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Opinion Storage

SSD vs HDD: Which Storage Device Should You Choose?

SSD vs HDD: Which is Best
Written by Divine
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Today’s article focuses on the main differences between SSD and HDD without getting into unnecessary technicalities. Newer computer systems ship with SSDs. In fact, all Apple laptops ship with SSDs, but PC users have the option to choose for themselves in some cases.

Both storage devices have their merits and demerits when considering factors such as cost, life span, and performance, and that is what we will be discussing today.

What is HDD?

HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive and it is a non-volatile storage device that contains a magnetic rotating platter to which we can read and write data. The faster the platter spins, the better the performance of the disk which communicates with the CPU and other hardware using an I/O firmware.

Coming from the diskette era, HDDs have increased in storage capacity over the years as they overtook other storage mediums for computer systems and are currently often used to store an operating system, applications, and backup media. If you have an HDD installed in your machine, then you’re bound to hear a spinning disk especially when your workload is heavy.

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Modern HDDs connect to computer motherboards using a SATA connection which enables the fastest possible data transfers. The latest model, SATA III, has a maximum data throughput of 600MB/s. When reading or writing data, the head moves to the appropriate position (as given by the address) and then waits for the sector to pass underneath it when the platter rotates.

What is SSD?

SSD stands for Solid State Drive and although it has been around for quite some time, it is a newer technology than HDD which it overtook in usage as it became more affordable by the general computer market. As you might have guessed from the play on words in its name, SSDs have no moving parts in them since they use interconnected NAND flash memory chips, making their performance better than HDDs.

Reading and writing data from and to SSDs has no rotational latency or variable seek time because all parts of the SSD can be accessed in the same time period with the reading data being deterministically faster than writing data but typically topping HDD speeds anyway.

In earlier times, SSDs couldn’t offer as much storage space compared to HDDs due to the cost (among factors,) but things have been looking good for them since the availability of more NAND memory chips. Just like modern HDDs, SSDs come with SATA III ports and are typically smaller in size; this makes them a desired replacement for HDDs.

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Cost

SSDs are more expensive than HDDs per gigabyte on average. But as it is with every statistic, certain specifications make the results vary. M.2 and PCIe SSDs are more expensive than SATA III SSDs because they are a newer technology. With that being said, it is possible to pick up a SATA III SSD for a price in the same ballpark as a good HDD.

Stripping this category of the intricacies that contribute to the cost-efficiency of a device, you can pick up a 500GB for about the price of a 256GB SSD and that makes HDDs win in this category.

Speed

While the speed difference between an SSD and HDD depends entirely on your hardware, SSDs typically come out on top as you can see from the table below. The latest, fastest SSD type is NVMe which, goes without saying, is the most expensive of the bunch.

SSDs are on average, ~4 times faster than HDDs at reading speed and a little less at writing speed. Using a compatible SSD interface like PCIe, for example, will give a significant boost to read/write rates.

On average, PCIe and M.2 SSD speeds are 1.2GB/s – 1.4GB/s and can reach as high as 2.2GB/s if you can afford the cost. Even when using cheaper SSDs in the same class as HDDs, SSDs come out on top with a speed boost of 200 – 800%, making them the winners by a landslide in this category.

Storage Capacity

The storage capacity of commercial HDDs ranges from 40GB to 12TB. Enterprise-grade HDDs offer more space as long as the cost is not a problem. The conventional way of working with storage, anyway, is to share data across multiple hard drives as opposed to dumping everything into one location. This is most sound for data retention and recovery reasons.

SSDs can hold several terabytes of data but because they are significantly more expensive, the commercial versions don’t offer as much capacity as HDDs do. One suggestion is to store most of your applications and games on an HDD and the more power-hungry software on an SSD in order to take advantage of the faster SSD read/write rates.

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In a situation where you can choose either one of them and you must go for a single larger storage capacity considering the cash at hand, HDDs win.

Usage

Since the SSD vs HDD comparison boils down to their performance and technical specifications, the final point of comparison is for whom one storage medium is better.

  • SSDs are a good choice for users who travel a lot because their components are lightweight and more mobile-friendly. Musicians, gamers, and any computer user that needs blazing-fast speeds should use SSDs because they manage more workload without noise and offer 35 to 100ms data access. That is about 100 times HDD performance.
  • HDDs are a good choice for digital artists, multimedia users, video editors, etc. who require a lot of storage for their computing activities and are not typically always swapping between applications. HDDs are also a good option for computer users on a budget.

SSDs easily come out on top in this category because while they are more expensive than HDDs, their cost is justified by their performance and maintenance. Some HDDs also offer high speeds that are seldom distinguishable from SSDs without the use of dedicated software or memory-intensive games to test them and the latest models are not as noisy as the former.

What about storage? Well, most people who need a lot of storage space end up getting external drives anyway combined with several gigabytes of cloud storage on different platforms.

In conclusion, I would like to add that while no one can definitely say SDDs will completely replace HDDs, SSDs are bound to become more popular with time especially as they become cheaper to produce. Servers may continue to have HDDs improved for usage while SDDs for PCs.

Personally, any computer I purchase today must house an SSD; what’s your take on the matter? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author

Divine

Divine is a graduate student who loves the Open Source community. With 700+ articles under his belt, he continues to recommend the best software that the app market has to offer while tackling several topics in IT.