Congratulations! You've just bought yourself a shiny new computer! It has more CPU cores than you have fingers, several gigabytes of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, high-end graphics card, and ....... a spinning magnetic hard drive. You have the world's fastest computer but you've left it crippled, limping along with a dead-slow mass storage device. In fact, I'm constantly surprised by the new Dell and HP machines that come out with each new processor family from Intel, and there is no SSD option. This is almost criminal!
Unless you've experienced the speed of a solid-state disk (SSD), you'd be surprised to see how much drag a conventional hard disk places on your system. Last year, I wrote about the new Core i7 machine I had just built, and how I was initially disappointed that it didn't seem much faster than the Q6600 machine it replaced. Then I installed an SSD as the system drive, which changed EVERYTHING. A year later, this machine still screams with the extreme low-latency provided by my 120GB OCZ Vertex (which is old tech by today's SSD standards).
Check out this recent article by Windows guru Ed Bott which has some metrics on SSD drives versus regular hard drives. And check out this Tom's Hardware head-to-head comparison of today's SSD drives. I also love this quote from a Gustavo Duarte article that compares the latency of various computer memory and storage systems:
"To put this into perspective, reading from L1 cache is like grabbing a piece of paper from your desk (3 seconds), L2 cache is picking up a book from a nearby shelf (14 seconds), and main system memory is taking a 4-minute walk down the hall to buy a Twix bar... and ... waiting for a hard drive seek is like leaving the building to roam the earth for one year and three months."
For most people, SSD drives won't replace your regular hard drive. SSD drives are still relatively low in capacity so you'll still need a big hard drive for your data. But even a 120GB SSD (around $200 these days) is plenty for your system drive, and I guarantee that it will be the best thing you can do for your personal productivity. Seriously, unleash the full potential of all those cores and gigabytes of RAM and get yourself an SSD - you won't believe the speed bump it will give your machine.