The importance of upgrading laptops and desktops

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Information management and installed software require more and more space. The average storage capacity of desktop and notebook workstations increases over time to facilitate document archiving and meet user demands. Not only commonly used programs, but also operating systems and working libraries grow in size, year after year. While external storage, NAS and the cloud can meet backup or long-term storage needs, the availability of local storage internal to the PC itself is often preferable.

Upgrading to more powerful, full-featured applications and operating systems implies the availability of a robust, high-capacity hardware platform. In addition to CPU and RAM, additional space is required for system files, updates and all essential components to run smoothly. And all of this presents a challenge for business users and those working with images or in the audiovisual sector. Here, the most demanding graphics, editing and gaming software can consume dozens of gigabytes on the primary disk or on internal PC storage. Plug-ins and stream recordings for online broadcasting take up a lot of memory space and pose a problem for the proper functioning of Windows and installed programs. The shortage of space can lead to a sharp decrease in operating system performance, as well as possible crashes or errors in execution.

The last 10 years have shown a steady growth in user and enterprise interest in solid-state drive (SSD) storage. Over time, SSDs have gained a significant share of the market; from the end consumer to the professional and enterprise segment. Today, most laptop and desktop configurations include a solid state drive as the operating system boot device. While initial configurations used to focus on 250 GB, most models now tend towards 500 GB or 1 TB for the usual standard configurations. Workstations and Gaming Stations with large gaming libraries tend to have 2TB capacities. The NVMe™ M.2 form factor has overtaken the previous SATA form factor in terms of popularity for all new PCs. This new type of SSD can be commonly referred to as PCIe (interface), M.2 (form factor/size) or NVMe (protocol).

However, mechanical hard disk drives (HDD) still have their importance and are a good choice for dual disk configuration, as a second high-capacity disk for data storage and handling large amounts of information.

Workstation upgrade

Most current desktops and laptops – purchased 5 or 6 years ago – have at least one M.2 slot built into the motherboard and allow 2280-format drive upgrades. For these “relatively young” systems, switching to an NVMe™ SSD to replace the standard can offer more capacity and improve access performance (at a variable ratio depending on the revision of PCIe available). A service desk or a user with good technical skills can perform the upgrade quickly. Replacing the physical device requires access to the motherboard, a generally easy step in desktop configurations. On notebook computers, this process may take longer and require more attention. In order not to lose the data contained on the original disk, it is recommended to use solutions for cloning partitions or generating disk images.

This task will not be necessary when adding a second M.2 drive, in case the notebook has an M.2 slot available. The new SSD will be automatically recognized by the system and will be ready for use immediately after formatting.

Upgrade workstations and desktop configurations

As we discussed earlier, upgrading a desktop PC is usually easier since the components are, in most cases, easier to handle. Newer motherboards have at least one M.2 slot, and there are even some with two or more, depending on the type of card. Workstation or gaming components often have multiple slots for high-performance storage drives, as well as radiators and retention systems.

For systems without standard M.2 channels, adapters and PCI Express slot cards can be used. These are boards designed to hold one or more NVMe™ elements and capable of making them available for access by the operating system. In some cases, these cards offer RAID aggregation capabilities to achieve higher performance or improve the ability to recover data in the event of an error on the installed drive. For these situations, drives such as the new WD Blue™ SN580 NVMe™ SSD in older PC configurations offer superior performance without having to replace the entire computer. However, when adding these cards in most older hardware configurations, it will not be possible to use the new M.2 drives as boot drives, but only as secondary partitions.

Why upgrade?

In the world of technology, upgrading peripherals and components is a major evolution in many respects. If until a few years ago M.2 storage was particularly expensive or limited in capacity, today things have changed. The WD Blue™ SN580 NVMe™ M.2 SSDs fit the creative needs of enterprise and home configurations, and can be a cost-effective upgrade for any relatively recent hardware. And they can be upgraded without breaking the bank.

Moving to higher storage capacities allows you to install programs without any limitations and reduces concerns about storing personal and work documents. But not only that, adopting newer technology allows you to take full advantage of the available PCI Express 3.0 or 4.0 bus capabilities, gaining an effective increase in terms of read/write speed and random access.

*Article prepared by Darragh O’Toole, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Western Digital.

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