Quiet and Fast Storage: SSDs and Hard Drives

Posted in Storage by QuietOC on February 18, 2010

PC are composed of components and certainly you will not get the best components if you buy the cheapest PC package branded by some company. File storage speed is something everyone notices when they use a PC. It is the time it takes for the PC to start, the time it takes for applications to start, the time it takes games and game levels to load.

The typical PC has always had a single spinning magnetic disk as the main system storage. Smaller consumer electronics have tended to use mainly flash memory storage, but fairly inexpensive flash memory is now large enough to store PC operating systems and all the programs most people use. Flash memory has always been much faster to read small random chunks of data, but now its traditional problem of writing small chunks of data has been mostly solved.

Spinning magnetic disks are still the most affordable way to store large amounts of data quickly–currently about 7.5 cents a gigabyte compared to $2 a gigabyte for flash memory. DVD-Rs are slightly cheaper at 4.5 cents a gigabyte, but you have to deal with the hassle and limitations of burning 4.7 GB at a time.

Flash memory has traditionally come on various memory cards formats such as Compact Flash (CF), Sony’s Memory Stick (MS), and Secure Digital (SD) cards. USB flash-based thumb drives are also popular. Normally these all will be connected to the PC over the USB 2.0 bus which at 480Mbits/s which ends up being limited to about about 35MB/s for actual data.

Most of the other data interfaces are not popular, except for SATA. SATA II is now the standard internal drive interface and offers 300GB/s of bandwidth and low latency. Flash drives with the SATA interface are called Solid State Drives or SSDs. All SATA devices are also easily converted to operate on the slower USB or Firewire connections.

Fast 30 to 60 GB SSDs are now available for a little over $100 or not much more than a typical 2-platter hard disk drive.


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