Over the last few years, anyone looking to upgrade their computer, or even buy a new laptop, has been faced with the conundrum of SSD vs HDD.
SD vs HDD translates as “deciding which type of computer storage best suits your needs”. With a variety of choices regarding size, speed, format and capacity, the question of SSD or HDD storage is something you will undoubtedly encounter when it comes to a new machine or an upgrade. But which should you choose and why?
Although SSD (Solid State Drives) and HDD (Hard Disk Drives) are both popular forms of computer storage, the two work in very different ways – and utilise different storage formats. SSD vs HDD? Can’t decide? Let’s start with the basics…
SSD vs HDD: How do they differ?
As the name suggests, a hard disk drive is a storage device that contains a disk. Hard disk drives use rotating disc-shaped media known as ‘platters’. Your data is written on the surface of the platter, storing it as files, pictures and videos.
HDDs use magnetism to store data on the disk. A read-write head hovers above the spinning platter, magnetically reading or writing the new data.
The faster the disk spins, the quicker a HDD can perform. Speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM) and disks with a higher RPM are better suited to quicker writing tasks, like in gaming rigs or servers.
HDDs are classed as ‘non-volatile’ storage as the information is magnetically written to the disk in a semi-permanent way and is not lost when the power is taken away. This makes it particularly advantageous as a back-up media in the event that power is lost to a storage device.
Hard disk drive storage is, by far, the older of the two technologies, coming into existence around the mid-50s. From then, the technology has naturally advanced and HDDs are now found in almost every computer, server and large laptop. HDDs are currently still the cheapest way to buy larger amounts of storage.
Advantages: Capacity, easy large file transfer.
Disadvantages: Susceptible to impact damage and magnetism, larger size (form factor), can overheat, slower than SSD.
SSD is the next stage in the evolution of computer storage. Solid State Drives do not use moving parts – instead they use flash memory, which is created by an array of semiconductors joined using integrated circuits (ICs).
Because new data doesn’t need to be physically written to a disk, the flash memory involved in SDD is far quicker to read and write than for an HDD.
An SSD has access speeds which are between 35 to 100 microseconds – almost 100 times faster than an HDD. This quicker access speed allows software and programs to run much faster, as information can be ferried to and from the drive quickly. This is important for programs which need rapid access to large amounts of data (such as operating systems, or high-intensity editing suites).
SSDs use the same memory format as RAM or flash memory, but are usually far larger in terms of capacity. Because an SSD doesn’t need to house a physical disk, SSD units are almost always smaller than traditional HDDs, which makes them ideal for small form factor computers or laptops.
As there are no moving parts, SSDs tend to use less power than their disk-based counterparts and they create almost no noise. The lack of internal movement also means they are less susceptible to overheating and they’re not affected by strong magnetism.
Advantages: Form factor (size); speed; shock resistance.
Disadvantages: Cost; lower capacity; vulnerable to power loss.
So… SSD vs HDD? Well, both HDD and SSD have their own advantages. Many PC builders choose to work with dual storage systems which harness the power of both.
SSD can be used to house the quick access files (such as an operating system or high-intensity programs) in order to keep your computer running at top speed. This then leaves the archived data (which can take up terabytes of space – pictures, movies or document files) to be held on the far cheaper HDD. Dual use provides the best of both worlds!