SSD vs HDD Storage Drives: What’s the Difference?

ssd vs hdd

Which storage do you like?

Cheap and plentiful, or fast and safe?

In today’s guide, you’re going to learn everything about SSD vs HDD…

… and how to determine the right drive as your storage drive.

Let’s do this.

Until recently, I have been using solid-state drive (SSD) as the primary (C: on Windows) drive and HDD (Hard disk drive) as data storage drive in my laptop and desktop.

NOTE: Today, most systems are designed to work with an HDD or an SSD or in some cases both.

Before revealing all the differences to make an informed decision,

Let’s see what is HDD and SDD in a glance.

HDD and SSD

ssd and hdd

Hard Drives are the basic nonvolatile storage that uses spinning disks to store data, Which doesn’t let the data “go away” unlike the system memory when you turn the system off.

Let me explain…

Hard drives have metal platters with a magnetic coating where data is stored. It doesn’t matter that the data consists of weather reports, a high-definition copy of the Star Wars trilogy, digital music collection, large files and folder.

To access the stored data a read/write head on an arm is used when the platters are spinning in a hard drive enclosure.

Similarly, SSD is good at saving your data when the system is off plus booting your system.

But:

It differs when it comes to storing data. Unlike the hard drive, it uses interconnected flash memory chips where data is stored rather than the magnetic coating on the top of platters.

But that’s not all…

These chips retain data even when there’s no power present. You can permanently install these chips on the system’s motherboard in small laptops or ultrabooks, on PCI/PCIe card in the high-end workstations or in a box which is wired directly to the laptop or desktop’s hard drive.

But, SSD’s are not alone:

Thumb drives also use flash memory chips, But both the USB thumb drives and SSDs have different flash memory chips to store data and varies in type and speed of the memory.

But the truth is that flash memory in SSDs is faster and more reliable than the thumb drivers flash memory. But the cost for SSDs is higher compared with USB thumb drives.

And I’m not stopping there…

It’s important for you to know the evolution of storage drives If you really want to understand the difference between today’s modern storage drives.

Storage Drives History

MAMAC hard driveIn the beginning, hard drives were large platters assembled together to store data. We still remember the infamous IBM 350 MAMAC hard drive from 1956 was made up of fifty 24-inch-wide platters to hold only 3.57MB of storage space.

The physical space this hard drive took was of two commercial refrigerators while the storage space was worth of storing a 128Kbps PM3 file.

But that’s not all…

This storage was only limited to government and industrial users and became obsolete by 1969.

Ain’t progress wonderful?

After decades of improvement, Finally, the PC hard drive form factor became the standard in the 1980s and revolutionized the industry with the desktop-class 5.25-inch form factor, 3.5-inch desktop-class and 2.5-inch notebook-class drives.

Over the years, the improvements in internal cable interface started from Serial to IDE to SCI and finally to SATA to serve as a connection between the hard drive and PC’s motherboard for data processing.

Today, almost every hard drive comes with exclusive SATA interface either it’s 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drive.

But that’s not all…

Capacities incremented from multiple megabytes to multiple gigabytes even terabytes and today’s 3.5-inch hard disk drives max out at 10TB, with 2.5-inch drives at 3TB max.

With increased storage capacities and shrunk sizes, cost of HDD’s also reduced to an insignificant level that plenty of terabytes made available in few dollars.

Let’s see How SSD’s made their way in the list of storage drives.

SSD compared to HDD has recent history. As SSD’s are non-moving storage drives. Back in 1970 non-moving memory type called bubble memory flashing was used for personal computing but got obsolete in the 80’s.

On a side note: SSD’s use flash memory to store data, and the data retains without constant provision of power.

With the rise of netbooks( in the late 2000s), First SSD as a primary drive was introduced in 2007.

At that time, 1GB SSD was used in the OLPC X0-1 as primary storage and a 2GB SSD was used in Asus Eee PC 700 series.

The SSD chips were permanently soldered to the motherboards of these computers.

With the passage of time SSD’s standardized on the 2.5-inch notebook form factor because the ultrabooks and ultraportable laptops PCs became more capable.

With this improvement, everyone could replace the 2.5-inch hard drive with an SSD from their laptop or desktop.

Other than this form factor there are mSATA mini-PCIe SSD card, M. SSD, and the DIMM-like SSDs commonly used in the Apple MacBook Air, but the most popular form factor is 2.5-inch.

This form factor currently tops out at 4TB which is possibly going to extend in future.

Now you know how SSD’s and HDD’s work and how they evolved. Let’s see what separates both of them and which storage drive is perfect for you.

Let’s do this…

Pros and Cons: The Difference

Both of these storage drives (SSD and HDD) can do the same job. Either it’s storing your personal data, booting your system, or storing applications.

You must be wondering…

What’s the difference, and which storage to prefer over the other?

For that, We compared each type of storage with their unique features.

