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New kinds of SSD? What to buy?

Could some kind IT Jedi explain the different types of SSD for a desktop computer and the best type for one that will hold the Operating System and rendering videos?

My brain is hurting with SSD SATA, SSD m.2 SATA, nvme m.2 PCIe

Too many anacronyms for storage and it’s confusing.

Written by andypandy

8 Comments

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  1. SATA vs PCIe is the interface

    The m.2 is form factor – generally for laptops (but I guess some desktops might use them…at least this is my understanding.

  2. SSD SATA will do you fine. Much quicker than HDD at 1800 iops per drive vs 80 for 7.2k HDD.

    I was only looking at this myself today as my old 60gb SSD C drive is full. You can get a 240gb one for £30 quid. That would have cost hundreds only a couple of years ago. Remarkable really.

  3. Form Factors – The actual shape, size and connector of the drive.

    2.5″ – Most older SSDs are 2.5″, same as the laptop hard drive standard. They always connect by SATA.

    PCIe – Top end drives, and a few others will plug directly into the PCIe bus. They look a lot like a low/mid range graphics card. They always connect using the PCIe bus.

    M.2 – Newer SSDs. There are several physical sizes, usually all the same width and thickenss, but different lengths. They can use SATA or NVME/PCIe, and the connectors are a little different, but many motherboards take both types.

    There are also a few others, such as U.2 but they aren’t very common outside servers.

    Bus Type – How the drive connects to the computer

    SATA – The older standard. The SATA standard specifies a connector and a communiacations protocol. 2.5″ drives use both the connector and the protocol, M.2 drives may use the protocol, but not the connector. Limited to about 6GB/s on the version 3 protocol, and 3Gb/s on the older version 2.

    NVME – The newer standard. Basically a fancy name for storage using a PCIe bus. Like other PCIe devices, it comes in different speeds (PCIe 2, 3, and if you have a brand new AMD system, PCIe4) and different lane widths (1, 2, 4 are common, 8 and 16 are also possible). Used by all PCIe cards, and the better M.2 drives.

    Note that people sometimes mix up the PCIe and NVMe terms.

    So what’s best? M.2 is usually smaller and more convenient than the other options, though older 2.5″ drives may be a little cheaper. NVME is usually more expensive than SATA, but allows much higher speeds. For the operating system, programs and tasks like editing videos and audio, faster helps but may or may not be worth the cash. For storing and playing music and videos, faster makes no difference and you might as well save some money.

    • I’m planning on building a new computer AMD computer that will take PCIe4. Would I be right in thinking that a SSD m.2 PCIe would be the fastest option available for accessing the OS and rendering video using software on the SSD drive?

      I’m going to store the usual stuff on bog standard HDD’s

  4. Getting an nvme SSD (sometimes referred to as a “PCIe” SSD) is completely worth it, today. Not even comparable to anything SATA-based which will be slowed down by the SATA interface no matter how fast the SSD component could be.

    For the record, while MOST nvme drives are connected via an m.2 slot, this is actually not a requirement. There are other connectors. My own development PC has “U.2” connectors on the motherboard, too, although I’ve never seen any devices that actually use that in real life.

    For any work that requires a lot of storage access (including software development, video and photograph editing and playing games) improving the speed of your storage is probably one of the most noticeable improvements you can make — even without a new, shiny CPU.

    Personally, I don’t recommend using old-fashioned spinning disks at all, except for bulk, archival storage and, in that case, you’ll want them to be physically detachable so that they aren’t always on. I’ve found that spinning disks tend to have become incredibly noisy, these days, and they’re extremely annoying when the operating system spins them up for no apparent reason (i.e. even when they should be idle to save power) This spin-up time is usually accompanied by a long freeze while you wait for the drive to be readable — again, even if the task you’re busy with shouldn’t, logically, be accessing that particular drive.

    In summary: if you must use spinning disks for bulk storage, put them in an external housing which remains largely disconnected or de-powered. (Also, this lowers your attack footprint in the case of ransomware or viruses — particularly if that offline storage is your backup.)

    • > Getting an nvme SSD (sometimes referred to as a “PCIe” SSD) is completely worth it, today. Not even comparable to anything SATA-based which will be slowed down by the SATA interface no matter how fast the SSD component could be.

      I shall go down this route. Its just the capasity that I am thinking about. Should I “go big, or go home”?

      My first SSD at 120Gb soon became too small for the OS and software. I now have a 500Gb SSD and at times, with video editing and cache files this can fill up quite quickly.

      > For any work that requires a lot of storage access (including software development, video and photograph editing and playing games) improving the speed of your storage is probably one of the most noticeable improvements you can make

      Here’s hoping

      > In summary: if you must use spinning disks for bulk storage, put them in an external housing which remains largely disconnected or de-powered. (Also, this lowers your attack footprint in the case of ransomware or viruses — particularly if that offline storage is your backup.)

      I think I’m going overkill here. I have quite a lot of storage on my Desktop, which is then duplicated on my NAS box. And the NAS box is duplicated onto a couple of external HDD’s. I think I shall have to reconsider what I keep on my Desktop and what is hardly used taking up space on those spinning disks.

      Thanks for the food for thought.

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