallet.

Due to an industry drop in prices, solid-state drives are used by everyone including:

  • Businesses
  • Mobile users
  • Servers
  • Gamers

Small businesses that need reliable computing with quick access use SSDs to power their PCs. For mobile-friendly laptops, solid-state technology is a must.

Solid-state drives are light and portable which is perfect for modern workers on the go. Yet they can also power high-end servers and gamers use them on top-spec machines where every second counts.

SSD Jargon Guide

Before buying a solid state drive for computer use you need to understand some of the jargon.

Phrases like PCIe, mSATA, etc. are confusing until you’re in the know. That’s why we’ve compiled a simple glossary of the different SSD drive types and interfaces below.

NAND Chip Types

Solid-state drives use three types of NAND memory chip types:

  1. SLC – single-level cell
  2. MLC – multi-level cell
  3. TLC – triple-level cell

SLC and MLC were most common in the early adoption of SSDs in the consumer market.

Multi-level cells could host four states at the same time while single-level cells use only one. The former was cheaper to manufacture but SLC was more stable over time. eMLC helped with that but was more expensive.

TLC offers eight states but costs less than SLC and MLC.

Triple-level cells are common in many consumer SSDs today but 3D NAND technology could soon eclipse it. 3D TLC offers stacked memory cells and is becoming more popular

SSD Interfaces

An interface attaches the SSD drive to your computer system. The two most common interface types include PCIe and SATA.

PCI Express and NCMe

PCIe or PCI Express connects graphics and network cards to the motherboard. This interface offers high-speed data transfer with up to 16GBits per second of raw throughput.

With several parallel channels, data can move at up to a blistering 4,000MB per second.


SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It’s an older style of interface that can read/write at speeds of up to 6GBits per second.

SATA is being phased out by NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express. But older computers can still use SATA to make the jump to a solid-state drive.

Solid-State Drives Bargains

By now you’re probably wondering how to get your hands on an SSD drive.

Although you can swap out your existing hard drive, why not investigate purchasing a brand new computer? Especially as Black Friday is on the way.

Lenovo is currently offering 70% off their laptop range. You’re certain of getting a deal as prices start at only $399.99. For that, you’ll get a 15″ screen, an Intel processor, and a 256GB PCIe SSD.

Their bestselling ThinkPad X1 Carbon range is less than half price too. Save $1,249 by using the coupon code THINKYAY.

SSD Performance Tips

How do you get the best out of your brand new laptop with a solid-state drive?

First, never defragment your SSD!

Old hard drives needed a defragment every now and then to put all the blocks of data in proper order. SSDs don’t have that issue. In fact, defragging a solid-state drive can actually damage the device.

Second, upgrade your RAM.

What has RAM got to do with storage?

If your computer runs Windows then the operating system can use your SSD when it runs out of memory. Virtual memory writes data over and over which is bad for your new drive. By adding more memory/RAM you’ll save your SSD and have a faster computer.

Finally, install an SSD tweaking application.

Software like SSD Tweaker lets you get the best performance out of your new hardware. You can also optimize TRIM settings which can boost your drive’s performance further.

The Future Is SSD

In this article, we’ve explored the question what is a solid-state drive?

We’ve shared how an SSD drive works and the benefits solid-state drives bring over traditional HDD. We’ve also discussed the uses for an SSD drive and how to get the best bargains online.

SSD drives are perfect for small businesses with trusted brands like Lenovo offering great deals. You can also learn about other bargains for your small business by reading our wealth of smart articles.

Choose from categories like customer service and innovation. You can also tap into our archives and download our Self-Employment Survival Guide for great business advice.

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