If you bought an ultraportable laptop anytime in the last few years, you very probable got a solid-country drive (SSD) equally the principal kicking drive. Bulkier gaming laptops accept moved to SSD boot drives, likewise, while only a subset of budget machines yet favor hard disk drives (HDDs). The boot drives in prebuilt desktop PCs are mostly SSDs now, too, except in the cheapest models. In some cases, a desktop comes with both, with the SSD as the kick bulldoze and the HDD equally a bigger-chapters storage supplement.
If you lot take to pick justone, though, how practice you choose? Let’s get into the differences between SSDs and HDDs, and walk you lot through the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide.
HDD and SSD Explained
The traditional spinning hard drive is the basic non-volatile storage on a computer. That is, data on it doesn’t “go away” when yous plough off the system, dissimilar data stored in RAM. A hard drive is essentially a metallic platter with a magnetic coating that stores your data, whether weather reports from the final century, a high-definition copy of the originalStar Wars trilogy, or your digital music collection. A read/write head on an arm (or a set of them) accesses the data while the platters are spinning.
An SSD performs the same basic role as a hard drive, but data is instead stored on interconnected flash-memory fries that retain the data even when in that location’due south no power flowing through them. These wink chips (often dubbed “NAND”) are of a dissimilar type than the kind used in USB thumb drives, and are typically faster and more reliable. SSDs are consequently more expensive than USB thumb drives of the aforementioned capacities. (See our deep-dive guide to SSD jargon.)
Similar thumb drives, though, SSDs are often much smaller than HDDs and therefore offer manufacturers more flexibility in designing a PC. While some can install in traditional 2.5-inch or iii.5-inch hard drive bays, other models can be installed in a PCI Express expansion slot or even exist mounted directly on the motherboard, a configuration that’s at present common in late-model systems. (These board-mounted SSDs employ a class factor known equally Chiliad.2. Meet our picks for the best K.two SSDs and get much more info on these multifaceted types of SSDs.)
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)
Note: We’ll be talking primarily almost internal drives in this story, just nigh everything applies to external drives as well. External drives come in both large desktop and meaty portable grade factors, and SSDs are gradually becoming a larger role of the external-drive market.
A History of HDDs and SSDs
Difficult drive technology is relatively aboriginal (in terms of reckoner history, anyhow). There are well-known photos(Opens in a new window) of the IBM 650 RAMAC hard drive(Opens in a new window) from 1956 that used l 24-inch-wide platters to hold a whopping iii.75MB of storage space. This, of course, is the size of an average 128Kbps MP3 file today, stored in the physical space that could hold two commercial refrigerators. The RAMAC 350 was limited to regime and industrial uses, and it was obsolete past 1969. How far we’ve come up!
The PC hard drive class factor standardized at 5.25 inches in the early on 1980s, with the now-familiar 3.five-inch desktop-form and 2.5-inch notebook-class drives coming soon thereafter. The internal cable interface has changed over the years from serial to IDE (now ofttimes called Parallel ATA, or PATA) to SCSI to Series ATA (SATA). But each essentially does the same thing: connect the hard drive to the PC’s motherboard and so your data tin exist shuttled to and fro.
Most 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives use SATA interfaces (at least on consumer computers), but many loftier-speed internal SSDs now use the faster PCI Express interface instead. Capacities have grown from multiple megabytes to multiple terabytes, more than than a million-fold increase. Every bit for difficult drives, current iii.five-inch hard drives are now available in capacities exceeding 10TB.
The SSD has a much shorter history, though its roots do reach several decades into the past. Technologies like bubble memory were briefly popular in the 1970s and 1980s, just the bubbles accept long since burst. Electric current flash memory is the logical extension of the aforementioned thought, as it doesn’t crave abiding power to retain the data you store on it. The showtime main drives that we know every bit SSDs started appearing during the rise of netbooks in the late 2000s. In 2007, the OLPC XO-1 used a 1GB SSD, and the Asus Eee PC 700 series used a 2GB SSD every bit primary storage. The SSD chips on these laptops were permanently soldered to the motherboard.
(Credit: Western Digital)
Equally netbooks and other ultraportable laptops became more capable, SSD capacities increased and eventually standardized on the 2.5-inch notebook form factor. This way, you could pop a two.5-inch hard bulldoze out of your laptop or desktop and replace it hands with an SSD, and manufacturers could design around merely one kind of drive bay.
In time, other, more than compact SSD class factors emerged, like the mSATA Mini PCIe SSD card and the same M.2 SSD format (which comes in SATA and PCI Express variants). Thou.two has expanded rapidly through the laptop SSD world, and today the SSDs that withal use the two.5-inch grade factor are mostly meant for upgrading desktop PCs and older laptops. M.2 is the form cistron where modern systems are at.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
Difficult drives are all the same around in budget and older systems, only SSDs are now the dominion in mainstream systems and high-end laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro, which does not offer a hard drive even as a configurable pick. Desktop PCs, on the other mitt, keep to offer HDDs.
