SSDs are a great way to improve the performance of your PC. Unfortunately, not all are created equal. One of the biggest differences between all the different SSDs on the market is whether they have DRAM. It doesn’t matter what form factor you envision – SATA, M.2, or PCIe. All SSDs are equipped with DRAM or not. Having DRAM will almost always drive up the price of the SSD. So what is it? Do you need it or can you go for something cheaper?
What is DRAM?
Whether you’re planning to buy a 2.5-inch SATA SSD or an NVME M.2 SSD, you’ve probably noticed a little something called DRAM. Some drives have DRAM while others don’t (aptly called DRAM-free).
SSDs store data in a number of memory cells called NAND Flash. During the life of the SSD, data is moved around these cells a bit. It does this automatically to ensure that no memory cell is depleted due to repeated read / write. Therefore, your SSD should keep a map of the location of the data on the drive. So when you want to launch a program, launch a game, or open a file, your SSD knows exactly where to find it. This card is stored on your SSD’s DRAM or dynamic random access memory.
Advantages of SSDs with DRAM
SSDs with DRAM chip offer better performance than SSDs without DRAM. This is because DRAM is much faster than NAND Flash memory. Instead of your PC having to search for relevant data around your SSD, your PC can access DRAM directly. As a result, your PC won’t have to wait very long for your SSD to retrieve the data it needs. This translates into a much faster experience for the end user.
DRAM-free SSDs store the data card directly in NAND flash memory. As we mentioned earlier, NAND memory is slower than DRAM. Unfortunately, this results in slower overall performance. In addition, storing the card directly on the NAND flash means more wear and tear on the memory cells. Unfortunately, this can dramatically shorten the life of the SSD. This is generally the reason why SSDs without DRAM have a shorter warranty period than SSDs with DRAM.
Benefits of DRAM-free SSDs
While DRAM-free SSDs have some drawbacks, they still deserve your attention. First, SSDs without DRAM are almost always cheaper than SSDs with DRAM. Second, while a DRAM-free SSD is slower than a DRAM-free SSD, a DRAM-free SSD is still much faster than a traditional mechanical hard drive. Therefore, if you switch from a mechanical drive to an SSD, you will see a significant increase in speed even if you go for a DRAM-free SSD. If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to check out DRAM-free SSDs.
Which one to buy
Considering the better performance and longer lifespan, we recommend most people to go for an SSD with DRAM. That being said, a DRAM-free drive might be the best option for you, provided you are aware of the inherent limitations.
DRAM-free SSDs are less expensive. This means they can be an inexpensive way to inject new life into an old machine or add faster storage to your current version. If you are considering purchasing a DRAM-free SSD, we recommend that you do your research and review the reviews before purchasing, as they generally suffer from a shorter lifespan.
How to Monitor SSD Health
SSDs are rapidly replacing mechanical hard drives as the storage method of choice for manufacturers and end users. Besides being faster and quieter than mechanical drives, SSDs don’t require as much maintenance. For example, you will never have to defragment your SSD.
That being said, you’ll want to check in to your SSD every now and then. Fortunately, you can monitor the health of your SSD very easily, whether you have an SSD without DRAM or with DRAM.
If you have a Mac, just launch Disk Utility and run the first aid tool on your SSD. When the tool is finished, click “Show details” to see if there are any issues. If there are any issues with your SSD, you will have the option to try to resolve them.
On Windows PCs, we recommend that you download CrystalDiskInfo to check the health of your SSD. Just install the Standard version of the software and start it. Launching the application will display a window with various information about all the drives on your machine, including temperature and bad sectors.
Do you go for SSDs with DRAM? Would you consider a DRAM-free SSD? You might even want to consider a solid-state hybrid drive if budget is an issue.
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