Solid State Drive (SSD) and operating system start up time reduction.
What is a Solid State Disk?
Wikipedia - "A solid-state disk (SSD) is a data storage device that uses solid-state memory to store persistent data with the intention of providing access in the same manner of a traditional block i/o hard disk drive" . This is a highly technical and awfully smart explanation, made for professionals. But what does it say to a simple user? To explain what Solid State Drive is first we need to understand how does the standard Hard Drive work.
Just to get you started with something more visual ;)
Standard Hard Drive
The standard, or the mechanical, hard drive is a memory storage device that uses moving disks (looks much like the vinyl record) to store information. It's design is basically a Gramophone like mechanism. It has it's disks and a needle heads but unlike the Gramophone which accessed the information on the record in a specific pattern (moving from the inside out on the record) the Hard Drive needs to access the information in random locations. To access the information it will first have to place the needle on to the correct position on its record only then it can access the information. As you can imagine this process is much slower then accessing electronic memory unit (like the Disk On-Key).
Solid State Disk (drive)
The Solid State Disk overcomes these problems by using chip of memory, much like the Disk On-Key, instead of a mechanical records and needles. By removing the mechanically moving parts the performance of the Hard Drive was dramatically enhanced.
Operating systems and Hard Drives
To explain this I will have to be more technical. As we all know the operating system is a program and as such it sits on the Hard Drive before it is loaded into internal memory. When you start your computer, the computer automatically loads the operation system from the Hard Drive into its internal memory, a process which takes time. After the operating system is loaded, it starts to load all of its components into the internal memory which takes even more time.
Furthermore, the operation system uses the Hard Drive as a temporary place to store parts of the internal memory of you computer a process which gives you computer allot of internal memory but slows it down significantly.(A process called "paging")
How do I reduce the start-up time of my computer using the SSD?
The main disadvantage of the SSD is that it is a little more expensive than the standard Hard Drive. As such the best way to use it is to make targeted enhancements of the computer which will give the best enhancements/cost ratio.
The best way to enhance the performance of you computer is to place the operation system and all other critical software onto the SSD. In this case loading the operation system into the memory at start-up will take significantly less time. And after the operating system is loaded it will take it less time to load all of its components. The best part is unlike all other optimization methods you will actually be able to see the difference.
NOTE: If you are using Windows (XP or higher) you can use the Pre-fetch technology to increase the performance of your system even more.
Optimizing the execution of other programs
What about the other programs which sits on your standard hard drive? Well, if you configure your operation system to use the SSD as its temporary storage for the internal memory ("Paging Location") you will be able to use the power of the SSD to run you program with significant performance increase.
Will you use SSD?
The SSD is the cost effective way to enhance the performance of you computer. Even if your computer is old the introduction of SSD will increase the performance of your machine, in some cases, better then a new CPU or more internal memory.