Your Laptop: Flash Storage Or Hard Drive?

I am curious what people use and I suspect this relates to Mac vs Windows decisions.

Apple has made it really easy and fundamental to use flash storage, which tends to significantly cut down boot time and sluggishness of response. You can get some models of PCs with flash storage but, it seems to me, that most PC users use hard drives.

In any event, I'd appreciate you vote / provide feedback:

I primarily use a Mac Air, switched a couple of years ago, and the performance difference was huge. Now when I go back to a Windows PC with a hard drive, it feels like torture.

Perhaps someone can share experiences with Windows PC with flash storage.

I too use a MBA as my primary laptop (on my second one, now with the 512GB drive), but I recently bought a little Windows PC that came with a 64GB SSD (the whole thing was $260 for a Win 8 PC with 64GB SSD, Wifi, etc.). It boots up very quick (about 15 seconds, but I haven't formally timed it) and seems responsive. It's just a video wall driver though, so I haven't really "used" it much.

I have a home brew desktop PC with an Intel M.2 drive (an inexpensive high throughput SSD card) which boots to Windows 8.1 in about 3-4 seconds from cold boot and part of that is POST. I believe this drive is starting to be built into laptops. I use a MBA at work as well and I can say this is quicker than the MBA.

Part of the trick was to only put the OS, page file, and essential startup items on the SSD. All of the storage and post-boot non-start-up applications are on a hybrid drive.

My next computer will have flash storage, that's certain. Once you go SSD, you'll never go back.

I have used some PCs, chromebooks, laptops, and netbooks with SSDs. As long as they are not the 1st gen SSDs, then they are great. I have seen too many 1-2 year old (or not even) machines that were bleeding edge with SSD totally fail...

The initial ones were SLOW, and not very reliable. Now, they are larger, lower cost, and better performance and reliability. However, I only see them in laptops. I don't see them in your typical office PC yet. I think that people want to see the 2, 3, or 4 Tb HDD size.... Now that SSDs are available in 2Tb capacity, and costs are coming down, that could help adoption and performance.

My chromebook is amazingly fast to boot, etc, with its 16Gb flash/SSD.

I think that many people will start to use an SSD for their Windows drive, and then install a second larger drive for their data, if they have the need.

For security, an SSD is perfect or a client workstation. For a VMS server the SSD would be great for the OS, but the data typically will still go on a spinning drive...

My latest laptop is a Lenova with a SSD running Windows 8.1. Lighting fast bootup; almost like turning on my Ipad. Not real wild about the Win 8 tiles but otherwise am very pleased.

I have been using a freeware called Classic Shell for Win8. It gives you the standard Start menu back, and control on many options, such as which interface to use (XP start menu, Win 7, etc.), as well as other windows explorer and IE options. I was even able to load the standard Win 7 start menu icon so a user of a new PC who was forced into Win 8 didn't even know it was 8, unless they accidentially went to the tiles screen.

I have heard from colleagues of significant performance gains from switching their laptop to an SSD. I might have to call our IT guy...

There is another set of applications that I use that might have similiar functionality (though not free):

Start8 -- Brings back the start menu

ModernMix -- Makes it so that touch based applications open in a desktop window (e.g. Windows Store)

I do not work for or with Stardock, I just like their various products.

Converted my 2 year old laptop from HHD to SSD and it the difference between night and day in terms of bootup and I/O performance.

One caveat to using SSD is that to never perform disk defragmentation on the drives. On HHD's it is practically mandatory due to the physical design nature of the drives and how they manage the information on the directory and data sections. Over long time use HHDs benefit from defraging.

However, SSDs do not require defraging since there are no mechanical read/writes which over time make the read/write heads work harder as the drive becomes 'fragmented' due to data/directory changes over time.

SSD & Defragging

I have to wait until my current company owned laptop dies before I get one that is SSD. SSD just became our company standard a few months ago. Unfortunately my laptop is only a year old so I have a couple years to wait for a new one. Of course my hands are pretty shaky and I sometimes spill coffee.......

I put SSDs in all of our company's laptops. I even have them in some of our workstations. I wouldnt put anything together today without an SSD as the system drive if it is my choice. The performance difference, even in older machines, is very dramatic. Many times an end user thinks the whole machine is new.

I'm assuming the questions is platters vs chips, or hard drive vs SSD.

I recently upgraded my laptop PC to an SSD drive and was amazed how much faster it is. Gave my PC a new life.

When I got my current Thinkpad (2 years ago) the first thing I did was throw a SSD in as the primary drive with Win7. Once you go down that route, there is no going back, as the ~11sec. boot-up and overall speed enhancement is too great. This one also runs a lot cooler than my last Thinkpad, although that was the T61, which had the worst CPU fan I've ever come across. I had to replace it once every year.

We recommend to our clients that they use SSD drives in all notebooks & desktops. We have some servers with SSD drives for the C:\ drive to improve VM performance. The performance gains from SSD's are just too great to go past.

Hi John, as you would know, older laptops came with SATA connections and one could swap out the SATA hard drive for a SSD with a SATA connector. The oldest laptop I've swapped out with an SSD was an early 2008 MacBook Pro. It already had the maximum amount of RAM possible but ran very slow with the latest operating system. Replacing it with an SSD made it run at a very good speed. It wasn't blazingly fast but nor was it frustrating to use as it had been with a 7200rpm hard drive. I had previously upgraded it from the standard 5400rpm drive which was tragically slow.

Newer laptops use SSD's that are directly connected to the PCI Express bus of the computer. This makes them much faster than SSD's connected to a SATA bus.

Within the same make and series of SSD, larger capactity SSD's run faster than lower capacity SSD's because they use a larger number of flash memory modules in parallel. So one can expect a 512 GB SSD to be significantly faster than a 64 GB SSD.

Some SSD's claim high write speeds which they achieve using hardware compression. This works well for many things but not for complex video. Complex video does not compress well and will result in far slower write speeds in SSD's using compression. This is less of a problem with the larger, faster SSD's. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a way of knowing whether SSD's use compression without buying and testing them individually.

On a MacBook Pro 13" 2014 with a 1TB SSD, I find Windows 8.1 starts up in about 20 seconds which is impressive. I definitely wouldn't go back to hard drives for the operating system and main applications.

Complex video does not compress well and will result in far slower write speeds in SSD's using compression.

Technically, even complex video compresses well, (into h.264) but lossily compressed video (H.264), won't be improved by lossless after the fact compression.

But your point is well taken, there is little upside to compressing compressed files, and plenty of downside. Do you know of other manufacturers besides Sandisk (who I avoid at all costs), who do hardware compression?

I switched to flash storage a few years ago when I purchased my MBP Retina. Boot time and file transfer speeds are lightning fast.

I have used flash a 480GB SSD on Windows 7 for several years and recently upgraded to 960GB. Speedup is fantastic, however, the 480GB is my second one as the first suffered a catastrophic failure after 4 mos. and I lost everything having to restart from my original spinning drive it replaced. The manufacturer provided a free replacement. The mantra is BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP (which I do now with Ease-US to my in-home Synology RAID-5 NAS box).

Note that SSDs do not like to operate near full (>85%) with mostly unchanging files as that means all write activity like OS caching, hibernation records, and temporary files can only be spread over a small portion of the flash leading to excessive write wear on a limited portion. I don't believe that the flash controller chips move unchanging files to spread the wear, but that is possible.

Windows configuration to operate optimally with SSDs is not trivial. The 960GB I have is a Samsung and it included a CD containing software to correctly configure Windows for SSD use. The performance improvement of the SSD before and after was significant, especially for small file activities.