Ever threw your clothes around in the room, and regretted it when you came home and had to find that one piece of clothing you wanted to wear?
That's pretty much what your traditional hard drive has to go through every day when you use your computer. It happens because of file fragmentation. In order to retrieve information for a single file, that file may be broken into several "parts" which are stored on different parts of the hard drive. Once the hard disk spins enough times for the head to read all of the parts and "find" the file, you're probably wondering why your computer is getting slower.
Fragmentation is common on almost all applications. From databases to consumer computers. Defragmenting a computer is usually the first and most reliable solution to fix this solution. Think of defragmentation as if a maid always stayed in your room and kept your clothes organized (wouldn't we all love that?). The problem with defragmentation is that it usually takes a long time.
However, with Solid State Drives--which are quickly gaining prominence--defragmenting the drive takes much less time than a traditional hard drive. Since there are no moving discs in a Solid State Drive (think of it like a giant flash drive), the problem with the head "searching" for the missing parts no longer occurs. Technically, it does still occur, but with significantly less delay. In addition, SSDs are simply much faster with fragmentation than traditional hard drives, because of their non-moving spindles and memory modules.
Top: traditional hard drive. Bottom: Solid State Drive. Source: macperformanceguide.com
When SSDs first came out, they were very expensive with little capacity. Recently however, SSDs have finally been introduced into laptops as part of a standard configuration for some models. As SSDs gain more market share, we can all be guaranteed a smoother computer experience, as read times are significantly reduced with SSDs (near instantaneous program starts, boots, and other things we do every day).
Today, an average SSD costs more than the average hard drive. Is it worth the current price premium? I think it is. When SSD prices drop even further, the choice will be almost no choice at all as SSDs do nearly everything better than traditional hard drives.
Originally designed by IBM in 1954 (yes, 1954), the hard drive is old technology.
The good news is that I believe we are all seeing the transition of another obsolete medium for storing and retrieving data, being replaced with something significantly better in performance.
Who knows, maybe one day you can tell your kids: "Can you believe it? We used hard disks that actually spun inside our computers at your age."