Choosing the Right Storage: HDD or. SSD disk and Other Factors to Consider – Get expert guidance on selecting the right hard disk or SSD disk for your needs. Learn about key factors beyond capacity that can impact your computer’s performance and user experience.
External or internal hard disk?
There are several key differences between internal and external storage drives. Internal drives, which connect through internal buses like SATA, PCI Express, or PATA. Internal drives offer high data transfer speeds and greater storage capacity options, making them ideal for tasks that require high-speed data access, such as gaming, video editing, and other heavy-duty applications.
In contrast, external hard drives are considered computer accessories and connect through external buses, with USB being the most common interface used today. However, due to the limitations of lower bandwidth with an external connection, using an external drive as primary data storage while working with a PC may not be optimal. Additionally, external drives may not offer the same level of performance as internal drives
HDD is a cheaper solution
HDDs, or traditional hard drives, have been around for over 60 years and are still used today. Their basic concept remains the same, which is based on the cooperation of several moving parts, including disks and read-write heads. The disks are made of magnetically sensitive material and rotate during operation, with a standard speed of 7,200 rounds per minute.
However, there are also variations in speed, with hard drives designed for laptops having a standard speed of 5,400 rpm. Despite being reliable and cost-effective, HDDs have several drawbacks, including slower data transfer speeds, greater power consumption, and higher heat generation compared to SSDs.
In addition to speed, there are several other factors that can impact the performance of HDDs. The faster the access time, the quicker the drive can respond to data requests. Another factor is seek time, which measures the time it takes for the read-write head to find a specific piece of data on the disk. Additionally, the interface used to connect the HDD to the computer can also impact performance.
The biggest advantage of HDDs is their price, specifically the low cost per GB, which makes them ideal for large data repositories. Despite undoubtedly lower speeds, they maintain their place in computer systems as data carriers in external disks, cheap storage for work data in personal computers, or backup units.
When it comes to HDD manufacturers, the options are relatively limited. The main players are Western Digital and Seagate, which share 80-90% of the market for disk drives. Smaller manufacturers divide the remaining percentages among themselves, with Toshiba having the largest share.
SSD is a faster solution
And with this technology comes a higher price tag. SSD drives are currently the most advanced and expensive option for data storage. Their sophistication lies in a completely different approach to storing information, utilizing NAND Flash memory instead of rotating disks.
This results in high durability against physical manipulation, low power consumption and heat generation, and incredibly fast data transfer speeds. Standard SSDs are typically manufactured in the 2.5″ form factor, commonly used in smaller HDDs designed for laptops. However, the M.2 format is quickly taking over the market, offering new connection options and even faster speeds.
The speed of SSD drives is so high that limitations have shifted from the storage itself to the interface. SSDs saw their biggest boom during the reign of SATA III. This interface has a data throughput of 6 Gb/s, which is approximately 600 MB/s. Such a speed is well above the capabilities of mechanical HDDs, but it is no longer sufficient for SSD drives.
The M.2 form factor has revolutionized SSD connectivity, offering a faster solution with higher potential data transfer speeds of up to 4 GB/s via the PCI Express bus. However, it’s important to note that not all M.2 SSDs offer such high speeds. While the original use of the M.2 slot was intended for SATA SSDs, many M.2 SSDs still use the SATA interface and are limited to transfer speeds of 600 MB/s.
NVMe: To allow fast SSD disk to demonstrate its potential
With the advent of technology came a new communication interface called NVMe, specifically designed for SSDs connected to M.2 slots. NVMe fully utilizes the PCI Express bus, allowing NVMe SSDs to achieve much higher speeds. SATA M.2 drives can be distinguished from NVMe drives by looking at the connector.
While SATA drives have two notches, NVMe drives have only one, which means some degree of compatibility. It is important to check which type of M.2 slot your motherboard has, and whether it is NVMe compatible. In any case, it is important to check compatibility in advance and verify that the motherboard has the correct interface.
