Now that the majority of premium computers pack solid-stage storage it’s abundantly clear that the hardware components we had previously come to rely on as factors guiding performance – CPU, bus chipset, RAM and so on – were held back for years by underwhelming storage, or traditional hard disk drives.
While memory, central processors and graphics cores stayed true to Moore’s Law by getting faster year on year without an equivalent cost increase, hard disks perennially lagged behind.
Manufacturers often tried to compensate by upping disk revolutions per minute, increasing storage capacity and bolting on bigger caches. But these measures were essentially sticking plasters that never really dealt with the underlying issue: the physical limitations of a mechanical platter hard disk.
Something called Amdahl’s law is used to find the maximum improvement to an overall system when only part of the system is improved. Military equipment and computer mainframes have long used Amdahl’s argument to maintain a balance among components for the fastest possible overall performance.
Personal computers lost this equilibrium a while back because of mechanical drives that had to spin up to read and write data. Now, though, thanks to the evolution of mobile devices – largely the rise of iPods, iPads and iPhones – solid-state storage has become a feasible solution to redressing the balance.
If you’re still at the mercy of mechanical storage, there is a solution: swap it for an SSD! My latest tutorial for Lifehacker shows old MacBook Pro-owning users how to do just that.