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How to Choose the Right SSD to Buy

how to choose the right ssd to buy

Whether you’re upgrading your PC or building a new one altogether, understanding how to choose between the various types of SSDs out there can be a bit confusing. Luckily, it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems and depends mostly on what your hardware will support. In this article, I’ll break down the different form factors and speeds to help you figure out what type of SSD you need to buy for your system.

Types of SSD form factors

The first thing we need to look at is the SSD’s form factor. You’ll see several different form factors available, including M.2 drives, 2.5-inch drives, and even mSATA, PCIe and U.2 SSDs. This confusing mess of options isn’t really all that hard to navigate, as most PCs these days are going to utilize one of two main form factors: M.2. and 2.5-inch drives.

2.5-inch drives look more like your old-school hard drives and will require a SATA cable to run from the drive to your motherboard. Cases usually have space for these to be mounted as well, and this is one of the most common types of drives that you’ll find on the market.

The other most common type is the M.2 SSD. This SSD relies on a special M.2 slot on your motherboard. Most newer motherboards have room for at least one M.2. SSD, though older systems will likely rely on the SATA connections made possible with the 2.5-inch drives.

Lesser common drive types, including the PCIe will require an open PCIe slot on your motherboard (like where the graphics card or wireless card can be inserted). Some older systems and laptops also use U.2 SSDs, and some older compatible hardware will use mSATA. Check what kind of drives your hardware supports before purchasing anything.

How to choose a form factor

As I noted above, most current desktop systems are going to offer support for both M.2. and 2.5-inch drives, though the 2.5-inch drives will often be the cheapest option out there. That said, ensure your motherboard has a free M.2 slot before purchasing one. If you’re using an older desktop, then you’ll probably be stuck with a 2.5-inch drive, though you can sometimes add in a PCIe adapter for your M.2 here if you have a PCIe 3.0 slot that is open.

If you’re trying to upgrade the storage on a laptop, then you’ll have fewer choices. Most laptops will list their specifications online somewhere, though you’ll need to do some research to see if it supports an M.2. slot, 2.5-inch bay, or requires one of the lesser-used types, like a PCIe SSD.

Choosing a speed

Now it’s time to talk about speed. There are two primary speeds that SSDs offer, NVMe and SATA. SATA is the oldest and slowest of the two options. The average read and write speeds here fall within the range of 500MB per second, making them much faster than standard hard drives. Despite being slower than NVMe, these are usually the most recommended SSDs, as they are the most compatible with older systems and are usually the most budget-friendly.

The fastest SSDs, though, come in the form of NVMe SSDs. These SSDs are roughly five to six times faster than a SATA SSD drive, with some newer options reaching ten times the speed, in some cases. The important thing to remember here is that NVMe drives require a PCIe lane in order to integrate with your motherboard. As such, you’ll want to pay special attention to whether or not an NVMe SSD is for a PCIe 3.0 or PCIe 4.0 (sometimes stylized PCIe Gen 4), as your motherboard design will also need to line up with whatever SSD you purchase. For example, the Samsung 990 Pro Series is a M.2 NVMe SSD that runs off PCIe Gen 4.

Just like with form factor, you aren’t always going to get to choose between the two. A lot of times, especially when upgrading, it will all depend on what your current hardware will support. If you’re building a brand-new PC, you get a bit more choice in the matter. Just make sure to double-check that your motherboard and other PC components will support whatever SSD you purchase. In most cases, though, a SATA SSD is going to be your safest choice.

Source: LifeHacker.com