Are you wondering how a solid state drive works? SSDs function like hard drives, but with different technology. Like USB drives, SSDs use flash memory to store data, which is accessed digitally. A hard disk drive (HDD) uses a spinning platter and an arm that moves across the platter to read each portion of data. As a result, SSDs deliver nearly-instant boot and load times because they don’t have to mechanically seek out data on a spinning platter.

What do Solid State Drives Do?

SSDs or HDDs work alongside your system’s memory and processor to access and use data. Solid state drives use different technology than traditional hard drives that allow SSDs to access data faster, improving your computer’s performance. This data includes things like your operating system, games, images, or music.

For example, if you want to access data from a spreadsheet and perform some basic edits, here’s what’s going on behind the scenes:

  1.  Programs and files are housed on your storage drive.  In this case, the spreadsheet you want to access.
Crucial solid state drive.

2.  When you make a request to open the spreadsheet, your computer’s processor transfers the program data from your storage drive to RAM for short-term access and use. Because SSDs have nearly-instant data transfer speeds, they speed up the data transfer process, which is the amount of time it takes to load programs and files. 

Central Processing Unit (CPU) of a computer.

3. The processor then accesses data from the memory, which acts as your computer’s bank of available workspace. Memory is then used to “run” the program. Learn more about the difference between memory and storage.

Crucial memory.

In addition to being faster, SSDs are more durable because they don’t have moving parts that can be broken or wear out, especially when they’re moved around. Plus, they use less energy, saving battery life.

Installing an SSD is one of the easiest ways to transform almost every aspect of your system's performance, making slow load times a thing of the past. Find out more about the benefits of solid state drives.

SSD Form factors explained

Solid state drives are defined by three form factors; these are: the size of the drive, the type of connection interface, and the physical space the drive will occupy in the computer.

2.5-Inch SSD

The standard form factor for an SSD is 2.5-inch, which fits inside the drive bay of most laptop or desktop computers. Because many users replace their hard drives with solid state drives, the 2.5-inch drive has become a standard for all HDDs and SSDs. They are designed to minimize the need to replace the connecting interface cables, making the transition to a higher performance drive as easy as possible. See the top 10 reasons to upgrade to an SSD.


A smaller form factor SSD is called mSATA. mSATA SSDs are one-eighth the size of a 2.5-inch drive and are designed to plug into an mSATA socket on a system’s motherboard. mSATA drives are used in ultra-thin and mini devices, or as a secondary drive in desktops.


The smallest form factor for SSDs is called M.2, which is about the size of a stick of gum. M.2 SSDs attach to the motherboard via an M.2 socket and are designed for space-constrained tablets and ultrabooks.

Find out more about the role an SSD plays in your computer.

To determine which type of SSD is compatible with your system, use the Crucial® Advisor™ Tool or System Scanner tools and find out in just a few clicks.


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