Desktop Storage: SSD vs Magnetic Hard Drive

HP Pavilion HPE H8 Desktop PC & Seagate DiskIt has been said that you have to sometimes look back to see how far you’ve come. A little over a week ago the traditional hard drive in my desktop computer started to fail. The BIOS reported a SMART alarm indicating imminent disk failure.

While this HP desktop was a good deal when it was purchased, the 1.5TB Seagate hard drive, spinning at just 5400 RPM, was part of what motivated the addition of the 256 GB SSD as the boot volume. The traditional hard drive was only for user data.

Despite the alarm state, the system seemed to be running fine. I ordered a 1 TB WD Black hard drive from Amazon. In making the choice of the WD Black I looked around online for research on hard drive reliability. I found a blog post by Backblaze, a company that provides online backup. They have consistently found Seagate drives to be the most failure prone. As a huge user of hard drives, it’s great that they make their data public.

The process of bringing this desktop back to a fully operational state was complicated. More complicated that I care to describe at the moment. Suffice it to say that there was considerably learned along the way. That path included migrating from Windows 7 Pro to Windows 10 Pro.

There is one, good, share-worthy lesson to offer. For practical reasons, rebuilding the system involved using the new WD hard drive as the sole disk drive for a couple of days. So, for the first time in three years I was working on a system that didn’t boot to, and primarily operate from an SSD.

samsung-850-pro-256gbEven with a new, 7200 RPM drive, the experience of using the computer was slower. Not just a little slower. Notably, markedly, regrettably, even aggravatingly slower.

If there’s a computer that’s integral to your daily work, and it doesn’t boot from SSD…why not? You’re only wasting time.

Whether laptop or desktop, swapping out the existing hard drive for an SSD will markedly improve the experience of using the computer. In so doing, it can extend the life of an older system.

Today, 128 GB class SSDs are $50-70. Larger, 256 GB SSD’s are in the $100 range. Shop well and 480 GB models can be found for under $200. At these prices, SSD performance doesn’t command much of a premium.

The same cannot be said for buying a new computer. In that realm, manufacturers still ask some serious extra cash for a system with an SSD.

This fact, and the the realization that I will need to replace the desktop in the coming year, has me considering building a system from scratch. This is something that I haven’t done in a decade, but it may be the best approach to achieving optimal cost/performance in the end.