I upgraded my laptop and netbook to solid state drives (SSD) a couple years ago, and the difference it made was tremendous. With 8GB of RAM and a 225GB SSD, my 2010 laptop is almost unstoppable when it comes to music, web browsing, and Google Docs. But for the netbook, the change hasn’t helped as much. It went from being almost unusable to now being somewhat useable. But I had to buy a chromebook last year because the 2009 netbook, even with the SSD, still can’t keep up with Google Docs. And this has implications for university computer labs, especially as I see my students struggle daily to get university computers to “keep up” with basic programs (or even to boot up.)
For hard data, see: Could an SSD Be the Best Upgrade for Your Old PC? (Tom’s Hardware)
For computer labs, I think it makes a lot of sense to use SSD’s – or even chromebooks – rather than shelling out money for traditional HDD computers that will quickly slow down as the hard drives age. We already limit just how much students are allowed to save on a university computer – why not provide a small SSD that will remain fast and agile for several years? SSD machines tend to be a bit more expensive, but the interface quality and the longer time between upgrades could save schools some significant funding in the long-term while providing students with the kind of digital writing opportunities necessary for today’s writing classroom.
Now, for classrooms that are already saddled with aging computers, can SSD upgrades save money on having to purchase new machines? Currently, I face a similar personal dilemma – is it worth $100 to upgrade another laptop? I have a 2006 laptop thatstill works well, but it is a slug. It only has a 533 MHz processor – yep, that’s pretty slow. But the SSD could make a difference, allowing me to station this 14″ laptop as the go-to computer in my office. (Though it doesn’t help that it still only runs Windows XP…which is no longer safe to run on the internet…sigh…)
Still, this does raise an interesting social question. Many people today are buying portable SSD machines (such as tablets, chromebooks, and Macbooks). However, most of the academic users (such as my professors and classmates) seem to be using standard hard drives, either because that’s what lower-price computers ship with or because they need more space. But the RAM and SSD upgrades for my primary laptop has saved me from having to purchase another machine – given how fast this computer still is (it’s a Toshiba A665), I don’t foresee any need for any upgrade in the next three or four years. (I purchased and extra cooling fan for it, just in case…if the fan breaks, I’m still keeping this computer.) If a $100 SSD would upgrade the 2006 laptop to something usable (it’s a Toshiba M115), then that would simply give me another (and better) machine to use in the office, maybe allow me to stop hauling the chromebook everywhere. Then again…it could just be $100 down the tubes…