HomeHome : Monthly Tips : Jan 2023

Choose an SSD instead of an HDD

January 2023 — Tip of the Month

Solid state drives, or SSDs, have been on the market for over a decade. Initially, they were exorbitantly priced — over 10x more than a comparable HDD. In recent years, their sky-high prices have come down to earth, and SSDs typically cost between 2x and 3x their HDD counterparts. Better yet, SSDs are faster and more reliable than they were ten years ago.

With SSD prices close to HDDs, it's hard to justify buying hard drives anymore. Case in point: I just ran a fresh Time Machine backup on my iMac Pro and backed up 1.6 TB of data in 80 minutes. That's 20 gigabytes per minute! My previous USB-C hard drive took about 10 hours. My USB-A drives took 1 to 2 days to complete the initial backup.

Notably, I used the fastest external SSD available — a 4TB SanDisk Extreme Pro, which supports up to 2000 MB/s read & write speeds. It would have been even quicker if my iMac Pro supported USB 3.2 instead of USB 3.1.

SSD overlaid on an HDD for comparison

Reasons to choose an external SSD over an external hard drive include:

  1. Small size - Most SSDs are significantly smaller than comparable hard drives. As you can see in the image above, the SSD is less than one-third the width of the hard drive. It's also one-third as tall. Both drives store 4 terabytes of data, but the SSD is roughly one-tenth the size.
  2. Fast read/write speeds - SSDs are several times faster — sometimes over 10x faster than comparable HDDs.
  3. No spinup delay - Hard drives have a lag when they spin up after being in sleep mode. SSDs are always ready to go.
  4. Quiet operation - I could hear my HDD spin up several times a day, and the read/write activity was audible as well. My SSD is completely silent.
  5. Reliable - Recent stats from BackBlaze show SSDs are now more reliable than hard drives

If you need an external drive for video editing or other high-demand applications, an SSD is the obvious choice. But even for simple tasks like backing up data, an SSD might make more sense. It's fast, quiet, and reliable, so it gets the job done quickly and silently. Based on my recent experience switching my backup disk from an HDD to an SSD, I highly recommend it.

Important: If you need an internal storage device, I wouldn't even consider a hard drive. The decision should be between a SATA SSD and an NVMe SSD, in which case, I would choose NVMe if your computer supports it.

- Per Christensson