If you buy a PC or a Mac today, the best investment you can make in the hardware is to get one with an SSD on it. If you need to keep a lot of files on your local system, look for hardware configurations that allow you to install both an SSD and HDD.
SSDs come in different configurations and we aren’t talking about their storage capacity. In terms of technology, there are SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs.
Like hard drives that have a higher RPM, the difference in SSD configuration will dictate how fast it will be. An NVMe SSD is going to be, one average, four times faster than a SATA SSD.
Identify SATA SSD or NVMe SSD
If you’re buying a new system or buying new hardware for your system, you can check the packaging of an SSD to see if it’s SATA or NVMe. They also look different but you have to know what differences to look for in order to identify the drives.
1. Google SSD make and model
This is by far the most reliable method for figuring out what type of SSD you have. It will work even if you cannot open the chassis of your laptop or desktop up to examine the drive.
- Right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager from the context menu.
- Go to the Performance tab.
- Select your disk.
- At the top right, note down the name of the manufacturer and model.
- Visit Google, input the manufacturer name, the model number, and add the keyword ‘specs’ after it.
- Check the official website for the manufacturer that will appear in the search results to see what type of SSD you have.
2. Use third-party apps
Assuming you’ve already bought, and installed the SSD, you can identify its type using a few different tools however, this method is not as reliable as the previous one.
- Download HWiNFO and run/install it (the app has a portable version).
- Expand Buses.
- Select PCI Bus (if there is more than one, you will have to go through each).
- Look through the devices that are connected to a PCI slot.
- Next, expand Drives from the column on the left.
- Select your disk.
- In the pane on the right, look for ‘Form Factor’ and note the value down.
- Download and run an app called SSD-Z.
- On the Device tab, note down the Speed value.
Now that you have this information, use the following to determine what type of SSD you have.
- If the form factor is 2.5′, you DO NOT have an NVMe SSD.
- If the form factor is M.2 and no PCI slot lists your SSD, you may have an NVMe drive or you may have a SATA drive. Here, you need to Google the speed value you got from SSD-Z as that will be the deciding factor.
- If the form factor is M.2 and a PCI slot is in use, it is possible you have an NVMe drive. Again, check its speed to find out.
Based on all this information, my system appears to carry an M.2 SATA SSD. This is only partially correct. My SSD is not M.2. It is 2.5″. Third-party tools, even the best ones, are not very good at identifying information about SSDs.
Which SSD should you buy?
The question now comes down to what sort of SSD you should buy.
Speed: If you want the absolute fastest SSD there is, buy an NVMe SSD. This is what you want to get if you’re building a gaming PC, or if you plan on using it for 3D printing or modeling, or for animation work.
Cost: If you’re trying to stay within a budget, buy whichever SSD you can afford because all SSDs will be exponentially faster than an HDD. For daily use, this works fine and your system won’t slow down as it tends to do with a hard drive.
Cost & speed: If you want a fast SSD, but you do not want to spend too much on it, buy a good quality M.2 SATA SSD. It will not be as fast as an NVMe SSD but it will be better than the 2.5″ SSD. The price difference between the two is small so a little price bump gets you better hardware.
You will find most people advising you to get an SSD and that is sound advice but few people know that within SSDs, there are different types, and those types deliver different performance speeds. An NVMe SSD is much, much faster than a SATA SSD. The difference is the same as going from an HDD to an SSD, maybe even better but it’s a costly bit of storage.