Choosing the right storage isn’t just about comparing capacity and cost. The type of storage your computer uses 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.
What is HDD Storage Device?
An HDD is a data storage device that lives inside the computer. It has spinning disks inside where data is stored magnetically. The HDD has an arm with several “heads” (transducers) that read and write data on the disk. 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.
HDDs are considered a legacy technology, meaning they’ve been around longer than SSDs. In general, they are lower in cost and are practical for storing years of photos and videos or business files. They are available in two common form factors: 2.5 inch (commonly used in laptops) and 3.5 inch (desktop computers).
What is SSD Storage Device?
SSDs got their name—solid state—because they have no moving parts. 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.
SSDs are more expensive than HDDs per amount of storage (in gigabytes, or GB, and terabytes, or TB), but the gap is closing as SSD prices begin to drop.
SSD vs. HDD: Speed
What makes SSDs an increasingly popular choice is their speed. Across the board, SSDs outpace HDDs because they use electrical circuitry and have no physical moving parts. This leads to shorter wait times when you’re starting up and fewer delays when opening apps or doing heavy computing tasks. A typical SSD from Intel with a middle-of-the-road 512 GB capacity (Intel® SSD 760p Series) offers up to 10x faster read speeds and up to 20x faster write speeds than a midrange HDD (such as Seagate 2 TB Barracuda* 5400 RPM 128 MB Cache SATA* 6.0 Gb/s 2.5″ laptop internal hard drive ST2000LM015), which only offers data transfer speeds of up to 140 MB/s.
These faster speeds lead to performance benefits in several areas, such as when logging in and waiting for apps and services to start up, or when performing storage-intensive tasks such as copying a large file. With an HDD, performance slows significantly, while an SSD can continue to work on other tasks.
Speed is also influenced by the interface used in an SSD vs. hard drive that connects to the rest of the computer system when transferring data back and forth. You might have heard of these interfaces—SATA and PCI Express* (PCIe*). SATA is an older, slower, legacy technology, while PCIe is newer and faster. SSDs with PCIe* interfaces will typically be much, much faster than HDDs with SATA.
Although no one ever complains that their computer is too fast, there are times when an HDD can make sense. If you have terabytes of files that you want to store, HDDs are still a less expensive option, although that’s changing with increasingly lower SSD prices. Computer storage decisions can be simplified by thinking of data as either cold or hot. “Cold” data might include the years of photos you want to keep on your laptop but don’t look at every day and don’t need quick access to. HDDs can be an excellent, cost-effective choice for cold data. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a business running real-time transactions, editing videos and photos and need fast access to database files, video clips, or models, or even just running the operating system, that’s what we refer to as “hot” data. The fast performance of SSDs makes them an ideal choice for those efforts where speedy access to your data is what matters most.
Head-to-head comparison: SSD vs. HDD
When it comes to capacity, SSDs for computers are available in 120 GB to 4 TB capacities, whereas HDDs can go anywhere from 250 GB to 14 TB. When measuring cost per capacity, HDDs come out on top, but as SSDs drop in price, this will become less of a differentiator for HDDs.
Reliability is defined as whether data is stored as intended, in an uncorrupted state. SSDs in general are more reliable than HDDs, which again is a function of having no moving parts. That’s because without movement, SSDs aren’t affected by vibration or related thermal issues.
SSDs commonly use less power and result in longer battery life because data access is much faster and the device is idle more often. With their spinning disks, HDDs require more power when they start up than SSDs.
The gaming experience: SSD vs. HDD
Gamers need a computer drive that accesses data quickly, which makes SSDs optimal for the best gaming experience. Video games contain enormous amounts of assets, such as high-resolution textures, models, audio, and more—up to 100 GB of data, in some cases. These requirements make speed and capacity paramount. A game that that takes two to three minutes to load on an HDD takes well under a minute on an SSD. And the initial load is not the only time a game needs to access stored data. Data is needed whenever the player enters a new level, scene, or mission. Long load times can disrupt the game and fast load times protect the sense of immersion that you want when in the middle of your game. If you need help choosing the right SSD for your gaming needs, read about the best SSD for gaming.
Data is the center of so much that we do. When choosing between an SSD or an HDD, there are numerous considerations beyond storage capacity and cost. Reliability, speed, noise, and power usage all come into play, affecting your overall experience. When you identify the type of data that you are working with and how and when you need to access it, you can compare a solid state drive vs. hard drive to find the solution that’s right for you.
Advantages of HDD
A traditional hard drive tends to be less in price than a Solid state drive of the same capacity. On overall a system that contains the hard disk drive as the storage device will not be costly. The reason behind this is because the production cost for a HDD is significantly lower. Moreover this is also the cheapest option if you are looking for an external hard drive.
2. Storage capacity
In terms of storage capacity there are various larger options available for a user in HDD. And also the base capacity of a HDD is usually higher than a SSD. Despite of various storage capacity options, the standard capacity that most users prefer has found to be 500GB. Furthermore nowadays external hard drives with 6TB of storage space is relatively easy to find in the market.
