How to Select the Hard Drive That is Right for You

hdd-data-centerSelecting and purchasing a hard drive used to be a simple task. Generally people would find a few of the highest capacity drives they could afford, pick the fastest of the group, and were done. Today, however, there are many different types of storage devices on the market today filled with different and more complex technology. The sheer variety of devices available can make it difficult to select one that will work best for your needs. Another thing that just increases the selection problem is choosing between disk drive interfaces Solid State Drive (SSD) and Serial ATA (SATA).There are also other factors to consider when selecting a storage device like random access performance, cost, sequential performance, reliability, and density.

There are many factors that make selecting the right drive a challenge. Understanding the intricacies of each storage device feature will help tease out which device will better suit your needs. The fundamental question that needs to be considered is which is better: conventional hard drives (HDD), or Solid State Drives (SSD)

Technology: HDD

The standard version of HDD drives contains multiple disks, otherwise known as platters. These platters are covered in a magnetic coating and rotated at high speeds. The platters are then read by drive heads, which change the magnetization of the material beneath to either a reading state or a recording state.

Reading data and writing data requires a lot of work. Even while the HDD ideas are simple, having manufacturers create high capacity drives with reasonable prices poses several problems.

During normal operation, the heads and platter must spin to an exact point before the drive can actually do anything. This whole process takes time and is one of the main reasons for performance bottlenecks in PCs. This problem is also found in netbooks and laptops because moving all of the components around creates a constant power drain.

Drive heads are positioned very close to the platter, only the thickness of a human hair separates them. If there is a shock or electrical bump and the wrong time, they may collide, which then damages the drive and loses data. Although manufacturers do a lot to prevent these types of collisions from happening, there is always still a risk.

All of these issues with HDD are not seen with SSD, although the price difference between the two is very significant.

Technology: SSD

Solid state drives are very technologically different than HDD drives. They forgo the platter and the head components completely and replace them with a simply, non-moving memory chip. The chips do vary from drive to drive, but the majority of them use flash memory, the same technology that is found in MP3 players, cameras, and memory cards. The advantage of this flash memory is its ability to store data without any power.

The more efficient technology found in SSD is much more expensive than the technology found in HDD. SSD drives on the market typically have low capacities with a high price tag.

SSDs do make up for the high price by their excellent performance. A typical hard drive with HDD takes seconds for its platters to accomplish their full speed, whereas SSDs are ready to go immediately. SSD also doesn’t have to move heads around or wait for a platter to reach the miraculous special point to be able to reach data. SSD can be up to fifty times faster than a regular HDD drive. Equipping a PC with an SSD would more than halve the boot time, which can be very beneficial for some users.


When it comes to the technologies of HDD and SSD, it is very obvious that SSD drives are technologically superior to HDD, but there is a problem that comes with that technical increase: cost and lower capacities.

An SSD is capable of reading large chunks of data at over 500 MB per second, write data at over 300 MB/s per second, and access random data in .1 milliseconds. This speed is significantly different from the fastest HDD which is only 150 MB/s for sequential reads and writes with random data access at 17 milliseconds. SSDs allow for Windows to boot and run faster, load programs and games in seconds, consume less power, puts out less heat, noise, and vibrations. SSD is superior when used in the right context.

If choosing between equally priced drives, SSD will only provide about 3% of the capacity of the same priced HDD. There are higher capacity drives available, but they are prohibitively expensive. Unless money is not an issue, the first desktop drive should always be standard HDD. Although the performance won’t be up to SSD standards, it is adequate for most tasks, and the money saved can offer a more significant boost of speed on a different part of the computer. If optimizing an existing PC, an SSD would be the way to go. The faster boost times and overall speed boost will help Windows load more quickly, even with a small capacity SSD because data and other applications are installed on the regular hard drive.

SSDs are great for laptops, depending on what their intended use is. If a laptop is being used as a replacement desktop system (running lots of applications), SSD won’t really have the capacity to help. If the laptop’s intended use is basic (things like email, word processing, browsing), SSD, even a low capacity would be worth it. The SSD would improve the overall system performance, reduce weight and noise, and increase the battery life.

There are many things to consider when selecting the right drive for your PC environment. Don’t get sucked in by new fads or hypes. Know your personal requirements and PC environment and price out drives from there.



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