Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) have covered a tremendously long journey from supercomputers to laptops. Although there are advanced data storage methods like SSDs, the former is still widely used in today’s computing world. HDDs are faster than tape drives, a capability that led many companies to incorporate this storage technology several decades ago. The world’s first commercial hard disk drive was invented and patented in 1956 by IBM.
What is an HDD?
An HDD or Hard Disk Drive is a component used to store and retrieve information on a computer or similar devices. They have magnetic disks inside, which is where the data is stored using a magnetic head. Both the magnetic head and metal platter are moving components. These parts differentiate an HDD from a solid-state drive or SSD, which uses non-moving connected flash memories to store and retrieve data.
These features of HDDs make them perfect for stationary computers or servers. If you are confused, here are some noteworthy facts about the advantages and disadvantages of HDD for business or personal use.
Here is a video showing what is inside an HDD. If you are interested, have a closer look –
Advantages of HDD
This form of data storage device uses magnetic recording to keep and retrieve data. SDDs, on the other hand, are becoming more popular in mobile computers where portability and form factor are important factors. Yet, hard disk drives give tough competition to SSDs in many forms. Here are some compelling benefits of HDD compared to SSDs and other storage technologies.
1. Better Data Retention
They have a higher storage capacity than other types of computer memory. Also, HDDs are more reliable than SSDs because there are no read/write limits, which means fewer risks of data loss over time. This perk is worth considering when you have long-term use for a laptop or desktop for data storage, whether for personal or business use.
The rotational speeds for some standard HDDs are either 5700RPM (rounds per minute) or 7200 RPM, while newer models reach 10000 RPM or more. Some manufacturers claim these new high-speed disks may be as much as 50% faster than standard ones.
2. HDDs Can Store More Data
They can save a large amount of data compared to other storage types, from around 80 GB to 12 TB. Best of all, the number is steadily growing. This depends on their design and configuration, which is an often anticipated advantage of HDD. Their storage capacity is why they were used in servers for many years before being replaced by SSDs. In modern computers, it’s possible to find hard drive capacities similar to those found in desktops.
Available HDD sizes
|HDD Capacity||Audio (number)||Pictures (number)||Videos (minutes)|
They have a higher price per GB than SSDs, but are cheaper in terms of capacity. Thus, if you need to store large amounts of data, it will be more cost-effective to go with HDDs. Well, unless your budget is very limited, and it’s not worth buying several hard disks. In some cases, you can save money using an HDD and avoid purchasing another type of storage.
SSDs with a more expensive NAND flash memory have considerably higher price ranges. SSDs use 8 – 9 bits of data per cell and, based on SATA technology, cost anywhere from 15 to 30 cents per GB. This is worth considering as the traditional HDDs still cost you around 2.5 cents per GB. This is fair when you don’t have speed concerns.
4. Longer Life Span
Compared to a solid-state drive, the longer life of an HDD, based on a greater number of read-write cycles, is evident. It’s important to note that data can only be stored and retrieved on an SDD a limited number of times because its flash memories have a limited number of reads/writes. Unlike an HDD, which needs to erase and rewrite large blocks of data at once before writing a single bit of data, an SSD must erase and rewrite huge swaths of data in succession. Read-write cycles shorten the lifespan of flash memories.
5. HDDs are portable
HDD has made the storage and transfer of data much easier. Before HDD, the only source of storage was either CDs, DVDs, or native storage on the computer. But an HDD is not only compact, but also portable. Hence, making the transfer of data easier. Being portable has a lot of merits as one can lend the HDD in need. Or, one can store the data and travel with it without carrying any laptop. Even smartphones now support HDD. Thus, the feature of being portable is much more desirable.
6. Compatible with Legacy systems
Hard disk drives are compatible with legacy systems which is not the case with Solid State Drives. No matter how old is your computer, as long as it has the ability to connect to SATA, you can connect an HDD to it. This can be extremely useful for retrieving data from old hard drives or to continue using a memorable device gifted by your parents.
Disadvantages of HDD
With advancing technology, competitive storage methods are improving in terms of cost and lifespan. These factors are enough to consider the downsides of HDD and how they compare to other storage media. Following are some crucial reasons why modern computing systems prefer not to use hard disk drives.
Compared to SSDs, HDDs are slower in terms of access time (SSD vs HDD). They have moving parts that make them sluggish because the head must seek over the surface to read or write data. The slow speed is not as noticeable for large files. However, it can be pronounced when reading a collection of small files, especially when they are fragmented across different areas of the hard disk’s plate. This means that you will need a defragmentation tool. HDDs are the prime reason for boot delay and poor performance on desktops, servers, and laptops alike.
2. Consume More Power
A hard disk drive consumes more electricity than a solid-state drive. The moving parts of an HDD, particularly the magnetic head and rotating metallic platter, require more power input to function. Besides size, this limitation is another reason why HDD is unsuitable for mobile devices.
Heavy mechanisms and operations often make HDDs need more power, resulting in battery loss. As a result, manufacturers are putting SSDs into portable computers and other mobile devices. They can enhance energy efficiency and extend battery life.
HDDs are much noisier compared with SSDs because of the moving pieces. During operation, the movement of the metallic platter and the back-and-forth motion of the magnetic head produces mechanical noises and subtle vibrations. This can be heard when booting a computer or writing and reading a lot of data.
The noise is why many companies don’t make external hard drives. This disadvantage does not apply to internal HDDs, where there would be more space for better insulation. An SSD, on the other hand, makes no mechanical sound. This factor truly comes into play when working or studying in a quiet environment.
4. Vulnerable to Damage
Hard drives consist of delicate components which can be damaged by exposure to magnetic fields, temperature, and humidity. The danger of humidity and minor shocks is why users must be careful while handling computers with a hard disk inside.
There’s also the danger of falls and mishandling that threatens to damage the mechanical components of an HDD, particularly the spinning disk and magnetic head. In contrast, an SSD has no moving parts and is, therefore, more durable and appropriate for computers and other mobile devices. We mentioned this in the advantages and disadvantages of SSD article.
5. Larger Size
The larger the drive is, the more inconvenient it is to carry. HDDs have a large and heavy metallic case containing magnetic plates, a motor, and other mechanical parts to enable reading and writing data on the spinning disk. Disks can be stored in protective cases or racks that fit into computers’ hard disks bays inside PC enclosures, and slid into bays with the labels facing up. Disks may also be removed from enclosures and racks by pressing the release button on their rear or front panels. However, this might accidentally damage disks’ magnetic surfaces.
6. Needs regular backup
Being vulnerable to damage, the HDD requires regular backup to keep the data thereon safe. But it is not only bothersome and time-consuming, but also costly. If damaged, the data can get lost. While data recovery is possible, it also requires money. Hence, the only recourse is to back up data to various places regularly.
7. Susceptible to Fragmentation
While reading and writing a lot of data, HDDs can be subject to fragmentation. It occurs when files are stored in non-contiguous sectors on the disk. When this happens, the magnetic head has to move around a lot to find data fragmented all over the disk. In order to fix this issue, regular defragmentation will be necessary. Or else, your system will start getting slower over time.