SSD performance also varies depending on how full the drive is, or if it has been purged of data. Idle garbage collection or a feature called TRIM can help restore the performance of a "dirty" SSD, but that requires driver and OS support. (Windows 7 and 8 support TRIM.) Because the capacity is relatively small and performance is affected by how full the drive may be, many SSD users find themselves regularly moving less-performance-intensive data (such as documents or media collections) off their solid-state drives and onto traditional hard drives.
Another concern: When SSDs fail, they tend to do so without warning. Hard drives, however, will usually start to show signs of failure by throwing a S.M.A.R.T. error or suffering from a few bad blocks. In our experience, SSDs simply die without waving many--if any--red flags.
Solid-state drives are best suited to savvy PC users who seek high performance. If you don't mind managing multiple volumes and you have the budget, pairing a fast SSD with a high-capacity hard drive will result in the best of both worlds. The SSD can hold the OS and your most frequently used applications, while the hard drive can handle the bulk-storage duties. Managing multiple storage volumes can be a bit of a pain for casual PC users; if you know your way around a PC, however, combining a fast SSD and large hard-drive storage is a great, high-performance approach with minimal compromise.
If you're considering making the jump to a solid-state drive, check out PCWorld's ultimate guide to SSDs, which reviews seven of the top SSDs on the market today.
Hybrid hard drives
Hybrid hard drives blend HDD capacity with SSD speeds by placing traditional rotating platters and a small amount of high-speed flash memory on a single drive.
Hybrid storage products monitor the data being read from the hard drive, and cache the most frequently accessed bits to the high-speed NAND flash memory. The data stored on the NAND will change over time, but once the most frequently accessed bits of data are stored on the flash memory, they will be served from the flash, resulting in SSD-like performance for your most-used files.