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Short for “solid-state drive.” A type of storage device, with no moving parts and typically based on flash RAM, that emulates the function of a conventional hard drive as a data storage medium. Characteristics of SSDs include a small amount of DRAM, which is used as a cache (similar to the cache found in hard disks), and in some cases a power source to maintain storage when the device’s power is turned off (often a capacitor or battery).

Advantages of SSDs over conventional hard drives include:

  • No spin-up time (faster starts)
  • No moving parts (better reliability)
  • Consistent read performance (location of data on drive is irrelevant)
  • No physical latency (no read or write heads to physically move)
  • Low power consumption
  • Low heat generation
  • Extreme shock, temperature, and vibration resistance
  • Higher data density (smaller, lighter form factor)
  • Low incidence of failure during read or write (better reliability)

At this writing, disadvantages compared to conventional hard drives include:

  • Higher cost per gigabyte
  • Smaller maximum capacities
  • Slower write performance than read performance
  • Some security issues with re-writing encrypted data
  • Limited lifespan and number of write/read cycles
  • Due to “wear leveling,” performance can degrade with on-going use

Expect these disadvantages to diminish radically as the technology continues to improve.

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