By Dan Lhotka

Hard Disk Drives vs Solid State Drives

  This month, I am going to highlight hard drive technologies.  Namely, Solid State Hard Drives.  Hard disk drives have been used in the computer world since the inception of the personal computer, and in that time, their method of operation has been pretty much the same.  Incased in each hard disk drive is a magnetic disk.  A mechanical arm with a magnet on the end of it moves to different sections of the disk, and changes the polarity of parts of the disk.  This is how data is stored on a hard disk drive.  This is also why hard disk drives eventually fail.  The motor that controls the arm could go bad, the motor that spins the disks could go bad, in addition to random electromagnetic spikes that corrupt sectors on the drive.  Over the years, the speed of the disks has been upgraded, the number of disks has increased, and the size of the “magnetic spots” has gotten smaller, making newer hard drives faster and hold more data.  Yet at the heart of it, the basic operation has not changed.

Enter Solid State Drives.  Solid State Drives use flash memory, similar to what you would use in a camera in order to store data.  The benefit of this is that you have no moving parts like you would in a hard disk drive.  That translates to better power consumption, much faster speed, and better resistance to physical shock. 

However, there are disadvantages as well.  First of all is price.  SSDs are expensive, and you don’t get that much storage with them.  A 300GB SSD costs about $250, while you can get 1500 GB HDD for about $100.  More importantly is the longevity question.  Since the SSD is made of flash memory, it has the same limitations as flash memory.  That is that there are only so many “writes” that each sector of memory will support before the sector is no longer good.  SSD companies compensate for this by creating “extra” space in the memory chips specifically for bad blocks, but eventually even that extra space gets used up.   What this translates to is an estimated life space of 5 years for a SSD.  Whereas regular HDDs have been known to last longer easily.

My recommendation?  Have your cake and eat it, too.   Have both a SSD and a HDD on your computer.  Install your operating system and programs on the SSD.  Store data such as files and email on the HDD.  The SSD should ensure that the computer runs quickly, while having data on the HDD ensures that it will last a long time. 

Once again, if you have suggestions on topics for me to talk about for next month’s IT newsletter, please send an email message to