Choosing a disk drive for an existing PC or for one you are building can seem rather unimportant in the overall scheme, but the reality is that all hard drives are not created equal. While most already know that HDDs (hard disk drives) are slower than SSDs (solid state drives), the considerations extend beyond the speed and amount of memory available. You also have to know whether you want to go with a SATA SSD drive, or an mSATA SSD.

First off, it helps to know what mSATA actually is. The term is used to designate both the interface and the form factor used for the compact SSDs. It can be used as an SSD cache, or for the boot drive of the system. If you’re thinking this is just like an HDD, you’re correct – somewhat. The difference, however is that while the SATA is enclosed in its own case, the mSATA is not.

If you purchase a 1TB mSATA SSD, you’ll receive a drive that is a bare circuit board. The connectors fit directly into an mSATA slot, and the device uses a type of data known as blade style.

While you can install an mSATA SSD in most desktops, they are frequently used in laptop applications. Their smaller size allows for upgrading the boot drive in the thinner laptops, providing enhanced speed and additional memory.

These types of drives are available in a variety of sizes. For those who are into gaming or who frequently save files, music and video files, a 1TB mSATA SSD is likely going to meet your needs. However, if you rarely save files or work in large programs, a 500GB mSATA may be enough.

Choosing an mSATA SSD allows you to pack more performance into the thinner laptops available, without forcing you to carry around an additional external drive.