How much life is left in your hard or SSD disk drive? Feb 27 2018 - How to protect and extend the useful life of your Windows 7 based computer beyond January 14, 2020 which is when Microsoft drops all support – Part 2
Hard drives (HDD) are mechanical devices which wear out over time. Laptop computers are move subject to damage if it’s bumped accidentally while in use. The older your computer is and the more you use it the more wear your hard drive has sustained. Some people leave their computer on 24 hours a day running up a large number of hours on the drive. Fortunately there is a means of determining the health of your drive called “S.M.A.R.T.” (Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). You can install software designed to read your drive’s SMART values and determine if the drive is nearing the useful end of its life. The software will display a number of values, but some are more significant than others. More on this subject in part #3 of this article.
SATA-I (Serial ATA interface): Available in some early Windows 7 computers. SATA-I increased data transfer rate to a theoretical max of 150 MB/s when compared to slower 100 / 133 MB/s PATA drives on XP and some Vista based computers. In reality typical speeds where in the 50 to 80 MB/s range due to hard drive limitations. SATA-II: Available in some computer in late 2005 or early 2006, it improved ability to transfer data to and from the drive to 300 MB/s, however typical hard drive transfer rates when SATA-II was first release and incorporated in the latest computer at that time were still only able to reach a transfer speed of about 100 MB/s. In some cases you could make the SATA-II hard drive connect and work with a PC that only supported SATA-I interface via a jumper on drive.
SATA-III: Improved ability to transfer data up to 600 MB/s. Almost all drives sold today are SATA-III but have the ability to support SATA-II and in some cases via a jumper the original SATA-I interface. Some of the newest SATA-III hard drive models may exceed 200 MB/s for the first 25% of the drive’s capacity.
Even today virtually all hard drives are slower than 150 MB/s, the newer and better drives typically will test / benchmark at about 150 MB/s at the front (first 25%) of the drive and taper off to a slow 60 MB/s to 80 MB/s near the end (the last 20% of drive space) of the drive. Hard Disk Drives versus Solid State Drives: Hard drives are mechanical devices and far more prone to failure than a Solid State Drive (SSD) and are far slower than a SSD. If you still have your original hard drive that came with the computer chances are it’s nearing the end of its life expectancy especially if you have a laptop which are more prone to accidental shock (moving the laptop while the power is on). I’ll show you how to select a newer, faster performing and shock resistant drive.
Where a good desktop hard drive (laptops are typically slower) can transfer data at speeds up to 150 MB/s a Solid State drive (SSD) can reach up to 500 MB/s to 600 MB/s when connected to a SATA-III interface. The down side is that SSD drives are expensive, about 3 or 4 times the cost of an equivalent size 1TB hard drive. Still if your Windows 7 (and some Vista based) computer has a SATA-I, SATA-II or SATA-III interface a 128GB SSD will cost you about $50.00 dollars, a 250GB SSD about $80.00 and a 500GB SSD about $150.00 or less when you find a bargain price sale.
You should check the amount of space still available on your existing drive. If your existing drive is more than 66% full then choose a new drive that is at least 50% larger in size. Example: Existing drive is 300GB and 200GB is used with about 100GB of free space, then go shopping for a 500GB drive or larger.
Do some comparative shopping and you may find a good price to drive capacity ratio. By contrast a 1TB hard drive may only cost $70.00 dollars, when a 500GB Solid State Drive (SSD) can cost $150.00 or more (that is a lot more money and a less capacity at today’s market prices ... February 2018). However if you want to increase the performance of your computer and if you have a laptop make it immune to shock, a new Solid State Drive (SSD) is probably the best choice. For a desktop that needs a lot of capacity/drive space a top of the line hard drive such a Western Digital WD1003FZEX would be my choice both for speed and reliability.
There is also a difference in the physical size between a hard disk drive for a desktop computer and a Solid State Drive which are much smaller in size. If you plan to upgrade to an SSD you will need an inexpensive adaptor bracket for your desktop. If you have a laptop you should not require any special hardware, just be aware that you need to verify with the manufacture that the SSD you purchase will mount properly in a laptop.
Several very important and final notes about Solid State Drives: SSD units are designed for a SATA-III interface, most of these drives will also support SATA-II, but only a few will support the original SATA-I interface. In addition a SSD needs to do garbage collection or “Trim”. Windows 7 and 8 support TRIM but Vista does not. Some SSD drive manufactures provide a utility which when installed will allow Vista users to manually run garbage collection. This should be run periodically to keep your SSD performing at top speed.
To extend the useful life of your PC the most effective changes are: A) Perform an image backup of your existing/ original old drive, remove the old drive and restore the image backup to a new drive. Keep the old drive in a safe place; don’t format it as it is your ultimate backup.
B) Test the new drive (see part 3 of this article).
C) To improve performance, consider a SSD drive as the replacement for your original HDD. A Solid state drive can have a big impact on how fast Windows boots, loads programs and other tasks.