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Spending money on buying a new computer naturally brings ideas of upgrading the amount of memory available, as well as possibly having a more advanced graphics card installed, and then maybe getting your hands on a more up-to-date display.

But what often goes completely unnoticed is the need to improve your computer’s storage media and capacity?

Most of us still use computers which rely on a solid-state hard drive – in other words, one which relies on physical components in order to work. The capacity of that memory is expressed in terms of the size of the RAM, or random-access memory.

RAM is the part of a computer’s brain which is taken up by operating programs and the operating system itself, but it is also the part of that system on which documents which are being currently, or have recently been worked on, are stored in the process of that work being done. Therefore, documents contained in a computer’s ‘Recent documents’ file as stored here – but when they are saved in the usual ways, they are transferred to the memory contained on that same computer’s hard drive.

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A solid state drive is the latest iteration of a computer’s hard drive, and this involves all the information described above being stored in a format which enables it to be physically removed from the main computer. Therefore, not only documents, but programs which are run on a computer can also be stored on a solid-state drive.

One down side to using a solid state drive is that this is an extra physical device which needs to be read by a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) – essentially its brain.

This will mean that the computer itself may run a little more slowly – but it will mean that all the essential programs which are used on a computer will be capable of being stored away from the main device itself. As a result, the hard disk of the computer can be devoted solely to storing the data which is collected, and which might need to be accessed fairly quickly during the day-to-day operation of the computer.

 

By JustOneGuy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
By JustOneGuy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The difficulty in persuading people of the merits of using a solid-state hard drive compared with a physical device is that it is difficult to illustrate that, by taking the need to access data and files quickly away from a computer hard drive, it will mean the computer itself can run all those memory-intensive programmes much more quickly.

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But the final factor in favour of a solid-state drive over one which contains a substantial number of physical parts is that ability to compartmentalise the two different types of memory which a computer requires.

The easiest way to think of the benefits of using a solid state drive for storing programs and applications over storing data is to do so in terms of the amount of work which a computer has to do in order to read and execute programs, compared with that needed to simply read and open basic data files, such as word processing documents, spreadsheets or databases.

A solid state drive can take all that work off the hard drive, simply leaving it to do its business, of running all those increasingly sophisticated, and therefore memory-hungry programmes which we now use, and so often take for granted.

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