The Fast and the Fragmented: A Hard Drive Debate 

When computer shopping, a decision often overlooked relates to the type of hard drive needed. In the past, the only distinction you needed to know was bigger is better. Because the hard drive is the reading mechanism, as well as stores all data, this part of the computer has become, well, a big deal.  Current options include hard disk drives (HDD), solid-state drives (SSD) or hybrid drives. Read further to identify not only the difference between these three choices, but also what could be characterized as the most suitable drive for you.

 

Hard Disk Drive (HDD):

Think of a hard drive as a book that contains all the information on your computer. In a book, this information is easily accessible by simply flipping through the pages. To access data from the small metal disk that makes up the HDD, a spinning mechanical arm retrieves your electronic information. Since drives like these have moving mechanical parts, they can be less physically durable. When properly cared for though, they typically have a long useful life.

HDDs do have some negatives. During its processing operation, large chunks of information can be placed out of order, especially when this data is frequently accessed, creating fragmented data. As a result, fragmented data slows the processing speed as it takes longer to “read” or locate information on the disk. The upside to owning or purchasing an HDD is the lower cost. Because they are considered a more senior technology, these disks typically sell for less. Considering that slower processing power can be critical when working with deadlines, though, the HDD may not be the correct choice of hard drive for you.

 

Solid-State Drives:

Solid-state drives are a newer competitor of HDDs and they bring their own set of pros and cons to the world of technology. The SSD is made up of a single magnetized computer chip. Using the previous comparison of an HDD and a book that requires many pages, an SSD differs because the information, beginning to end, is stored on what one could consider a giant sheet of paper. The lack of moving parts means the SSD is much more durable than an HDD. In addition, the information is available almost instantaneously, meaning the processing speed is lightning quick compared to the older technology of an HDD. Because an SSD does not fragment data, accessing data is up to five times faster than a traditional HDD. Since the entire device is used, however, it will wear out more quickly than an HDD, at least with the SSDs currently on the market. SSDs are also more expensive and tend to hold less information. They can come in a variety of shapes and forms, as well, making the utilization of these tiny tools an equal act of creativity and technical knowledge.

 

Hybrid Drives:

As a possible happy medium, you may want to consider purchasing a Hybrid drive. Hybrid drives combine the technology of both of its competitors, blending HDD capacity with SSD speeds. Frequently used files are stored on the flash memory, making these files (but not all files) quicker to retrieve. Using rotating platters like an HDD lessen the cost of this hard drive type but also leave it more vulnerable to failure. On the other hand, using this technology also helps keep the hybrid drive cost down.

There are pluses and minuses for each of these drive types. The table below identifies features and functionality to consider when making your purchase.

Hard Disk Drive Solid State Drive Hybrid Drive
Lasts longer Wears out faster Combination of both positive and negative traits
Less durable Faster (5x)
Slower More physically durable
Fragments data Faster response time
More storage No risk of fragmentation
Cheaper Less storage
Standardized shape/form More expensive
More varied shapes/forms

So, which one is the best for you? The answer to this depends very much on your technology habits. If you simply use your computer for checking emails and writing papers, an HDD should be fine for your purposes. However, if your computer needs to focus more on running programs like Adobe Suite and CAD software, an SSD would vastly improve the speed at which the programs can run. Keep in mind the way you handle your machine as well; if you tend to be rough and tumble with your laptop, an SSD may provide you with extra security while on the go. Price point is also critical to consider. Many on a budget should lean more towards the cheaper HDDs, providing you more storage per dollar. As with anything, however, it will depend on the research and review of information that you, the consumer, put into this very important purchase.

 

Author: Jacob Hill and Aaron Alter, User Services

 

References

Martindale, Jon. “In The Battle of SSD vs. HDD Storage, the Winner is Clear.” Digital Trends, 20 Oct. 2017, www.digitaltrends.com/computing/solid-state-drives-vs-hard-disk-drives/.

Domingo, Joel Santo. “SSD vs. HDD: What’s the Difference?” PC Mag, 9 June 2017, www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404258,00.asp.

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