Both the internal and external hard drives are relatively abundant in the market. For the users who are looking to upgrade their PC or build a new system can easily find a hard disk drive. Meanwhile purchasing a Solid state drive can be a harder task because of their market demands. However due to the technology used behind the SSD is more efficient, the production of SDD has got risen. Which means that in the near future SSDs too can be found abundant in the market.
Another advantage of using a HDD is its lifespan. A SSD has finite number of read/write cycles which can be handled by the flash memories. Unlike a SSD there is no flash memories involved in HDDs. The data present on a hard disk drive is directly written on the platter disks which normally does not wear out. Hence, generally a lifespan of a HDD will be greater.
All the volatile memory devices present on your computer tends to loose its data once it is running out of power. Therefore, these types of memories can’t be used to load operating systems and launch applications. Perhaps the solution for the non-volatile memory is the hard disk drive. A hard drive uses magnetic platters disks for storing informations. These disks have the capability to retrieve the data even when there is no power.
Disadvantages of HDD
The speed of a hard drive depend upon its Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). This can be also varied according to different hard drive variants. However a traditional hard drive will perform slower compared to a flash memory basically due to its mechanical nature. And also the data present in them is fragmented. These means that computers that have installed hard drives will experience slower boot times and file transfers.
2. Form Factor
Another major disadvantage present in a hard disk drive is its large form factor. Because of the presence of mechanical parts, a hard drive cannot be manufactured smaller than a certain limit. This makes them not ideal for portable computing devices such as the laptop, tablets and the smartphones. Moreover these types of devices always prefer SSD as their storage medium.
3. Power Consumption
For writing data, HDDs constantly relies upon the rotation of platter disks and the movement of read/write head. These mechanical parts need a power input for them to function. This is one of the primary reasons why manufacturers consider SSDs if they build a computer with limited battery life.
As we all know that hard drives consists of mechanical parts. Due to the constant rotation of the platter disks and the movement of read/write head there is a distracting noise produced by the hard drive. This also contributes to vibrations. Furthermore this noise is more noticeable when the hard drive is in heavy operations like storing large files. Meanwhile a SSD essentially produces no noise at all.
5. Mechanical Failure
A hard disk drive is more vulnerable to mechanical failures since they contain moving parts. The platter disks and the read/write head present in a HDD is located in close proximity to each other. Therefore, whenever there is a drops and shudders they can scrape each other causing damages. This can result in overall device corruption. Hence, when using a hard drive it should be handled more carefully.
Advantages of SSD: Why Is a Solid State Drive Better than an HDD?
- Higher performance. Even the fastest 15K RPM hard drive cannot compete with the performance of NAND flash SSDs. NAND I/O typically achieves 1 Gb/s, while 3D NAND achieves 1.4 GB/s. Newer developments are pushing 3D NAND to 3.0 GB/s. The reason is physics: a hard drive with mechanical components that are in constant usage will break down faster than an SSD that has no mechanical parts. Instead of mechanical arms and read heads, the SSD uses electricity to generate data storage responses. Faster performance means faster boot time, faster data movement, and higher bandwidth.
- Low energy usage. 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.
- Commensurate durability. SSD and HDD durability comparisons are more complicated than they might appear. HDD mechanical parts and drive surfaces are more susceptible to environmental damage than SSDs, although new technology is shock-proofing hard drives against physical drops. And SSDs cannot be powered down for long periods of time without a leakage, but powered down HDDs can last decades in environmentally controlled environments. However, 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.
Disadvantages of SSDs: Challenges Amid the Speed
Nothing is perfect in the data storage world, and SSDs are no exception. Their disadvantages include higher expense, limited storage capacity, and a shorter delete lifecycle than hard drives.
- Higher cost. SSD dollar-per-GB prices have gone down considerably in the last several years, but so has HDD pricing. Still, flash drive costs have lowered enough so their higher performance becomes cost-effective. Performance is really the key: if HDDs are slowing down transactional databases and other intensive applications, then buying hard drives for affordability is a false economy.
- Lower data storage capacity. NAND SSD capacity lags HDDs thanks to NAND’s memory cell write limitations. The more memory cells on a circuit, the greater density the SSD will achieve. However, planar (2D) NAND can only hold a limited number of memory cells before the cells begin to fail. In response, researchers developed 3D NAND by stacking memory cells vertically as well as horizontally. This enables 3D NAND to achieve higher density, lower power consumption, better endurance, and faster reads/writes, at a lower cost per gigabyte.
- Shorter lifecycle than HDDs. SSDs have a much more limited write cycle than HDDs before failure. The primary reason is that SSDs cannot overwrite existing blocks, but must erase blocks first and then write new data. This process eventually affects the integrity of the memory cell. NAND writes differ according to the number of bits per cell: single-level cell NAND flash supports 50,000 to 100,000 write cycles, multi-level cell generally takes up to 3,000 write cycles, eMLC (enterprise MLC) sustains up to10,000 write cycles, triple-level cells are low at 300-1000 write cycles, and 3D NAND can achieve 1500-3000 write cycles.
- Poor archival media. Businesses want the ability to access, analyze, and monetize their data archives. With their limited number of write cycles, SSDs are not suitable for active archives and repeated analysis on the same data sets. Since the idea of active archives is the ability to access data at will, this overwhelms the number of write cycles that the memory cells can withstand.
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