Ultimate guide to SSDs (plus reviews of 7 new drives!)

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Installing an SSD in your PC, be it a laptop or a desktop, is one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost the machine’s overall performance. The change won't be merely noticeable—it will startle you. Your system will boot more quickly, windows and menus will jump open, and programs and data will load much, much faster.

In case you don’t know what an SSD is, the acronym stands for solid-state drive—that is, solid-state as in no moving parts, and drive as in the fact that an SSD appears as a hard drive to your computer. But instead of storing data on one or more spinning platters, an SSD writes and reads data to and from nonvolatile flash memory. In addition, an SSD contains a controller that's analogous to the memory controller in your PC’s CPU or core-logic chipset.

Many vendors sell SSDs, but the devices are far from equal. Flash memory and controller technology have both advanced so quickly that what was fast last year is now second-class. The drives you might find in the bargain bin will be faster than a consumer-grade mechanical hard drive, but they won't deliver the astounding performance boost you'll be looking for after you read this article.

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