If you have an aging computer, the best way to bring new life (speed, that is) to replace its internal hard drive.
Older computers generally run on a regular hard drive, whose performance degrades over time, just like any mechanical parts. Replacing that with a solid-state drive (SSD) will prove to be the most satisfying update you ever make to your system. In fact, the outcome is often better than getting an entirely new budget computer.
While it may seem intimidating to open a computer's chassis, this process is quite easy. Check out this How-To post if you need more instruction on opening a laptop, and it's even easier on a desktop. The hardest part is actually picking the right replacement drive.
To make that easier, following is a list of the top five best internal drives I've reviewed this year, sorted by review order. Any of them would make an excellent candidate and if you still have a hard time finding the right one, take a look at the top drives of 2012, most of them are still available for purchase and should do the trick.
Finally, if you want to find out more about digital storage, don't forget to check out my series on the basics.
WD Black 2 Dual Drive
The Black 2 Dual Drive is WD's answer to the solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) movement. The new drive is not a hybrid drive, but rather comes with two separate drives on the inside, including a 120GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive (HDD). Despite this, the Black 2 retains the standard design of a typical laptop internal drive, making it, for now, one-of-a-kind. The drive worked very well in my testing, offering real SSD performance and 1.2TB of storage space. For the first time, you can have an affordable dual-drive setup on your laptop.
OCZ Vector 150
Replacing the excellent Vector drive, the new Vector 150 is cheaper while offering very similar performance. It doesn't have much more than its predecessor, which was the fastest of its time, but it does come with a generous assortment of helpful accessories and software. Plus, since the Vector is now discontinued, the Vector 150 is now the best SSD that OCZ has to offer.
Samsung 840 Evo
The Samsung 840 Evo has everything you care about when shopping for a solid-state drive: performance, capacity, and price. With up to 1TB of storage space and a cost of much less than $1 per gigabyte, it's very hard for you to find any other SSD that offers a better deal. In my testing, the drive's performance was also excellent. On top of this, the included Samsung Magician software turns the 840 Evo into a very versatile internal drive, including the ability to use a computer's system memory as its cache to further enhance its performance.
Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme Plextor wants to categorize the M5 Pro Xtreme as the luxury line of SSDs by making it not only fast but also good looking -- and expensive. For this reason, when the drive was released at the beginning of the year, it wasn't very welcome. However, its price has come down significantly, making its great performance that much more attainable, and valuable.Read the full review of the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme.
Seagate 600 The 600 is the first SSD from Seagate, a storage vendor more known for making regular hard drives. Still, the drive comes with the advantages of Seagate's decades of research and development in digital storage. It offers a very fast speed and is one of the few on the market also available in 5mm thickness, as opposed to the 7mm of other SSDs. This means the drive can fit in more computers, including some ultra-portable laptops.Read the full review of the Seagate 600.
Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these SSDs head-to-head.