GringoPost | Ecuador: Differences between a computer´s hard disk vs. solid state drive

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Differences between a computer´s hard disk vs. solid state drive

There are reasons why one might want to have either a solid-state drive (aka SSD) or hard disk drive (aka HDD) in their laptop or desktop computer, so let´s look at some of the info and see the differences.

1st, one might consider price point, as SSDs used to be significantly more expensive than conventional HDDs. At the present time, the price advantage HDDs once held is quickly slipping, and unless you have upwards of 1TB or more of data to store, the advantages are becoming clear to owning an SSD. They provide a noticeable bump in performance during boot-up times and data movement, often clocking in at five times faster than the speeds possible on an HDD.
Conventional HDDs, which have technically been around since the 1950s, have been the standard for desktops and many laptops, as their large storage capacities mean one doesn’t have to worry about running out of storage space too quickly, and their magnetic storage method means they have near-infinite read/write capabilities.

Storage capacity, while certainly a very important criteria to consider when buying a hard drive, is not the only difference between these two technologies. Let´s look at how HDDs and SSDs differ in terms of speed, form factor, and durability.

When discussing the speed of HDDs and SSDs, what is being referred to is the speed at which they can read and write data.

For HDDs, the speed at which the platters spin helps determine the read/write times. When accessing a file, the “read” part of the read/write head notes the positioning of the magnetic sections as it flies over the spinning platters. As long as the file being read was written sequentially, the HDD will read it quickly. However, as the disc becomes crowded with data, it’s easy for a file to be written across multiple sections. This is called “fragmenting” and leads to files taking longer to read. TIP - If you currently have a slow running computer with an HDD, try doing a defrag on your drive to improve performance. On Windows machines you can use the actual Windows Defragmentation Tool.

With SSDs, fragmentation is not an issue. Files can be written sporadically across the cell, and in fact are designed to do so, with little impact on read/write times, as each cell is accessed simultaneously. This easy, simultaneous access to each cell means files are read at incredibly fast speeds which are far faster than an HDD can achieve, regardless of fragmentation.

This faster read speed comes with a catch. SSD cells can wear out over time. SSD cells push electrons through a gate to set its state. This process wears on the cell and over time reduces its performance time until the SSD wears out. That said, the time it would take in order for this to happen for most users is quite long; one would likely upgrade their SSD due to either obsolescence or a desire for more storage space before a normal SSD would fail. But it’s still something to keep in mind.

The risk for failure is not unique to SSDs. In fact, SSDs are considered far more durable than HDDs, due to a lack of mechanical parts. Remember the HDDs have mechanically spinning and moving parts. The moving mechanisms within an HDD are susceptible to not only wear and tear over time, but to damage due to movement or forceful contact. If one were to drop a laptop with an HDD, there is a high likelihood that all those moving parts will collide, resulting in potential data loss and even destructive physical damage that could kill the HDD outright. SSDs have no moving parts so, while they hold the risk of a potentially shorter life span, they can survive the rigors we impose upon our portable devices and laptops.

Another thing to be mindful of is the form factor of these devices. HDDs are almost always a 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch disk, while SSDs are spreading out into a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common is still the 2.5-inch drive, a slim plastic board with two plugs on one side. Newer desktops are fitted with a place to mount these specific drives, but they can also be mounted into the 3.5-inch brackets with an adapter. While there are SSDs that mount into the PCIe slot of a computer, many are now compatible with the relatively new designation of an M.2 slot, as we call it. This thin port, found on the motherboard, allows placement of the drive without cables, and enables extremely high transfer speeds.

Next, we’ll look at how the two drive types compare in pricing.

As alluded to in the previous sections, SSDs are generally more expensive, and higher-end devices have less storage than HDDs.

While you’re paying higher prices for less memory with an SSD, you’re investing in a faster, more efficient, and far more durable data storage overall. If you’re building a system with speed, power needs, or portability in mind, than an SSD is going to be the better choice. In most desktops, adding another hard drive is easy and cheap, so it’s a good upgrade down the road if you need more storage space. Having a separate data drive also allows you to update or reinstall your operating system with minimal effort.

Additionally, there is also the choice of using a drive as an external storage device. There are drives manufactured specifically as external storage devices; however, virtually any drive that can be mounted in a PC can be inserted into an external housing kit and connected to a PC via USB. The device will function as a drive- normally would, but can be carried with you, so you can access your stored files with any PC or laptop. If replacing an old drive with a new one and you want to retain access to your files saved on the old drive, this is a great solution as it´s simple and cheap to implement.

Last but not least, there is a link included below to see a basic demonstration of the differences in performance between an HDD and SSD.