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by Ray Carlson

Q: I was told I should only purchase a laptop with a solid state drive. Is that a good suggestion?

A: Unfortunately, with computers there are few simple answers. Solid state drives are substitutes for hard disk drives. Both types of drives are the place in the computer where content is stored for the long term. This includes everything from the operating system that runs the computer to programs to documents and pictures. What is called random access memory or RAM stores what is currently being done on the computer, but such information is lost when the power is turned off.

To create more permanent storage, hard disk drives use metallic platters that have a magnetic coating while solid state drives use an intricate set of electrical circuits. Because it is necessary to spin the metallic disks, hard disk drives take longer to store and retrieve information and are heavier, hotter, and larger. In addition, they are more easily damaged. Since the platters need to be spinning while in use, they can bump into their case if the computer is dropped or seriously shaken. In addition, nearby large magnets can erase content.

The solid disk drives, though, are much more costly to make and cannot hold as much information as hard disk drives. The size may be less of an issue if you store data in the "cloud," that is, the internet, but security scares like the Heartbleed bug have made some people want to keep their own copies of everything.

In summary, the choice depends on which factors mentioned above are more important to you, but one can also consider hybrids that combine characteristics of both types. In addition, making a future change from one to the other can add other complications. To more fully discuss these choices, the Prescott Computer Society has decided to focus the first hour of its meeting at 1 PM on May 10th in the Prescott Public Library on this topic.

Published: Courier 4/20/14 - Page 4C