Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
What is an SSD

An SSD (Solid-State Drive) is a new type of hard drive used as a storage device in computers. Since there are no moving parts, the SSD can access and transmit data faster than conventional hard drives. Here we will look at what solid-state memory is, how SSDs work, and what type of SSD you can choose based on your needs.


What does the term SSD mean?

SSD stands for solid-state drive , but what exactly is a solid-state drive? The basic definition is that it is a storage device equipped with non-volatile memory and which works much faster than a classic hard disk. Unlike older hard drives (also called HDDs), SSDs don’t have any moving parts like disks or read heads that move around the disk.

For years, the physical mechanism of hard drives was the major obstacle to achieving better read and write speeds. Through a total redesign of how data is stored and accessed, SSDs eliminate this problem. Large files are now loaded much faster with SSDs than with HDDs. So how do SSDs work?

How SSDs work

You probably know that all the data you save is written as ones and zeros. But how do you fit those billions of ones and zeros into a device no bigger than a phone that fits in your hand? How does SSD technology work? Let’s see how SSDs work.

What does an SSD do?

SSDs count ones and zeros using electrons, particles that are smaller in size than atoms. You can think of SSDs as an extremely dense abacus. Inside the SSD is a system of microscopic transistor gates laid on top of each other. These transistors each have a specific electrical charge, which is modified and preserved by gates.

Control gates and floating gates modify the flow of current in transistors to trap electrons in specific locations. These gates can then know how many electrons are trapped, and provide a 1 or a 0 as the result. This is how SSDs write and read data.

Since everything is organized in the form of grids, reading the information is much faster. No more discs or tonearms, just access what’s in row X, column Y. This configuration allows operating systems like Windows or macOS to load much faster than with a disc classic hard.

The only real downside to SSDs is that they’re much more expensive to produce, so they’re much higher in price.

What are the components of SSDs?

Externally, SSDs resemble regular hard drives, as they are designed to be used interchangeably with what most computers already use. But their dimensions may vary. In fact, most SSDs offer a much larger storage volume for a smaller size than a hard drive.

SSD and HDD drives shown together to compare size.Evolution of computer storage technologies, from traditional hard drives to SSDs.

The inside of an SSD looks like a circuit board with chips . The main chips are those of the flash controller and the memory chips. The flash controller sends current to a group of cells in the memory chip, which redirects electrons to the correct gate.

The memory chip is a huge library of cells that holds millions of electrons in a specific order. The flash controller reads this order by checking the charge of each cell. It then processes this information so that the computer can read it.

But this summary is only a brief glimpse of what is really going on. To fully understand everything that’s going on, let’s take a look at the history of SSDs.

A brief history of SSDs

Dynamic memory-based SSDs were already in use in the 1990s, especially in large-scale server centers. But the use of volatile memory in these drives meant that data could be lost in the event of a shutdown, which isn’t ideal for personal use.

In 1995, the Israeli company M-Systems created the first modern SSD, although at the time, this kind of advanced technology was only usable in a military context. At the beginning of the century, this flash technology appeared on consumer digital cameras, which could record a few tens of megabytes.

It wasn’t until 2006, when Samsung created a flash SSD with wear-leveling technology, that this new storage system began to be viable for home computers.

But it wasn’t until 2006, when Samsung created a flash SSD with wear-leveling technology , that this new storage system began to be viable for home computers. Prior to this, systems degraded much faster. The number of possible writes to a memory cell is limited, and this new wear balancing technology prioritizes unused memory cells.

Combined with a memory cleaning system, the distribution of wear makes it possible to optimize the operation of SSDs. Saving a modified file to an SSD with wear-leveling creates a new file somewhere on the drive, while the old version persists in its old location. Garbage collection periodically reorganizes information across the entire disk and removes stale data. This is important because SSDs must rewrite entire blocks when writing data , and stale data slows this process down.

Currently, SSDs are much more robust and their price has dropped, making them a great alternative to regular hard drives

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