A remarkable tale of a technology whose blistering speed comes at a price that this beleaguered expert on the perils of inadequate backups is totally convinced you should be prepared to pay

Two years, eight drives, no survivors. One very frank, chastened and confessional prominent SSD advocate. But repentant? Regretful?

Here’s a quote from Jeff Atwood of the highly regarded Stack Overflow. He posted it (and the details of the experience mentioned above) on his blog Coding Horror.

“Solid state hard drives are so freaking amazing performance wise, and the experience you will have with them is so transformative, that I don’t even care if they fail every 12 months on average! I can’t imagine using a computer without a SSD any more; it’d be like going back to dial-up internet or 13″ CRTs or single button mice. Over my dead body, man!”

So now you’re asking yourself: “Ok, I get it. But how much actual difference is this improvement in drive speed going to make to the overall performance of a typical PC, rather than some ultra-high-spec powerhouse sitting on Jeff Atwood’s desk?”. Here is Jeff’s response:

“Thing is, SSDs are so scorching hot that I’m willing to put up with their craziness. Consider that just in the last two years, their performance has doubled. Doubled! And the latest, fastest SSDs can even saturate existing SATA interfaces; they need brand new 6 Gbps interfaces to fully strut their stuff. No CPU or memory upgrade can come close to touching that kind of real world performance increase.”

At the rates of survival he’s talking about, his comments about needing a good backup plan are unlikely to meet with anything but nods of approval, but his disregard for the fact that SSDs can often cost more than ten times the price per gigabyte of hard drives may need some explaining. The answer for mere mortals lies in knowing where your solid state drive capacity requirement ends (maybe with just enough to satisfy the operating system requirements plus enough room for updates plus about another fifty percent will leave you wanting a 32GB SSD for a machine running Windows 7) and your hard drive requirements begin (the prices of that 32GB will currently buy you a hard drive with about 500GB).

The resulting SSD upgrade will probably add around somewhere between 10 and 30 percent to the cost of your desktop or laptop. How much faster is your PC going to run when you add an SSD? This report on the Laptop Magazine site showed that opening Word documents in Windows 7 was between 3 to 10 times faster, depending upon factors like the drives involved and whether there was anything disk-intensive going on in the background when you opened the file. This has left me seriously considering an ‘SSD plus hard drive combination’ in my not too distant future.