When it comes to purchasing a storage device for your laptop, notebook, or PC, there are really only two options: You can opt for a Solid State Drive (SSD) or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD).
By now, you’re probably familiar with the tried-and-true HDD, but you might not know what an SSD is, or what distinguishes one type of drive from the other.
In order to make an informed decision, you should have a fundamental grasp of the differences between each drive and how they can benefit your setup.
While both drives have definite advantages and disadvantages, with a little direction, you can likely determine which one will best suit your needs.
To get you to up to speed, we tackle all you need to know below.
Table of Contents:
- What’s the Difference Between an SSD and HDD?
- Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
- How to Determine Which Drive is Right for You
What’s the Difference Between an SSD and HDD?
If you’re completely out of the loop when it comes to storage technology (don’t worry; we’ve all been there), then you probably think both types of drives do the exact same thing:
They just store away your computer’s files for safe keeping.
That’s it, right?
In the most basic sense, yes.
SSDs and HDDs are devices that connect to the motherboard of your PC, laptop, or desktop, storing everything from your Operating System to your documents, programs, preferences, pictures, videos, and more.
But the main underlying differences between the two drives are their physical components, which rely on two completely different types of technologies resulting in different levels of performance and functionality for end users like yourself.
So, what are these technologies, and what exactly can they do for you? Let’s find out.
Understanding How HDDs Work
HDDs are purely mechanical drives that use magnetic spinning hard disks — or platters — to store your data.
Hovering above the platters is the read/write head, a mechanical arm which reads (loads) and writes (saves) data stored on the platters.
In order for HDDs to reach their operating speed, the spinning platters must reach between 5,700 – 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM), which can take awhile depending on your drive.
For this reason, HDDs are the slower of the two drives.
Understanding How SSDs Work
SSDs use a completely different type of technology called NAND Flash Memory, which relies on tiny flash cells to store your data.
Because there are no physical moving parts in an SSD, they are considerably faster than HDDs.
SSDs also have another singular function: they increase the data transfer rate — also known as the read/write speed — of your computer.
So what does that mean exactly?
Would you like to know more about SSDs? Check out our comprehensive SSD guide to learn more about what they are and how they can benefit your computer setup!
High transfer speeds (usually around 550/500MB/s Read/Write) will dramatically decrease boot and load times while increasing responsiveness and overall performance.
Your most demanding applications — think music and editing software, PC games, or any resource intensive application (like scientific computing, digital animation, or design engineering) — will operate seamlessly.
So, which drive is right for you?
Let’s discuss some advantages and disadvantages to find out.
Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
To see how these drives compare, check out our chart below:
So, we’ve compared the two hard drives.
Generally, SSDs are considered the superior drive in departments like speed, responsiveness, and performance, but HDDs offer higher storage capacities at a much cheaper rate.
Now that we know in what areas each drive excels, it’s time to determine which one will benefit you the most.
How to Determine Which Drive is Right For You
While there are already some great hard drive buyer’s guides out there to help end users like yourself, purchasing the perfect device for you can still be a daunting task.
To help you out, we’ve included several use cases below that you can probably relate to. This way, you can make an informed decision that caters to both your budget and your needs:
I only use my home computer
The Gamer: You probably own a customized PC and enjoy playing demanding games. In this case, an internal storage SATA III SSD with around 240 GB would do the trick. A drive with this speed and capacity would immensely improve your gaming experience.
A lot of heavy gamers might prefer to store intensive game files on their HDD, while utilizing the fast transfer speeds of their SSD to do the heavy lifting required by gameplay.
The Home System User: Do you just want a place to store all of your photos, videos, and other miscellaneous files?
If this is you, then investing in a heavy duty SSD won’t be necessary. You should instead opt for an external HDD with plenty of space, preferably around one to two Terabytes.
I’m always on the go
The Freelancer: You like to — or must — take your work with you. For portability reasons, you definitely need an SSD that can power your computer and hold your valuable files in any setting.
For this, we recommend a 480GB portable SSD. A drive of this caliber isn’t terribly expensive and it provides the power you need to run your most demanding applications wherever you may be.
The Commuter: If you prefer to take advantage of the gaps in your day to get some serious work done, then you need a drive that is both compact, lightweight, resilient, and powerful.
M.2 SSD drives are designed with form factor in mind, so they can fit in the thinnest ultra-books and laptops. For a drive that can really handle all the heavy lifting, we recommend a 6GB/s M.2 SATA III SSD.
The Traveler: You’re the type that can’t sit in one place for too long. Because you’re out and about, you need a storage device you can trust — one that’s durable, efficient, and reliable. In this case, you should consider a 1TB external HDD that can take a beating.
Picking a hard drive for your computer is an exciting investment. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with the tools to determine what type of drive is best for you.