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Screen Shot 2016 06 07 at 9.06.20 AMSamsung

Computer hardware isn’t advancing at the pace that it used to, so much so that Moore’s law, the principle we’ve used to predict increases in processor speed since 1965, is slowing down.

Unless you’re a gamer whose new graphics card costs as much as most people feel comfortable spending on entire computer, your laptop or desktop from a few years ago should be performing just fine, with one exception, its hard drive.

Hard drives are a notorious performance bottleneck. They’re slow, and even worse they’re mechanical. The hard drive’s platter has to be in constant motion, getting worn down. Thankfully there’s an alternative: replacing your traditional hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive). SSD’s store your data on ultra-fast flash storage. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you’r already aware of the benefits of having your data stored that way.

SSDs are dramatically faster than traditional hard drives, and after performing the upgrade, you’ll notice speed increases in everything you do. Your computer will boot faster, programs will open more quickly, and suddenly your “old” computer will feel significantly newer. I’ve performed the upgrade myself, on my mom’s 2008 iMac and was seriously impressed by the performance boost that I saw. We were in talks about what her next computer should be, but now she says there’s no need.

There is one significant trade off when swapping a hard drive with an SSD, and it’s how much storage you get for the price. SSD prices continue to drop, but they’re still less of a bang-for-your buck. As an example, for the price of the 250GB Samsung drive I’m going to recommend, you could get a 3TB hard drive. That’s 12x the capacity. As someone with a large media library, the compromise I’ve made is to have an SSD in my computer, but a high-capacity external hard drive to store a lot of my stuff. This arrangement leaves me with a fast computer and access to my 1080P copies of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. If you’ve moved your data to the cloud, or only have a few gigs of files on your computer, you’ll be all set.

For those who have never performed a computer upgrade before, installing an SSD is one of the easier upgrades to perform. There are a number of guides to walk you through the process, whether you’re on a PC or using a Mac.

That said it’s still absolutely necessary to make a backup of your data before opening up your computer; nothing stings more than data loss, especially if that includes priceless photos of your family. I’ve been telling all of my friends and family to upgrade to an SSD before deciding to buy a new computer. I think you, too, will be surprised by how much juice your old hardware has left in it.

Samsung EVO 850 250GB, $87.69, available at Amazon.

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July 9, 2016 at 02:48AM