Upgrading your computer can seem like a very daunting task. There's a lot of technical terms, different parts, and specific ways of doing things. In our experience, getting a new SSD is the easiest way to make your PC instantly better. We've tried loads to find the best SSDs and today are walking your through how to buy one.
While other components like RAM, CPU, and GPU are important, the memory that your computer uses to store files is often the major bottleneck holding things back. Unlike older spinning hard drives, solid state drives (SSDs) have no moving parts, making data retrieval extremely fast while cutting down on things that can go wrong.
It was a case only a few years ago that SSDs only came in small storage sizes and were incredibly expensive, making them prohibitive for anyone other than the most dedicated PC upgraders. In recent years, though, a range of different manufactures have made huge improvements to SSDs and you can now buy a high storage model (say, 1TB) for a very reasonable price.
We've spent a lot of time testing different SSDs for all budgets and wanted to create an SSD buying guide to help you through the process and, ultimately, make your PC a lot faster with minimal effort.
Let's jump in...
Choosing the best SSD: Read and Write Speeds
Unlike more conventional hard drives – which have a spinning disk and needle, not unlike a vinyl record – SSDs are one single piece of flash storage, the kind found in your smartphone and tablet. With no moving parts, SSDs can read and write data a lot faster than spinning disks.
A standard hard drive, spinning at a rapid 7,200rpm, gets rough read and write speeds of between 80 and 160 MB/s. SSDs blow this out the water: Kingston's KC2500, our pick for best SSD, manages up to 3,500 MB/s read and 2,900 MB/s write, making it one of the fastest hard drives we've ever tested.
The upside to having quicker read and write speeds is clear: data can be created and retrieved much more quickly, which in turns makes everything on your computer faster, from the operating system to different apps to startup times. The highest the speeds, the quicker your SSD, and therefore PC, will be.
Choosing the best SSD: Storage Space
SSDs have become progressively cheaper over time but they are still, gigabyte-for-gigabyte, more expensive than their spinning counterparts. With that said, what was once unthinkably expensive – 1TB and 2TB models, for example – are very affordable if you need the space.
If you don't need more than 512GB of space then an SSD is an ideal choice. Kingston's KC2500 with 512GB of storage is currently just £72 on Amazon right now and the 1TB model is £123.99 on Amazon, down from a whopping £230! Both of these are affordable, albeit still more expensive than an equivalently-sized SSD.
One clever trick to make your SSD go further is to get the best of both worlds: a nipping SSD for the operating system and other key apps; and then a huge spinning hard drive for everything else, like media content. All major operating systems can handle this split and it makes things a lot cheaper.
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Choosing the best SSD: Durability
SSDs have no moving parts so are much more durable than their spinning siblings but that doesn't mean they can't wear out. The durability of SSDs is measured in Terabytes Written (TBW), which is essentially just how many times can the SSD be totally filled before it starts to slow down.
Different SSDs can last for very different amounts of time and higher-capacity models often last a lot longer than lower storage models, so remember that when choosing.
To take Kingston's KC2500 as an example again, the 250GB version delivers 150TBW, the 500GB version delivers 300TBW, the 1TB version delivers 600TBW, and the 2TB model delivers 1,200TBW (or 1.2PBW). If you can afford a larger SSD, it's worth getting it in the knowledge that it'll likely last a lot longer.
Choosing the best SSD: Budget
All of the factors we've discussed above ultimately come down to one simple question: How much do you want to spend on an SSD?
Many of the best SSDs on the market – like the Kingston KC2500, Samsung 970 Evo Plus, and AddLink S70 – will set you back over £100 for higher-capacity models, which is a pretty good deal. We recommend having a look around for any deals available; oftentimes, mid-range models can be found with some excellent discounts.
Additionally, you could always pair a smaller (and therefore cheaper) SSD with a larger spinning hard drive, which will likely be under half the price.