Types of Hard Drives and How to Choose the Right One

You might need a new hard drive because your older drive has failed or simply to get more storage space. If you want to invest in a good hard drive, it’s wise to first understand the different types of hard drives available. A hard drive isn’t simply a rectangular piece of machinery that stores data and powers a computer. As the computer’s primary storage, this device is responsible for processing and storing data. Without a functioning hard drive, your PC won’t operate optimally. As a non-volatile data storage device, a hard drive can retain data even when it does not have power. A PC user may have several reasons to buy a new hard drive:

  • Get more data storage space
  • Higher speed to quickly load programs or transfer bulky files like videos
  • Improve PC performance

A hard drive typically consists of four major components: platter, spindle, read/write arm, and actuator.  The platters are disks that are responsible for storing data while the spindle rotates these platters and keeps them in position. The arm guides the read/write head while the PCB guides the actuator to control the movement of the read/write arm. Over the years, hard drive technology has improved substantially and now we have many superior hard drive models available. However, unless you’re a tech geek, it may seem daunting to keep up with the different hard drive types and formats. So, to make this choice easier for you, here we’ve discussed the different types of hard drives on the market today to help you choose the right type.

HDD vs SSD vs SSHD

Types of Hard Drives
When in the market to buy a hard drive, you will need to choose between the different kinds of hard drives: SCSI, SATA, PATA, SSD, and SSHD. You should also consider whether you want an internal or external hard drive. Hard drives come in different form factors and each has certain pros and cons. The internal hard drives are installed inside a desktop PC or laptop while the external drives connect to the computer via a USB Thunderbolt, Firewire, or eSATA cable.

As far as the hard drive interface is concerned, there are typically four types of hard drives- the PATA, Serial ATA, SCSI or Small Computer System Interface, and SSD or Solid-State Drive. Now, let’s check out the hard drives that are commonly used today.

Parallel ATA (PATA)
PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) is one of the earliest hard drives. Also known as integrated drive electronics (IDE) or enhanced integrated drive electronics (EIDE) drives, these hard drives connect to a computer using the PATA interface standard and have data transfer rates up to 133 MB/s. With the introduction of advanced models, these have become outdated and not even easily available in stores.

Serial ATA (SATA)
The Serial ATA replaced the PATA drives and has become the most common type of hard drives used today. As a versatile device, Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives are supported by almost all computer motherboards and operating systems. These drives are found both in desktops (3.5-inch hard drives) and laptops (2.7-inch). With thin and flexible wires for data transfer, these drives can write to the disk with an interface rate of 6 Gb/s with a throughput of 600 MB/s. As compared to its predecessor PATA hard drive, SATA hard drives are much faster and can range from 500 GB to 16 TB. This type of drive is best suited to get extra storage space at an affordable price. Even if the speed is higher than PATA, it’s not as high as other advanced types. Also, it needs regular de-fragmentation and is vulnerable to shock which makes it a poor choice for laptops.

Small Computer System Interface (SCSI)
Another type of hard drive is Small Computer System Interface that was developed in the 1970s. SCSI drives are similar to IDE hard drives as they allow for the connection of different peripheral devices such as hard drives, printers, or CD-Drives. These hard drives make use of the Small Computer System Interface to connect internally and externally. The advanced SCSI cables can transfer data at up to 80 MB/s which makes it a decent option for storing and moving data. This type of hard drive is mostly used with RAID arrays because of its scalability and flexibility. However, SCSI has become outdated now and can be found in some low-end computers.

Solid State Drives
Solid-State Drives are the latest types of hard drives that do not consist of moving parts. Unlike traditional HDDs, SSDs don’t work on magnetism and make use of non-volatile flash memory technology which makes them less susceptible to damage. All the other types of hard drives mentioned above consist of mechanical components that are prone to physical defects and data loss. Moreover, by making use of memory chips, rather than rotating magnetic disks, SSDs can consume less power. It means that SSDs are faster, reliable, and more efficient than traditional HDDs. There are also different types of SSD and the newest version is Non-Volatile Memory Express or NVMe. This type of SSD is attached to a PCI Express (PCIe) slot and is the fastest disk type on the market. The NVMe drives are best suited for applications like gaming or high-resolution video editing. But these are mostly found in high-end laptops and modern gaming consoles.

On the downside, SSDs are more expensive than HDDs. So, if you need a cheap solution to store a large amount of data, a higher-capacity HDD will cost you less. Also, even if SSDs are more reliable and durable than HDDs, they are not completely failure-proof. When a hard drive or SSD fails, users need to find a data recovery service.

Hybrid Hard Drives (SSHDs)
If you need the best HDD and SSD in one drive then go for hybrid hard drives known as Solid-State Hard Drives (SSHDs). These modern drives combine the circuit board of an SSD with the components of magnetic HDDs to provide a combination of performance and storage space. However, make sure to check the configuration and specifications before you make a purchase.

Choosing the Right Drive for You
Now as you know the different types of hard drives available, the next important consideration is choosing the right one. Certain hard drives are way more superior to others but choosing the right one entirely depends on your specific needs. There are certain factors that you need to consider when buying a new hard drive, such as:

Internal or External HDD: Choose an external HDD if you want to frequently transfer files from one PC to another.

Data Storage Capacity: If you’re looking to store a huge amount of data, a large-capacity SATA drive can be the right choice.

Performance: Professionals who need to reduce load time should go for faster and more efficient SSD.

Cost: If you want an economical drive, SSD may not be the best option.

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