What is a hard drive?
A hard drive is the storage device that is used as a component in the build of a laptop or desktop PC. When we talk about “memory”, this is different to the storage of an electronic device. The RAM is the memory or Random Access Memory and the hard drive is the storage device. Your hard drive will store and contain your important data and files. Different model units have different types of storage. There are two main types; that is the HDD’s and the SSD’s. Your storage device does have an affect on your laptops performance. In this blog we break down some of the commonly asked questions and facts about hard drives our customers like to know.
SSD vs HDD: Which is better?
What is an HDD?
A hard disk drive (HDD) is a mechanical storage device, that contains moving parts. Older models of laptops and desktops will traditionally have HDDs as they are the older form of storage. An HDD actually has a spinning disk inside which has data magnetically stored within it. The way the HDD then accesses the data is through the arm that has several heads or ‘transducers’ that read and write data on the disk. Picture how a vinyl record player works; a hard disk drive is very similar with the arm moving across the disk to access certain information. This is why when you boot a laptop up with an HDD inside you can hear the disk spinning up. The disk spins and then accesses the operating system installed on the hard drive and brings up the set-up menu. The most common sizes for both SSD’s and HDD’s is 2.5” (for laptops) and 3.5” (for desktop PC’s).
What is an SSD?
An SSD is a solid state drive, named this way because they have no moving parts. The data is stored in integrated flash memory chips. The technology is essentially the same as a USB flash drive; it consists of negative-AND memory chips. The more NAND chips an SSD has the higher its capacity for storage. Because it is a type of flash storage, there are no moving parts which means they are more efficient. SSD’s can come with SATA ports, which is the same type as an HDD allowing you to replace your storage devices if needed. However, as technology has evolved and most new laptops have SSD’s as standard, some SSD’s can literally be as small as a stick of gum. Typically SSD’s come in a 2.5 inch size but that doesn’t completely restrict those who have a 3.5 inch sitting. You can see our 2.5” to 3.5” 3D printer converters for an easy way to fit an SSD into a desktop or laptop that takes larger hard drive sizes. We 3D print these using recycled plastic which means customers can up-sepc their PC’s with a new flash drive without having to get a whole new unit. It’s a better solution for you and the environment.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a type of connection that effects the speed of SSD’s. As mentioned previously an SSD can have a SATA port connection, which is what HDD’s have and allows a user to simply swap the two. While the SSD works fine using a SATA port, the rate at which data can be processed is less than the true potential of an SSD. For the best possible speed you would look to get an SSD with a PCIe connection. This is however getting into nit picking territory and the average user won’t need this level of knowledge.
It’s worth mentioning that there is also eMMC flash storage, which you will see on notebooks and Chromebooks. There is a difference between eMMC & SSD is that the ‘e’ stands for embedded, which means that its actually soldered onto the motherboard. It is less flexible as it can’t be replaced, but they are used to reduce cost and are great for small files. You can save a lot of money if you go for a laptop with eMMC storage, should your usage require small files and very minimal storing of data. eMMC storage generally comes in 32GB and 64GB sizes but can go higher. For larger capacity, you will certainly want to look at getting an SSD or external storage device. An eMMC drive is not necessarily slower than an SSD even though their capacity is lower. It simply means they cannot process the same volume. This is why they are perfectly good for small files sizes and mainly online usage, which is predominantly what Chromebooks and notebook style laptops are used for.
Is an SSD better than an HDD?
As you may have gathered from the descriptions of the two hard drive types, SSD’s are much faster than HDD’s. The main reason being that a solid state drive has no moving parts, so the area that stores the data can be accessed very quickly. In contrast, a hard disk drive needs to spin the plate that stores the data in order for the arm to find the file. As an HDD is filled with data the files become more scattered across the plate and the disk can suffer from fragmentation. As the files are scattered it takes longer to read them and slows performance. SSD’s do not suffer from this so the amount of files stored won’t affect the speed. Boot up times vary, but a laptop which comes with an SSD will boot up in well under a minute – some can boot up in just a matter of seconds. On the other hand HDD load times can be north of a minute for an initial boot up. Not the end of the world, but it can be a detriment if you work in a fast paced environment and need to access your files quickly. Normally for a SATA connection, an SSD will be 4 times quicker than an HDD. This increases further if using a dedicated SSD connection such as PCIe or M2.
This is one of the areas that an HDD wins. Because it is older tech, you can pick up an HDD for much less than an SSD. This is useful if you want to add extra storage for large files that you don’t access often, or if you just want to replace a current faulty or corrupt hard drive. You can get a 500GB HDD from about £18-£30. Considering the capacity it’s a great price. Normally consumer hard drives reach 2TB for both HDD’s and SSD’s. In general, solid state drives are more expensive, but the price on them has dropped significantly in the last few years. As the technology evolves, you can pick up a 500GB SSD for between £30-£50; not too much more than the HDD. In our opinion, for an average user it’s definitely worth going for an SSD and investing a bit extra. Where the large price difference occurs is between the higher capacities. A 2TB SSD can set you back £150+, whereas a 2TB HDD can be as cheap as £40.
This category has to go to the SSD’s. It comes down to those moving parts again. Because the disk in an HDD has to spin, there are components that can wear over time. Especially, with a large amount of data stored. The arm has to travel across the plate and this over time can cause it to become faulty. It does make them more unreliable and if you are not careful in backing up your data, you can lose everything on your hard drive. REFURBO TOP TIP: Always back up your data to a separate storage device or cloud storage to avoid losing files. Even dropping your laptop can cause the hard drive to lose some form of connection. As SSD’s don’t have moving parts, they are more reliable and less susceptible to damage from impact.
Hard Drive Comparison
At this point you may be thinking, what in the name of Refurbo man would I buy an HDD for then? While we do typically recommend an SSD for the average user, it does not mean HDD’s have no value. As mentioned previously, HDD’s are a great storage device for large files that you do not access very often. Because they can be so cheap, casual users and consumers who just want to store photos or videos may be better off getting an HDD. SSD’s are great for regular users and consumers who need fast load times and quick access to files. You do have to pay more, but time is money and the faster speed is worth it.
Best of Both Worlds
One set up that many benefit from, is a dual storage system. This means you have an SSD and HDD in your unit. The HDD is used to store large files that are rarely accessed, while the SSD is used to store the operating system and data that is accessed regularly. This allows a user to avoid cluttering each device with unnecessary file types and utilizes the pros of both. It gives you the best use of the two hard drives, working in tandem to maximize your computers usability. Of course, this isn’t always an option as you have to consider the size of the unit in order to fit both storage options. But as SSD’s become smaller, custom desktops and gaming PC’s are beginning to include this type of storage system more often. You can also find these types of storage solutions in some iMacs, Workstations and gaming laptops. Keep an eye out for these as they are great for music production, photo editors, videographers and gamers.
Honourable Mention: Hybrid Drives
We’d like to give a big shout out to hybrid drives. That’s right, hybrid drives exist and as you can imagine they contain the technology of both SSD’s and HDD’s. You may see them referred to as SSHD’s; very original. The idea behind this is to tackle the very issue described in the previous paragraph, the space needed for two hard drives. Its more convenient to have one hard drive, with both types of storage technology so you can make the most out of your laptop or desktop no matter the size. This of course doesn’t replace the idea of a dual storage system, as you still have the moving parts of the HDD side which long term can be unreliable. But with technology there is always something for everyone and hopefully this article gives you a better idea of what laptop and storage suits you! Find the laptop for you here at Refurbo.co.uk.