Most people now buy laptops or pick web hosting provider and have to make the decision between getting either a Solid State Drive (SSD) or Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as the storage component.
So which of the two is the better choice, an SSD or HDD? There’s no straight-forward answer to this question; each buyer has different needs and you have to evaluate the decision based on those needs, your preferences, and of course budget. The price of SSDs has been falling, but there is still a difference between SSD and HDD pricing – HDD is still cheaper option.
The goal of this article is to analyse both discs and decide which option is actually the right one. In order to do that, we will make a comparison of SSD and HDD storage and go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of both. But before that, please check the video below to visually see the difference between these two types of disc (SSD will be on your left and HDD will be on your right).
We’ll make no assumptions here and keep this article on a level that anyone can understand. You might be shopping for a computer, picking a web hosting provider or simply wondering what the heck SSD actually means? To begin, SSD stands for “Solid State Drive”. You’re probably familiar with USB memory sticks – SSD can be thought of as an oversized and more sophisticated version of the humble USB memory stick. Like a memory stick, there are no moving parts to an SSD. Rather, information is stored in microchips. Conversely, a hard disk drive uses a mechanical arm with a read/write head to move around and read information from the right location on a storage platter. This difference is what makes SSD so much faster.
As an analogy, what’s quicker? Having to walk across the room to retrieve a book to get information or simply magically having that book open in front of you when you need it? That’s how an HDD compares to an SSD; it simply requires more physical labor (mechanical movement) to get information.
A typical SSD uses what is called NAND-based flash memory. This is a non-volatile type of memory. What does non-volatile mean you ask? The simple answer is that you can turn off the disk and it won’t “forget” what was stored on it. This is of course an essential characteristic of any type of permanent memory.
During the early days of SSD, rumours floated around saying stored data would wear off and be lost after only a few years. Regardless, that rumour is certainly not true with today’s technology, as you can read and write to an SSD all day long and the data storage integrity will be maintained for well over 200 years. In other words, the data storage life of an SSD can outlive you!
An SSD does not have a mechanical arm to read and write data, it instead relies on an embedded processor (or “brain”) called a controller to perform a bunch of operations related to reading and writing data. The controller is a very important factor in determining the speed of the SSD. Decisions it makes related to how to store, retrieve, cache and clean up data can determine the overall speed of the drive. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details for the various tasks it performs such as error correction, read and write caching, encryption, and garbage collection to name a few. Yet, suffice to say, good controller technology is often what separates an excellent SSD from a good one.
Hard Disk Drives, or HDD in techno-parlance, have been around for donkey’s years relative to the technology world. HDDs were first introduced by IBM in 1956 – yes folks this is nearly 60-year old technology, thank goodness vacuum tubes for TVs didn’t last so long! An HDD uses magnetism to store data on a rotating platter. A read/write head floats above the spinning platter reading and writing data. The faster the platter spins, the faster an HDD can perform. Typical laptop drives today spin at either 5400 RPM (Revolutions per Minute) or 7200RPM, though some server-based platters spin at up to 15,000 RPM!
The major advantage of an HDD is that it is capable of storing lots of data a bit cheaper. These days, 1 TeraByte (1,024 gigabytes) of storage is not unusual for a laptop hard drive, and the density continues to grow. However, the cost per gigabyte is hard to calculate now-a-days since there are so many classes to consider, though it is safe to say that all HDDs are substantially cheaper than SSDs. On the other hand, the difference in price is not worth the disadvantages you face with it.
An HDD might be the right choice if you need just a place to store/keep something, but not to operate or perform it.
An SSD might be the right choice if you don’t mind to pay a bit more for much faster performance.