Though smartphones and tablets capture a lot of people’s attention, PCs still play an important role in many people’s lives. In fact, there’s estimated to be well over 1 billion PCs in active use around the world. That’s particularly impressive in light of the fact that worldwide shipments of new PCs have been modestly declining over the last few years.
One of the main reasons that the numbers remain so high is because people are holding onto their PCs for longer periods of time. While it used to be fairly normal for people to update their PCs every three years or so, average PC lifetimes are now estimated to be 5 years and up.
While many people are finding that they can continue to get good use out of their PC for these kinds of time frames, there are some risks involved with older PCs, particularly with regard to your data. Thankfully, improvements in hard drive technologies have extended their average lifetimes, but there’s always a potential risk with moving parts. That’s one of the reasons why consumers are starting to take a much more serious look at solid-state drives, or SSDs, as an alternative to hard drives when they buy new PCs as well as when upgrading existing PCs.
Unlike traditional hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts, but instead consist of memory chips that are essentially bigger, more powerful versions of what you find inside today’s USB memory sticks. SSDs store data just like a hard drive and, in addition to be longer-lasting and more reliable, generally offer faster performance for operations like booting the PC, launching applications, opening files and much more.
One tradeoff is that SSD storage capacities tend to be smaller than regular hard drives for the same price, but SSD capacities are increasing at a rapid pace and, for most people, are large enough already. Plus, the added piece of mind they can bring—particularly for those people who think they’ll keep their next PC for 5 or more years before they upgrade—makes it an easy decision.
If you’re upgrading a desktop PC, you could use a new SSD as your boot drive—the one that loads the operating system and on which you typically store your most commonly used applications and files. That way you get the performance and reliability benefits of an SSD, while still maintaining your existing hard drive for additional storage of lesser used files and applications.
If you’re upgrading a laptop, there’s typically only room for one main storage device. But you can transfer over the data over from a traditional hard drive to an SSD—you may need a bit of help from a computer specialist—and then make the SSD your upgraded, replacement drive.
If you’re in the market for a new laptop or desktop PC, the decision is much easier. Make sure you get one that includes an SSD. In all cases, you’ll reap the benefits of faster performance, higher reliability and longer life—a winning combination.
Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.