That said, both SSDs and hard drives do the same job: They boot your organisation, and store your applications and personal files. But each type of storage has its own unique traits. How do they differ, and why would you want to get one over the other?
How Expensive Is SSD vs. HDD?
SSDs are more expensive than hard drives in terms of dollar per gigabyte. A 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard bulldoze costs between $40 and $60, but every bit of this writing, the very cheapest SSDs of the aforementioned chapters and form factor start at around $80. That translates into 4 to half-dozen cents per gigabyte for the hard drive versus 8 cents per gigabyte for the SSD. The differences are more drastic if you lot await at high-capacity iii.v-inch difficult drives. For example, a 12TB 3.5-inch hard drive that sells for around $300 to $350 tin can push the per-gigabyte cost below 3 cents.
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)
Since hard drives use older, more than established technology, they will probable remain less expensive for the foreseeable future. Though the per-gig price gap is closing between hard drives and low-end SSDs, those extra bucks for the SSD may push your system price over budget.
How Roomy is an SSD vs. an HDD, in Maximum and Mutual Capacities?
Consumer SSDs are rarely institute in capacities greater than 2TB, and those are expensive. You lot’re more likely to find 500GB to 1TB units as primary drives in systems. While 500GB is considered a “base” hard drive capacity for premium laptops these days, pricing concerns tin push button that downwardly to 128GB or 256GB for lower-priced SSD-based systems. Users with big media collections or who piece of work in content cosmos will require even more, with 1TB to 8TB drives available in loftier-end systems. Basically, the more than storage capacity, the more stuff you tin keep on your PC. Deject-based storage may be proficient for housing files you program to share among your smartphone, tablet, and PC, but local storage is less expensive, and you lot have to buy it only once, not subscribe to it.
How Fast Is SSD vs. HDD?
Speed is where SSDs polish. An SSD-equipped PC will boot in far less than a minute, often in merely seconds. A hard drive requires time to speed up to operating specs, and it volition continue to be slower than an SSD during normal use. A PC or Mac with an SSD boots faster, launches and runs apps faster, and transfers files faster. Whether y’all’re using your figurer for fun, schoolhouse, or concern, the actress speed may exist the difference betwixt finishing on time and beingness late.
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)
A secondary upshot to this: fragmentation. Because of their rotary recording surfaces, hard drives work best with larger files that are laid downwards in contiguous blocks. That way, the drive head can start and end its read in i continuous motion. When hard drives start to make full upwards, $.25 of large files end upwards scattered effectually the disk platter, causing the bulldoze to suffer from what’due south called “fragmentation.” While read/write algorithms have improved to the point that the effect is minimized, hard drives can still become fragmented to the bespeak of affecting performance. SSDs tin’t, however, considering the lack of a concrete read caput ways data can be stored anywhere without penalty. This contributes to SSDs’ inherently faster nature.
To put it in number terms? A typical platter-based single hard bulldoze won’t exceed read and write speeds of 250MB per 2nd, whereas a basic SATA-bus SSD volition routinely peak at transfer rates twice that. Newer-generation PCI Express-based SSDs, depending on the generation and number of PCI Limited lanes supported, can be far faster. They tin hands top four times the speed of the fastest platter drives, and the latest PCI Express Gen 4 drives can top out at iii,500MB or even seven,000MB per 2d, depending on the model. They won’t read and write at those peak speeds all the fourth dimension, but as you tin can see, the comparing is not close.
How Durable Is an SSD Last vs. an HDD?
An SSD has no moving parts, so it is more than likely to keep your data safe in the event you drop your laptop bag or your organisation gets shaken while it’southward operating. Near hard drives park their read/write heads when the arrangement is off, but when they are working, the heads are flight over the drive platter at a altitude of a few nanometers. As well, even parking brakes have limits. If you’re crude on your equipment, an SSD is recommended.
What Are the SSD and HDD Form Factors?
Because hard drives rely on spinning platters, there is a limit to how pocket-size they can be manufactured. Years back, there was an initiative to make smaller one.eight-inch spinning hard drives, but that stalled at about 320GB, and smartphone manufacturers just use flash retention for their main storage.
(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)
SSDs have no such limitation, and then they can keep to shrink as time goes on. SSDs are available in 2.v-inch laptop-drive sizes, merely that’s only for convenience in plumbing fixtures within established drive trophy. They are increasingly moving, though, to the M.2 form factor discussed above, and these drives come in 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, and 120mm lengths.
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SSD vs. HDD Noise, Power, and Lifespan
Fifty-fifty the quietest hard drive will emit a fleck of noise when it is in use. (The drive platters spin, and the read arm ticks dorsum and forth.) Faster hard drives will tend to make more noise than those that are slower. SSDs make no noise at all; they’re non-mechanical.
Plus, an SSD doesn’t have to expend electricity spinning upwardly a platter from a standstill. Consequently, none of the energy consumed past the SSD is wasted as friction or noise, rendering them more efficient. On a desktop or in a server, that will lead to a lower energy bill. On a laptop or tablet, you’ll be able to eke out more minutes (or hours) of battery life.
