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SSDs: a Quick Guide

Storage is one of the most important parts of your PC. And the best type of storage you can get is the SSD, or solid state drive. SSDs are miles faster than hard drives, and smaller and more durable as well. And since you can now get SSDs at just under 10 cents a gigabyte, they are poised to blow hard drives out of the water. It's important that you know some basics about SSDs so you can build your PC smartly, or converse effectively with your nerdy friends.

What is an SSD?

A solid state drive is a non-volatile computer storage device. Non-volatile means that it requires no power to save data, unlike memory. To store data, it uses microchips instead of magnets, which is more reliable. It has no moving parts, which not only increases its lifespan by over five times, it also makes it so that any piece of information in the SSD is accessed at the same speed. Since hard drives need to rotate to access information, the speed is not only slower on average, but can be even slower when the necessary data is at a bad spot in the hard drive.

Types of SSDs

There are three main types of SSDs, which differ in their method of attaching to the motherboard.


An NVME SSD attaches directly to the motherboard through a PCIe slot, usually x4. Similar to the GPU, they have a plate that sticks out the side of the PC case. NVME is a protocol that works only with PCIe or M.2 SSDs, and helps transfer data extremely quickly. NVME SSDs can also utilize PCIe 4.0 for even faster speeds, which makes them the most premium type of SSD.


SATA SSDs are the cheapest type, but are still very good. Their performance is still eons ahead of hard drives. They are also, usually, the easiest to install because instead of searching for a hidden M.2 slot or clogging up the motherboard with a PCIe slot, these SSDs can go anywhere in your case, and usually have multiple potential mounting points. Hence the name SATA, they are connected to the motherboard with a SATA cable, and are connected to the power supply as well, since they are not drawing power from the motherboard.


M.2 SSDs are the most compact SSDs - they are about as long and wide as your finger, but incredibly thin. They sit almost flush with the motherboard in an M.2 slot, which only requires one screw. They can also be NVME, which grants them extra speed.


The SSD market moves very quickly, but as of now here are some prices:

Sabrent Rocket PCIe gen4 NVME M.2 1tb: $200

Silicon Power SATA III 1tb: $93

WD Blue NVME M.2 PCIe gen3 1tb: $130

As you can see, since PCIe gen4 is a new technology, 1tb costs twice as much as Silicon Power's SATA 1tb. However, SSD technology moves very quickly - just a few years ago, SSDs costed 10 times as much.

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