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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Leonard

Your Hard Drive Could Be Slowing You Down

Lately we’ve met several lovely people that all had one thing in common; their hard drive was giving them a hard time. Some had failed outright, some were in the process of failing, and some were working as intended but were holding up everything else.

How can a hard drive that is working properly cause an issue? Windows accesses your hard drive constantly while your computer is on, as does every program you have running; and there is a cap on the performance of the fastest hard drive. Once your drive reaches its capacity to read/write, it becomes the DMV of your computer, where everyone takes a number. This gets compounded when complex tasks request more resources, as they take longer to clear that queue.

Imagine a DMV with five windows open, and four of them have people with large stacks of paperwork trying to do multiple things. It’s going to take forever to get everyone else through that one open window, and let’s hope someone with a complex order doesn’t have a number ahead of yours.

Hard drive technology hasn’t really changed a whole lot in the past twenty years. Sure they have more space and they have gotten a little faster, but they have the same problems that they always have, and we are reaching the point where their performance really can’t be improved that much more; at least for home users. You can only spin a disk so fast before you encounter other issues, and any machine with moving parts will deteriorate over time.

Enter flash memory, a technology most of us have already been using for over a decade. Many people call them USB drives or thumb drives. We trust them with our pictures, presentations, book reports, and anything else that would have been trusted to a CD not long ago.

Every leap in storage technology comes with a boost to performance and the jump from hard drive to solid state drive is no different. Whereas a spinning disk is limited by how fast the disk can spin, a solid state drive is limited only by the speed of the port to which it is connected. Early models of the solid state drive, SSD, where connected to the SATA port on the motherboard, the same port used by the older hard drives. The SATA port itself was capable of more throughout than most older drives could manage so connecting a solid state to the port maximized performance, sometimes up to 2.5x, while only requiring a single component to be replaced. SATA does have its limits though, and newer drives are capable of much more than SATA allows, which brings us to the M.2 drive.

If an older spinning disk is a DMV with five windows, a solid state drive is a DMV with 12 windows, and an M.2 drive is a DMV with roughly 100 windows. By providing a brand new interface the M.2 is capable of remarkable speed over any previous drives. Computers are capable of booting in under 13 seconds, and programs are installed in a fraction of the time. As for day-to-day things like browsing the Internet; massively improved. When most people experience slow downloads or pages loading, they blame their Internet connection but they should blame their hard drive. The browser has to wait in that DMV line like everyone else, and that causes slowdowns. With a solid state drive your slowdowns are cut in half and with an M.2 drive they practically disappear.

There are two major drawbacks to solid state drives, and M.2 in particular. The first applies to both; heat. Flash memory gets hot as it’s used and that can lead to longevity issues. Proper cooling can easily mitigate this concern in a well built machine. The second issue applies to the M.2 drive; most computers don’t have the connection for the drive. Higher end machines may have the connection, but most cheaper units will have to settle for a solid state drive running through the SATA port. Every year more and more motherboards are getting M.2 capability so this concern should resolve itself within a few years.

Thank you for sticking with me as I rambled through all of that. If you have any questions about storage solutions for your home or office machines, please send us an email or reach out via direct message and we will be happy to discuss your options.

White Water Tek

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