Then there’s the issue of longevity. While it is truthful that SSDs wear out over time (each cell in a flash-memory bank tin can be written to and erased a limited number of times, measured by SSD makers as a “terabytes written” or TBW rating), thanks to TRIM command technology that dynamically optimizes these read/write cycles, you’re more than likely to discard the system for obsolescence earlier yous start running into read/write errors with an SSD. If y’all’re actually worried, several tools can let you know if you’re budgeted the drive’s rated end of life. Eventually, hard drives volition wearable out from constant use, likewise, since they use concrete recording methods. Longevity is a wash when it’south separated from travel and ruggedness concerns.
SSD vs. HDD Storage: Breaking It Out past Use Case
The overall takeaway? Hard drives win on price and capacity. SSDs piece of work best if speed, ruggedness, form factor, racket, or fragmentation (technically, a subset of speed) are important factors to you. If it weren’t for the cost and capacity issues, SSDs would exist the hands-downwards winner.
But does an SSD or HDD (or a hybrid of the two) fit
needs? Permit’s break it down:
Who Are HDDs Best For?
Enthusiast multimedia users and heavy downloaders: Video collectors need infinite, and you tin easily become to 8TB or much more space cheaply with a hard drive.
Budget buyers: Ditto. Plenty of cheap infinite. SSDs are too expensive for buyers of $300 PCs.
Graphic arts and engineering professionals: Video and photo editors make full upwardly and wear out storage faster than most other folks. Replacing or adding a 2TB hard drive will be cheaper than replacing a 500GB SSD, though that gap is closing.
Full general users: These folks are a toss-up. Users who prefer to download or stash big amounts of their own media files locally will nonetheless need a hard drive with more chapters; SSDs go expensive quickly for big video and music collections. Simply if you mostly stream your music and videos online, ownership a smaller SSD for the aforementioned money volition give you a improve experience.
Who Are SSDs Best For?
Road warriors: People who shove their laptops into their bags indiscriminately will want the extra security of an SSD. That laptop may not exist fully comatose when you violently shut it to grab your next flying. This besides includes folks who work in the field, like utility workers and university researchers.
Speed demons: If you demand things done now, spend the extra bucks on SSD for quick kicking-ups and app launches. Supplement with a storage SSD or hard drive if you demand actress space (see below).
Graphic arts and engineering professionals: Yes, nosotros know we said they need hard drives, but the speed of an SSD may make the difference between completing ii proposals for your customer and completing five. These users are prime candidates for dual-drive systems (once more, more on that below).
Audio engineers and musicians: If you lot’re recording or mastering music, you don’t want the scratchy sound from a hard drive intruding. Go for quieter SSDs.
Hybrid Drives and Dual-Drive Systems
Back in the mid-2000s, some difficult drive manufacturers, among them Samsung and Seagate, theorized that if you add a few gigabytes of flash chips to a spinning hard bulldoze, you could fashion a then-called “hybrid” drive. This would combine a hard drive’s large storage capacity with the performance of an SSD, at a price only slightly higher than that of a typical hard drive. The flash retentivity acts every bit a buffer for often used files, and then your system has the potential for booting and launching your well-nigh important apps faster, even though you lot can’t directly install annihilation in that space yourself.
In practice, hybrid drives work, but the concept is fading with falling SSD prices. Where you can find them, they are still more expensive and more circuitous than regular hard drives. They work best for people similar road warriors who need both lots of storage and fast kick times. Since they’re an in-between production, hybrid drives don’t necessarily supercede dedicated difficult drives or SSDs.
A better solution for many folks will be a dual-bulldoze system. In this case, a PC builder or manufacturer will install an SSD equally the primary drive (C:) for the operating organisation and apps, and add a larger-capacity spinning hard drive for storing files. This works well in theory; in practise, you want to be sure the manufacturer doesn’t go too modest on the SSD. Windows itself takes up a lot of space on the primary bulldoze, and some apps tin can’t be installed on other drives. In our stance, 256GB is a practical minimum size for the C: drive present for general apply, with 128GB workable if you have no choice. Space concerns are the aforementioned as with whatsoever multiple-bulldoze organization: You need concrete space within the PC chassis to hold 2 (or more) drives, which means that these kind of arrangements are applied only in PC desktops and some big-chassis, high-cease (usually gaming-oriented) laptops.
SSDs Are the Storage of Tomorrow
The price of SSDs is coming down, just they’re even so likewise expensive to fully supercede the terabytes of information that some users have in their PCs and Macs for mass storage that doesn’t need to be fast, only simplyin that location. Deject storage isn’t gratuitous, either: You’ll continue to pay as long every bit you want personal storage on the cyberspace. Local storage won’t go away until we have reliable wireless Cyberspace everywhere, including in planes and out in the wilderness. Of grade, by that time, in that location may be something better.
Looking for some extra storage? Check out our guide to the best external hard drives. Or if you want to protect or shop your files online, check out our roundups of the best deject storage and file-syncing services and the best online backup services.
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