My Move to Solid State
All of these numbers aside, the question you might be asking is, “Is it worth it?” For me, the answer is a definite yes. Not only is my system back to the snappiness I remember with past laptops, it also no longer seems to get bogged down during disk-heavy operations like when my backup software kicks off. That reminds me of another point—noise. With no moving parts, the SSD is basically silent. The only noise on my laptop now is from the fan. The other day I was using my laptop and noticed that the fan had gone to almost top speed. After some time, I decided to check the system temperature to see whether my laptop was really that hot. It turned out that my network backup job had kicked off and was rsyncing. This is a CPU- and disk-heavy operation, and with my old drive, I instantly would know when it kicked off, because the system would slow down, and I would hear the all-too-familiar clicking and clacking of my hard drive. Now, due to the snappiness of the desktop and silence of the SSD, I wasn't even aware the backup was happening.
Whether the performance of an SSD is worth it to you depends on a variety of things. If you are stuck with a 1.8" 4200rpm drive like I was, there aren't too many other options for you (although a 5400rpm 1.8" drive should be available for purchase soon), but if you have a larger drive with up to 7200rpm spindle speeds and SATA interfaces, you definitely will want to compare the posted speeds of comparable drives—it's possible that the current generation of SSDs won't offer you many speed benefits. There also are other factors to consider, including the potential power savings some SSDs offer. Plus, with the lack of moving parts, you not only get a quieter system, you also potentially get a more durable one. On the downside, even with write-leveling technologies, there still are a finite number of writes you can make to an SSD, although most manufacturers claim that the life of an SSD still exceeds that of traditional drives.
If you do decide to get a solid state drive, be sure to do your homework. There are a number of different laptop hard drive interfaces these days, so if you have a 1.8" drive, be sure to check whether you use a ZIF or non-ZIF connector. And, if you want to use a 1.8" SSD in your 2.5" laptop, be sure that a compatible adapter exists (I've seen some sellers include adapters as a package deal).
Kyle Rankin is a Senior Systems Administrator in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of a number of books, including Knoppix Hacks and Ubuntu Hacks for O'Reilly Media. He is currently the president of the North Bay Linux Users' Group.
Kyle Rankin is VP of engineering operations at Final, Inc., the author of many books including Linux Hardening in Hostile Networks, DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and a columnist for Linux Journal. Follow him @kylerankin
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