The Resident Geek: If You REALLY Want a Fast Computer, Get a Solid State (Hard) Drive
Certain things are absolutely necessary on a computer. Operating system, anti-virus software and enough disk space and memory to do what you want to do. Oh, and the software to easily accomplish what you want to do.
There are a lot of electives, too. One of those electives is pitching the traditional hard disk drive (where motorized platters spin and are read by special heads on actuator arms, blah, blah, blah) in favor of a solid state drive (SSD). On an SSD, there are no moving parts. Just chips, which store the data like a hard disk but are much faster because the data is not written/read by moving hardware.
The biggest downside to these speed demons is the price. Although the cost has come down from a year ago, you'll still spend about 70 bucks for a 240 gigabyte SSD. Roughly twice that for a 480 gig unit. If you wait, you will find sales and, like with all electronics, prices will drop.
For comparison's sake, you can get a 2TB hard disk drive (HDD) for $75 or less.
Is it worth the price difference for the speed difference? That depends. If you just do office tasks using Word, Excel and so forth, probably not. On the other hand, if you do a lot of graphic work or edit videos, which I do (along with audio), I think it's well worth it.
If you decide to go the solid state route and want to keep your computer set up as it is, get a good cloning program. I use Acronis Disk Director, but there are others out there that work as good or better.
Also, these SSDs DO have a finite lifespan, albeit a fairly lengthy one. If you want to extend the life of yours, there are some real simple things you should do with your computer. You can get a bunch of these suggestions by clicking here.
Also, with current versions of Windows, these drives are automatically and can be used in combo with HDDs. The operating system and programs should go on the SDD, so make sure you get one with enough space for what you need.
Oh, if you buy one, they seem to come in 2 1/2 inch size, which will go in to a laptop bay. For a desktop, you may need to get a SATA bay converter kit.
Also, you can mix and match HDDs and SSds, which is handy if you want the best of both worlds...speed and lots of storage...without breaking the bank.