Let’s see each aspect step-by-step.

Price

Depending upon several factors (discussed below) HDDs are cheaper than SSDs. Generally, a 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard drive will cost you about $60 to $80, While SSD doubles that to $120 to $160.

In this way, the cost per gigabyte in HDD is 7 cents while cost per gigabyte in SSD is 14 cents. As a matter of fact, HDDs are older technologies and will remain less expensive in coming years. Those extra hundreds may push your system price over budget.

Speed

This is the bright side of SSDs. With the help of flash memory, SSDs tasks taking minutes will be done in few seconds like botting up a PC.

Hard drives have to struggle with speed as the platters cannot transmit data with the speed of flash memory. Even in a normal continuous use, the hard drive will be slower than an SSD.

An SSD delivers fast performance on PC or MAC and boots faster, launches apps faster. No one loves the lagging screen, and those looking forward to making their laptops and desktops fast will find this SSD versus HDD factor helpful.

Storage Capacities

As mentioned earlier, the maximum capacity of SSD units is 4TB which is rare and expensive. But the common capacities you can find are 500GB to 1TB drives.

In 2015 a 500GB SSD unit was considered as a base hard drive, but pricing concerns caused the replacement of 500GB unit with 128GB for lower-priced SSD-based systems.

Those dealing with multimedia need higher-speed and higher-capacity models like 1Tb to 4TB for their high-end systems.

In simple words, the higher the storage capacity the more stuff like videos, photos, music you can hold in your PCs or Macs.

Similarly, a less expensive and more secure way to share your files on your phone, tablet, and PC is a cloud (internet). This local storage is cheaper and you need to buy it once.

Fragmentation

Hard drives work best to store larger files. Their rotary recording surfaces store a file in contiguous blocks. So, the drive head can start and end by reading the file in continuous motion.

If the files are large enough to store, the data is scattered around the disk platter which is called fragmentation.

Fragmentation was used when the drive was about to fill up and after this process, reading may take longer time than usual.

Thanks to the improved read/write algorithms, the effect is minimized, but the matter of fact is that hard disk drives can be fragmented.

Can SSDs? No

Unlike HDDs, the SSDs use chips to store data rather than a physical read head. But data is stored randomly which makes them inherently faster.

Durability

SSD is a thousand times better than HDD. As there are no moving parts in SSD so they are more likely to keep your data safe in different situations like drops and shocks while it’s in your laptop bag or your system.

On the other hand, while hard drives are operating they are using moving parts like platters and read/write head. When the system is off the head is parked. During the operation, this head is flying over the drive platter at hundreds of miles an hour (you can hear while the drive working).

But there’s a problem:

These parking brakes have limited and rough use can put your data and drive in danger.

That’s why SSD is recommended.

Availability

Hard drives are more plentiful. The number of popular brands like Seagate, Toshiba, Western Digital, Samsung and Hitachi is producing HDD models except for SSDs.

For internal storage, internal HDDs will remain for the at least couple of in coming years.

You are more likely to see plenty of HDD choices coming from different manufacturers except SSDs.

SSD models are gradually increasing in number, but HDDs are still majority as primary drives in most computers.

Form Factors

An HDD consists of spinning platters so they can be minimized to a certain level. In an approach to make HDDs as small as 1.8-inch but this smaller size was stalled at about 320GB since the smartphone and phablet manufacturers moved on flash memory for primary storage.

Here’s the surprise…

SSDs can go at any desired smaller level as they do not have limitations like HDDs. Generally, they are standardized in 2.5-inch laptop drive-sized boxes so they could be replaced with same size hard drives.

If laptops become slimmer and tablets take over as primary Web-surfing platforms, the future will belong to the SSDs.

Noise

As SSDs have no moving parts ( non-mechanical ) so virtually the make no noise at all.

While hard drives have spinning drives plus the read arm moving back and forth that causes noise. You can expect some noise from the quietest HDD. Having an all-metal system where the drive is shoddily installed will cause even more noise. Either the drive is faster or slower it’s going to make noise, but faster ones are prone to make more noise.

Conclusion

If you are concerned about price, capacity and availability then HDDs are good for you. But if you are looking for high-speed, ruggedness, form factor, neglectable noise then SSDs will work best. If it weren’t for the price and capacity issues, SSDs would be the winner hands down.

SSD’s won’t be used in longer runs. As flash memory cell has a limited number of times it can be written and erased. But, today’s SSDs read/write cycles can be optimized dynamically, thanks to TRIM command technology (built-in) that comes inside SSDs.

You are more likely to discard the system for obsolescence prior to start running into problems.

The prey to these problems will be high-end multimedia users like video editors who are constantly reading and writing data. But it’s recommended for these users to get larger capacity hard drives.

Not only SSDs but HDDs will eventually wear out if used constantly because they use physical recording methods. So, longevity is a wash when it’s separated from travel and ruggedness concerns.

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