SSD vs HDD: Which one should you choose?

While both SSDs and HDDs refer to storing data inside a computer, they do so in different ways.

Hard Drives (HDD) have been around for at least fifty years. They have been the standard option for data storage until Solid State Drives (SSD) arrived to the market.

How do they work?

HDDs are composed of multiple magnetic rotating platters, serviced by an arm that writes and reads data.

Each of these platters, or “disks”, is organized in tracks, very much like the tracks on a CD. As the disks spin (typically between 4200 and 7200rpm) the arm can perform the data operations required.

SSDs are based on the principles of flash drives: they record charges (or lack thereof) in a series of grids, which are further organized into blocks and pages.

The SSD controller converts your documents and files into a series of electrical charges and stores them in an address. When you need to access that data the controller reads the charges at the specified address, and retrieves the data required.

Because of these technical differences, SDDs and HDDs differ in five different aspects: cost, speed, durability, maximum capacity and energy consumption.

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Cost

HDDs have been around for longer. It is a reliable technology being produced in large quantities, which means that you will be able to get more storage space for less.

SSD is a newer technology, being continuously improved upon, and the production numbers are not as high as HDDs. This means that getting an SSD with a lot of storage is going to cost more.

Speed

The access of information inside a HDD depends on the rotation speed of the disks. The faster they rotate, the faster they can show the servo the sectors where the data is.

An SSD is not affected by this problem. It can simply read the electrical charge at an address and retrieve the information, making them much faster.

Durability

HDDs have more mechanical parts, which means that they are more prone to stop working when impact is suffered. Laptop hard drives are especially vulnerable to this.

SSDs are lightweight and are not as mechanically susceptible to impacts or drops, making them more durable.

Maximum capacity

Though SSD storage has been catching up over the last few years (current maximum storage 4TB), HDDs still have the largest disks available (10TB).

Energy consumption

The energy required to keep the disk spinning on HDDs is high, making them much more power hungry when compared to SSDs.

In general, a higher energy consumption means more heat being produced and more draw on the power supply unit of your computer, which may slow down other components.

So, which one should I choose?

If you value a computer that can boot, load applications and load games faster, then an SSD will be the best choice.

If you have lots of large files to store and don’t mind waiting a couple more seconds, then a HDD will serve you very well.

Or, if you have a desktop computer, you can get the best of both worlds: install your operating system of choice in a SSD to enjoy the speed and also install an HDD to keep your large files.

Photo by Patrick Lindenberg on Unsplash.

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