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Discover the benefits of solid-state drives and how to install them

 

You’ve probably heard of solid-state drives or SSDs. Maybe you have a notion that SSDs can make PCs feel a lot snappier. But what does that actually mean, how do you install one and get your operating system, settings and files onto the new drive? For answers to all these questions and more, here’s an idea, why not drop by the biggest LAN party on the planet?

Yup, we’re talking DreamHack It’s the world’s biggest festival for PC gamers, eSports enthusiasts and digital artists and it’s held in countries all over Europe including Sweden, France, Romania and Spain.

Handily, Intel is running a series of workshops at DreamHack to help PC enthusiasts get the most from their rigs. Upgrading to an SSD is right at the top of the list as one of the easiest and most impactful upgrades to your system. At the most recent DreamHack event in London, OC3D.net founder and all-round PC hardware guru Tom Logan gave attendees the low down on all things solid state including a step-by-step guide to upgrading your PC.

Solid-state drives replace the moving magnetic platters and read heads of traditional hard drives with flash memory chips. The result is a monumental leap in performance and reliability. And we’re not just talking about boosted benchmark results. It’s the kind of technological step change that makes a PC tangibly and dramatically more responsive.

“Solid state drives are an absolute game changer,” says Logan, “with a mechanical hard drive you’re waiting for the platters to spool, there’s always that little bit of delay.”

To get an idea of the scale of the SSD advantage, try these raw figures for size. Random access performance for a magnetic hard drive is typically just 1MB per second or less. The latest SSDs can be as much as 200 times faster. That’s the kind of performance delta that makes the difference between a sluggish or seriously snappy PC.

The 750 Series is good for up to 2.5GB/s of sequential throughput; that’s more than four times faster than any SATA-based SSD

Intel has been an early innovator in the SSD market. It released its first consumer-orientated drives, the X25-M and X18-M, back in 2008. Intel’s latest and highest performing SSD is the new Intel SSD 750 Series. Thanks to some hot new technology and features, the 750 series is arguably as big a leap over those early SSDs as they were compared to magnetic hard drives. The big news is all about two major shifts in technology to enable maximum performance.

The first is the move to PCI Express connectivity from the old SATA interface. The second is the monumental shift to the NVM Express, or NVMe interface. Older magnetic SSDs used the same AHCI interface that magnetic drives use, however, this interface was not made to complement the speed of solid state drives. NVMe, on the other hand, was designed from the ground up specifically for flash-based drives to improve performance and reduce latency for users wanting to build the ultimate systems.

That allows for gigabytes as opposed to mere megabytes of raw bandwidth. The 1.2TB version of the 750 Series is good for up to 2.5GB/s of sequential throughput; that’s more than four times faster than any SATA-based SSD.

Of course, all of this can seem pretty hypothetical if your data is stuck on an old hard drive and you either aren’t familiar with operating system installation procedures or want to maintain your existing operating system installation. Intel has a solution for that, too.

The Intel Data Migration Software tool is a free utility that mirrors an existing operating system from your hard drive to a new SSD in just a few clicks.

“It will automatically identify both your existing mechanical drive and the new solid state drive and literally drag the OS across from one to the other – it does it all for you,” explains Logan.

You can then reboot directly from the SSD and enjoy all the performance benefits without losing and data, documents or settings. It’s the perfect, pain-free way to make your PC feel a whole lot snappier.

So why not drop by the next instalment of DreamHack, rub shoulders with tens of thousands of other PC and gaming fanatics and get a lesson in perfecting your PC’s performance. To find out more about DreamHack and for a list of upcoming DreamHack events around Europe, head on over to www.dreamhack.se — Jeremy Laird (@lairdinho)

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