There is an ever-increasing demand for data storage, both as private citizens and large companies. With that in mind, the importance of having both HDDs (hard disk drives) and SSDs (solid-state drives) is only beginning to show. While the former is older than the latter, they both have their uses and are likely to stay in production for years if not a decade more. That makes them important enough to learn about, and make use of their features for your purposes. But who is the winner in the battle of SSD vs HDD? That depends on the judge, in this case, you, the reader, and your particular needs.
What is an SSD
SSD or Solid State Drive is a replacement for the traditional hard drives to store data. It uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data in a much faster way. There are no moving parts inside making it much more convenient to handle and store data. Just like the flash memory sticks and memory cards we are familiar with but in a larger capacity and durability.
What is an HDD
HDD or Hard Disk Drive is the traditional way of storing data. HDD consists of spinning disks where the data is written using the heads. The disks will be always rotating inside the HDD to write data to various parts making it more prone to damages when compared to SSDs. Though when handled with care, HDDs can store large amounts of data conveniently.
Difference between SSD and HDD
Let’s go through a few important factors that affect whether you’ll purchase a hard disk or a solid-state drive.
When looking for both an HDD or an SSD, you’ll often see 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch mentioned in the listing. Those refer to standardized form factors. They allow manufacturers to create drives of varying sizes that fit into the same drive slot/drive bay. The larger of the factors, 3.5-inch, is only applicable to HDDs, and those intended for full-size desktop computers. 2.5-inch HDDs are used for laptops, but can also fit into full-size computers.
This wouldn’t be smart, though. You’ll pay about 10% to 25% more for the same capacity, and you are better off getting a 3.5-inch HDD in the first place. SSDs are only manufactured with the 2.5-inch form factor and don’t have a 3.5-inch counterpart. But the way they are built, which we’ll discuss next, makes them smaller, thinner, lighter, and thus more portable.
The older of the two, HDDs, are built by stacking platters on top of each other. The platters are typically built out of aluminum, ceramic, or glass and coated with a layer of thinly spread metal. Larger and newer hard drives have more platters for increased capacity. Each platter has a separate head, and an actuator arm or an access arm moves the head as the platters spin, thus accessing the entire surface of the platter and reading or writing information on it. The platters are sensitive to dust and debris and are enclosed in a case, so you can’t see them at work. On the bottom of the hard drive, there is a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) that makes it all work.
We went into detail to show you how fragile HDDs can be. SSDs, on the other hand, do not have moving parts, and only have a PCB with chips spread out on it. They are also enclosed in a case as protection but are much less prone to electrical failure, and immune to mechanical failure. Also, the danger of physical damage is less of a worry, due to the lack of mechanical parts.
By reading about how they are built, you’d think SSDs are nearly invincible? Well, not truly. They are better off than HDDs, that’s true. Both types of drives will fail at some point, but HDDs are more likely to have a platter stop spinning, actuator arm stop reading and writing, and getting damaged in transport through vibrations. Some claim that HDDs can last approximately 7 years, but take that with a grain of salt. SSDs also have a limitation in place – a certain number of cycles the memory can be written or erased. However, that number is so enormous that it is not worth worrying about.
In both cases, the health of the drive can be closely monitored through third-party applications, and either sent for repair, data extraction, or replacement. Backing up data in regular intervals is also highly recommended, and will render your worries non-existent.
Both HDDs and SSDs are typically connected to the computer via the SATA port. They are thus bound by the port’s maximum speed of transfer. SATA II, an older standard that is almost obsolete, limited the speed to 3 Gbit/s or 375 MB/s. The standard in use nowadays is SATA III, doubling the speed to 6 Gbit/s or 750 MB/s. This is only theoretical. HDDs are most commonly sold in three variants based on the RPM or rounds per minute. Those are 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM, and 10000 RPM. The bigger the rotational speed, the faster the access to data. But, even the fastest of the three drives were barely able to satiate more than half of the SATA II transfer speeds.
SSDs on the other hand regularly achieve writing and reading speeds between 350 MB/s and 600 MB/s and are on the verge of satiating the SATA III transfer speeds. That makes copying data an easy task, and also increases the loading time of your operating system, programs, video games, and your day-to-day use a breeze.
When you put SSD vs HDD, you’ll notice the main difference, besides size, is their speed and capacity. HDDs for regular consumers can store much more data, upwards of 16 TB, and even 20 TB in some occasions. SSDs, on the other hand, are typically sold to consumers with maximum capacities of 4 TB or 5 TB. From time to time, you’ll hear records being broken, such as that of a 100 TB SSD. Those are done in-company for the competition, and not sold en masse, so they shouldn’t be of concern to you yet.
It all comes down to price, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t an issue, no one would endure slower speeds of an HDD. They would simply stack SSDs until all of their SATA ports are filled. With that said, HDDs are built to enable storing large amounts of data cheaply. While the price constantly changes, you can expect to pay around the same price for a 1 TB HDD and a 240 GB SSD. This will change as the capacity increases and production processes improve but is there to give you a rough estimation. We also recommend paying a bit more to get products by reputable manufacturers – Toshiba, Seagate, Samsung, Western Digital, Hitachi, SanDisk, etc.
Here is a quick comparison table that lists the differences between a solid-state drive and a hard disk drive. Have a look at it to get a good idea about the differences between the two of them.
|No moving parts thus no sound or vibration||Spinning disks makes a bit of vibration and noise|
|Boots in less than 10 seconds||Typically need 40-60 seconds to boot|
|Need 2-3 watts of power||6-7 watts of power to operate|
|Not common to come in huge capacities like 10TB||Comes in a lot of capacity variations even more than 10 TB|
|Around $0.19 per GB storage||$0.03 per GB cost|
|Typically has a speed of 200 – 500 MB/s||Speed of around 50 – 100 MB/s|
|Magnets doesn’t affect the drive||Magnets can cause data loss or disk damage|
|Smaller in size thus consuming less space also lightweight||Around 3 times bigger than SSDs, weighs significantly more and consumes much more space|
So, SSD or HDD?
The choice ultimately comes down to the way you use your computer. If you have a large collection of movies, photos, video games, or work files, pick an HDD. If you want quick loading and reading/writing times, and to boot your computer in a few seconds instead of a minute or more, pick an SSD. Of course, if budget isn’t an issue, get an SSD with a larger capacity. Budget-wise, the best choice is to get a low capacity SSD for your operating system and important programs/video games. Then, simply leave the remainder of files on an HDD.