When it comes to M.2 SSDs, it’s important to understand that they come in different sizes, which can be easily identified by specific codes or data. It’s worth noting that some motherboards may only have mounting positions for certain lengths, so it’s important to double-check before purchasing.
Relevant indicators when choosing an SSD disk
The speed of SSDs is measured in two basic units. The first is megabytes per second (MB/s), and the second is the number of input/output operations per second (IOPS). Both values are given for read and write operations, with read speeds usually being higher. MB/s is probably the most relevant information when comparing the speed of SSDs intended for personal computers, while IOPS is relevant especially in server deployments.
When it comes to M.2 SSDs, it’s important to keep in mind that they come in various sizes, which can be easily identified by specific codes or data. The coding system is quite simple, with the first two digits representing the width of the drive and the second two indicating its length.
The market for SSDs is somewhat more diverse than that for HDDs. The leader in this segment is Samsung with nearly 40% market share, followed by Western Digital, Intel, Toshiba, Kingston, and others.
And what is SSHD?
SSHD (or hybrid drive) is, simply put, a combination of a hard drive and an SSD acting as an accelerator unit. Frequently used data are automatically loaded into the SSD section, which is then available for much faster reading.
However, the SSD portion cannot be organized in any way and does not replace a separate disk unit. In terms of speed, it is a compromise between an SSD and a traditional hard drive. SSHDs can offer a certain increase in speed, but due to the automatic placement of data on the SSD portion, it may not be as noticeable and won’t instantly speed up your favorite applications.
One example of use could be in a laptop where there is only one slot for a 2.5″ hard drive and the user requires a high-capacity storage with the highest possible speed but does not have a sufficient budget to purchase a full-fledged SSD. Seagate is currently the only manufacturer offering SSHD disks.
Hard disk for a laptop
If your old hard drive in the laptop has failed, you will probably want a new one. Choosing a hard drive for a laptop is similar to choosing a hard drive for a desktop computer. The only significant difference is the size. The standard position for a disk drive in a laptop is built for the 2.5″ form factor.
You should be mindful when choosing an HDD or SSHD, which are also available in the 3.5″ size, particularly if you’re building a rig with a country twist. All the regular SATA SSD 2.5″ form factors satisfy this condition. M.2 SSD drives can also be installed in laptops, but the machine must have such a slot, so it’s best to check ahead of time.
What to look for in external hard disk
The selection of an external hard drive is also quite simple. In addition to technical parameters, the appearance and added values such as increased durability also come into play in this selection.
However, functionality should remain a top priority, so it is necessary to decide at the beginning whether to buy an external HDD or an external SSD. HDD appears to be a better solution for backups and storing rarely used data. On the other hand, SSD is more suitable for everyday intensive use. HDD has an undisputed advantage in price.
When making a decision, it’s important to consider if you’ll really benefit from SSD advantages. If you’re only using the external drive for backups and occasional data transfers, an HDD will do the job for you.
But if you’re a frequent user dealing with large amounts of important data (like a photographer or video producer), you’ll appreciate the speed and resilience of an external SSD. Take into account your specific needs and workload before choosing.
Another important factor in choosing an external storage device is its connection interface. The most common interface currently is USB, so we recommend limiting yourself to external drives with this connector. In terms of transfer speed, choose models only with USB 3.0 or newer.
What hard disk should you choose then?
You now know the differences between different types of disks and their connections, so choosing the right storage should no longer be a problem for you. However, we can provide you with a few proven tips.
SSDs are worth it despite their higher price per GB, both for desktops and laptops. The improved system and application response justifies the price. In the case of using SSD as the only disk, we recommend a minimum capacity of 240 GB. For laptops, it is necessary to check if your model supports disk replacement, while for desktops, it should not be a problem as standard SATA SSDs should be supported by all basic motherboards. Those who crave high performance can also explore faster M.2 SSDs with NVMe support.
A very common solution is to combine an SSD as the primary disk with the operating system and the most frequently used software, and an HDD as a storage for data and less used programs and games in personal computers. In such a combination, we recommend at least a 120GB SSD, ideally 240GB or larger, and a 1-2TB hard disk.