Improve performance with a hard drive upgrade

Alloystory asked the Laptops forum about speeding up a PC by replacing the hard drive with something faster.

Hard drives are classic bottlenecks, and they definitely slow down computers. But whether you can significantly open up that bottleneck depends on the speed of your current drive, how many available drive bays you have, how much storage space you need, and how much money you're willing to spend.

You effectively have three options (four if you include leaving things as they are). You can buy an SSD, buy a faster hard drive, or set up a RAID. I've already discussed RAIDs in Multiple hard drives working together: All about RAID setups, so I won't cover that here.

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A Solid State Drive (SSD) gives you the fasted storage currently available. By my own casual tests, replacing a 7200RPM hard drive with an SSD improved performance by 41%. I'm not talking about the speed of the drive, but of the computer overall.

So what's the downside? When you consider the price per gigabyte, SSDs are outrageously expensive. With a very quick glance at prices, I found that I could buy a 500GB hard drive for $55, but an SSD with the same capacity would put me back more than $300.

If you don't need that much space, SSD prices seem much more reasonable. You can buy a 128GB SSD for under $100. But that's not much comfort if you need significantly more storage than that.

There's one very elegant solution, but it requires having an spare drive bay in your PC. With a desktop, that's common. With a laptop, it's rare.

Rather than replace your hard drive with an SSD, augment it with one. Make the SSD your drive C:, installing Windows and your applications there. A 128GB drive should be plenty for that chore. But keep your libraries--documents, music, photos, and so on--on the hard drive (now drive D: or E:). I've seen this improve performance almost as much as putting everything on the SSD.

If an SSD isn't practical, consider investing in a faster hard drive. If you're current drive isn't spinning at 7200rpm, you might want to replace it with one that is. Or you can buy a hybrid drive. These use a small amount of flash as a cache, speeding up the drive.

Neither of these solutions will speed up your PC anywhere near as fast as an SSD.

Read the original forum discussion.

This story, "Improve performance with a hard drive upgrade" was originally published by PCWorld.

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