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How to choose an SSD for your PC or laptop

Comparing the specs of solid state drives

Intel Series SSD 335

Our Helproom Editor offers tips on choosing an SSD for your PC or laptop.

QUESTION Looking at the performance results in your PC reviews, it seems I really need an SSD to get the best from my system. There are so many different specs to compare. Can you help me choose a model, please?

HELPROOM ANSWER An SSD will almost certainly deliver a very noticeable improvement in your PC's performance, not just when copying files around, but also in general responsiveness and boot times.

Almost any SSD will deliver a sizeable boost, but choosing the right SSD for you will come down to compatibility with your PC's motherboard and your budget.

First, you should consider the available interfaces on your motherboard. Most recent SSDs support SATA 3, which runs at a maximum speed of 6 gigabits per second (Gbps). However, if your motherboard doesn't support SATA 3, you can buy a less expensive (and slower) SSD designed for the SATA 2 interface, which is capped at 3Gbps. This would also enable you to spend some of your budget on getting more storage space.

Some motherboards also have slots for mSATA SSDs, which plug straight in like a standard memory chip. The advantage of these is that they are simple to install and don't require a drive bay. A disadvantage could be that if you decide to upgrade your PC or motherboard you may no longer have access to an mSATA slot.

The capacity you require will depend on how you intend to use the drive. If you intend to install Windows directly on to the SSD and boot from it, we'd suggest 120GB as a minimum. You can certainly install Windows on a smaller drive, but over time it will fill up as files are often by default installed on the system volume.

If your motherboard supports Intel Smart Response Technology you can select a lower-capacity SSD (up to 64GB), then add it to your system as a cache volume. This increases the performance of your existing hard disk. It won't give as great a performance boost, but it's a lower-cost option that comes with the added benefit that you won't need to reinstall Windows or copy any files from one drive to another.

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

Visit Windows 7 Advisor and Windows 8 Advisor for more Windows advice. Or email our Helproom Editor for bespoke advice.

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