Replacing your laptop's hard drive with a solid state drive, or SSD, can triple or quadruple your storage performance, allowing you to boot, open apps or multitask much more quickly. Below, you'll find our top picks, based on the in-depth testing performed by sister sites AnandTech and Tom's Hardware. Our favorite SSD for the money right now is the Samsung 850 EVO ($74.99), but we have other recommendations for higher performance or different form factors.
Read the hardware maintenance manual or check Crucial Memory's advisor tool to find out what form factor of SSD your laptop requires and whether you can upgrade it at all. Most mainstream laptops, including any notebook that currently has a hard drive, use 2.5-inch drives, but some take stick-sized SSDs in the M.2 (60 or 80mm) or mSATA format. A few high-end laptops even take PCIe drives, which offer two to three times the performance of a typical SSD.
Samsung has long been a leader in the SSD space, and the 850 EVO shows that the company can offer really strong performance at a very low price. Available in either 2.5-inch or M.2 (80mm) sizes, the 850 promises up to 540-MBps sequential reads and 520-MBps sequential writes. The drive's TLC V-NAND Flash memory is rated for up to 75TB of endurance, which means the drive and your computer will have been long obsolete before you max out its write capacity.
SanDisk's Extreme Pro bested all of its competitors on AnandTech's Storage Bench test, averaging 309.75 MBps on an extreme workload; no other drive approached the 300 MBps mark. Available in 240, 480 and 960GB capacities in the 2.5-inch format, the Extreme Pro starts at just $117.
If you own a laptop that supports PCIe SSDs, you can get two to three times the speeds of a typical SATA SSD. On Tom's Hardware's tests, Samsung's 950 PRO delivered double the speed of high-end, 2.5-inch drives. The 950 PRO is available in 256GB and 512GB capacities, with an affordable starting price of $197.99.
When you need to back up a ton of data but don't have a ton of time to wait, an external SSD is your best solution. Samsung's Portable SSD T1 is light enough to take anywhere and fast enough to copy files at more than 400 MBps when attached to your USB 3.0 port.