SSD Terminology: A Glossary

Are you trying to learn more about solid state drives but coming across terms you don't know? We've put together a glossary of the most common terms about SSDs. Learn more about the benefits of solid state drives.

Solid state drive terms and definitions

Alignment—Refers to the partition alignment of a storage device. Alignment determines the starting position of a partition to ensure optimal read/write performance.

BIOS—Basic input/output system. The BIOS is an interface between hardware and software.

Bit—Binary digit. The smallest piece of data (a 1 or a 0) that a computer recognizes.

Buffer—A holding area for data shared by components. The components might operate at different speeds or have different priorities. A buffer allows one component to operate more independently from the other components.

Byte—Eight bits of data. The byte is the fundamental unit of computer processing.

Cache—A partition of very fast memory used to temporarily store data.

FAT—File allocation table. This table tells the computer where every file is located and how it can be accessed. 

File System—A system that determines how data files are stored and accessed on a storage device.

Form factor—The physical size and shape of a hardware component. An SSD can have a form factor of 2.5 inches or 1.8 inches.

Formatting—A process to prepare a storage drive for use by configuring it with a file system. Formatting deletes all previous data on the drive.

Garbage collection—A process that helps a solid state drive maintain optimal performance by freeing up memory sectors that are filled with data that has been deleted from the file. Garbage collection is part of the SSD and not dependent on the computer's operating system.

Interface—The means by which two independent systems communicate. For SSDs, the interface is a connector that plugs the solid state drive into the motherboard and power supply.

Latency—Latency is the amount of time it takes for the computer memory to respond to a command. The lower the latency, the faster the device.

LBA—Logical block addressing. A method for specifying locations on a computer storage drive.

LPM—Link power management. A SATA feature that reduces power to a solid state drive when the computer is turned off.

MLC—Multi-level cell. Flash memory architecture that has two bits of data stored in each memory cell, allowing four states of operation. This allows for greater memory capacity at lower cost than single-level cells.

mSATA—mini Serial advanced technology attachment. An interface standard to connect very thin solid state drives to a motherboard for use in notebooks and ultrabooks.

A Crucial MX200 MSATA SSD is being inserted in to a laptop

MTBF—Mean time between failures. How long it takes between one data failure and the next on a computer storage drive.

NAND—Negative AND. The technology that creates flash memory and solid state drives.

NCQ—Native command queuing. a Feature that allows SATA drives to optimize the order in which read/write commands are executed, increasing performance.

NTFS—New technology file system. The standard file system used in storage drives for Microsoft® Windows® operating systems.

OS—Operating system. The software that runs your computer, allowing applications and programs to work with the hardware components.

PATA—Parallel advanced technology attachment. An interface standard that connects hardware components to a motherboard. PATA is an older interface that has been replaced by SATA.

RAID—Redundant array of independent disks. A data storage device that combines two or more storage drives to work as one drive for better performance.

Read—Refers to accessing a piece of data from memory or a storage drive.

S.M.A.R.T.—Self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology. A monitoring system for storage drives designed to detect and report on various indicators of reliability and use that data to anticipate and avoid system failures.

SATA—Serial advanced technology attachment. A type of interface that connects a storage drive to a motherboard.

SLC—Single-level cell. is a flash memory architecture that has one bit of data stored in each memory cell, allowing two stated of operation.

Speed—There are two types of speed: frequency and bandwidth. Frequency refers to how many cycles the data can run per second, expressed in MHz per second. Bandwidth refers to how much data can go through a system, expressed as gigabytes (GB) per second.

SSD—Solid state drive. Flash-based data storage drives designed to function like traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) using NAND technology.

A Crucial SSD placed on top of a motherboard

Storage—Refers to a device on which you can permanently keep data.

Swapping—When a computer system borrows memory on the storage drive because the random access memory is full. Swapping is also referred to as virtual memory.

TRIM—A command that allows the operating system to inform a solid state drive which data blocks are no longer in use so they can be cleared and reused. This is the same as garbage collection, but initialed by the operating system.

Virtual memory—Also known as swapping, the computer borrows some memory from the storage drive because the random access memory is full.

Wear leveling—A feature that ensures all NAND cells on a flash-based storage device are used evenly to prolong the life of the device. Data that is accessed frequently from the same location, it wears down that location. Wear leveling disperses the data more evenly.

Write—Refers to saving a piece of data to a storage drive.

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