Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Here’s the thing. Choosing the right storage isn’t just about comparing capacity and cost. The type of storage your computer uses also matters for performance, including power usage and reliability. Solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) are the two main storage options to consider and it’s important to know the best use for each and how they compare side by side.
But first, what is an HDD and what is an SSD?
What is an HDD?
An HDD is a data storage device that lives inside the computer. If you have a desktop PC, it will most likely have a traditional hard disk drive, on which the operating system, along with any applications you install, and your files and folders, are stored.
A traditional hard drive contains a circular disc – known as a platter – that stores your data. The disc spins, allowing the read-write arm to read data on the disc (or write data to it) as it passes. It is similar to how a turntable record player works, with an LP record (hard disk) and a needle on an arm (transducers). The arm moves the heads across the surface of the disk to access different data.
What is an SSD?
A solid state drive (SSD) is newer storage technology, but it’s still been around for a while now, and if you have a modern laptop, it’s likely that it uses an SSD.
As the name suggests, an SSD – unlike a traditional hard drive – has no moving parts. Instead, it uses NAND flash memory. In an SSD, all data is stored in integrated circuits. This difference from HDDs has a lot of implications, especially in size and performance. Without the need for a spinning disk, SSDs can go down to the shape and size of a stick of gum (what’s known as the M.2 form factor) or even as small as a postage stamp. Their capacity—or how much data they can hold—varies, making them flexible for smaller devices, such as slim laptops, convertibles, or 2 in 1s. And SSDs dramatically reduce access time since users don’t have to wait for platter rotation to start up.
So why SSDs over HDDs?
SSDs have faster speeds than HDDs
This is where SSDs shine. An SSD-equipped PC will boot and load in far less than a minute, often in just seconds. In contrast, a hard drive requires time to speed up to operating specs, and it will continue to be slower than an SSD during normal use. A PC or Mac with an SSD boots faster, launches and runs apps faster, transfers files faster, and processes things significantly faster. Whether you’re using your computer for fun, school, or business, the extra speed may be the difference between finishing on time and being late.
SSDs are more reliable and durable than HDDs
If you’re rough on your equipment, an SSD is recommended. An SSD has no moving parts, so it is more likely to keep your data safe in the event you drop your laptop bag or your system gets shaken while it’s operating, hence it is more reliable and durable!
In contrast, HDD mechanical parts and drive surfaces are more susceptible to environmental damage. This is because most hard drives park their read/write heads when the system is off, but when they are working, the heads are flying over the drive platter at a distance of a few nanometers.
Furthermore, SSDs durability is growing thanks to storage intelligence added to the controller. These technologies protect the SSD against data leakage or corruption, and include error-correcting code (ECC), garbage collection, and read and write caching.
SSDs are quieter than HDDs
Even the quietest hard drive will emit a bit of noise when it is in use. (The drive platters spin and the read arm ticks back and forth.) Faster hard drives will tend to make more noise than those that are slower. However, SSDs make no noise at all; they’re non-mechanical.
SSDs uses less power than HDDs
An SSD doesn’t have to expend electricity spinning up a platter from a standstill. Consequently, none of the energy consumed by the SSD is wasted as friction or noise, rendering them more efficient. On a desktop or in a server, that will lead to a lower energy bill. On a laptop or tablet, you’ll be able to eke out more minutes (or hours) of battery life.
In contrast, HDDs moving mechanical parts need more energy than the tiny amounts of electrical current shuttling through SSD memory cells. SSDs also avoid the high heat build-up that hundreds of spinning disks generate in a data center, which requires a large investment in HVACs and climate control.
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