Storage drives, or non-volatile memory is one of the pillars that makes up the ecosystem of parts that is your computer. In simplest terms, it is where you store everything, including your OS, programs, and files.
With mainstream products, there are a few main types of drives that you can choose from. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and corresponding situations where you might want to opt for it. Let’s demystify that.
HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
In guides like this, you will see that HDDs are also referred to as “mechanical drives”. This is because inside they have a rapidly spinning magnetic disk, also called a platter. On a side note, this means that hard drives are susceptible to sudden shocks and drops.
For performance, the actual read/write performance of an HDD is directly dictated by the speed at which the platter moves, which is measured in RPM. 5400RPM and 7200RPM are the speeds you will mostly find. With laptops especially, the former is a lot more common, but ideally, you’d want the latter.
The biggest advantage of mechanical hard drives right now is that they have a much lower price-per-gigabyte. If lots and lots of space is what you are looking for, then an HDD
SSD stands for solid-state drive. Like SD cards or USB flash drives, SSDs use flash storage, but on a larger scale. They are also much faster than HDDs.
Performance-wise, depending on the bus interface/standard used, an SSD can be up to 25 times faster than a mechanical drive. In sequential read/write, a typical SATA SSD can pretty much saturate the 600 MB/s bandwidth of the SATA III bus that most computers nowadays use. In contrast, a typical HDD will have speeds of a little more than 100 MB/s.
Taking this a step further is the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) standard, which uses the M.2 form factor. When I said earlier than an SSD can be up to 25 times faster than an HDD, I was talking about NVMe. This works because instead of using the SATA bus, NVMe interfaces directly with PCIe.
This all sounds perfect and dandy at this point, but for the uninitiated, even with costs dropping every year, SSDs still have a relatively high price-per-gigabyte, especially when compared to HDDs.
To put this into perspective, a 1TB HDD (desktop) will cost you no more than Php2500, but a 1TB SATA SSD? You’re entering the neighborhood of more than Php15,000 pesos. That even doubles for NVMe.
If it’s not the size that you’re after, but speed, then an SSD will suit you. The benefits of this are amazing, especially the improved Windows startup and program loading times, and in general, increased smoothness of operation. Not to mention, transferring files to and fro an SSD is amazing to watch, especially for the uninitiated.
An SSHD is a solid-state hybrid drive. Form factor-wise, it resembles an HDD, whether in the 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch flavors. What sets it apart is that it is a mechanical drive for the most part, but has some solid-state storage built-in.
When read by your OS, it appears as a single volume. The small amount of solid-state storage (typically 8GB) acts as a cache where your frequently used data will be temporarily stored for easier, faster access.
The caveat to this is that the OS and the device’s own controller will be the one to decide what goes on the SSD part. If you only have space for a single drive on your computer and want somewhat the best of both worlds, then you can opt for an SSHD.
What should you get?
It’s a lot simpler to decide what to upgrade to for laptops, because they aren’t as modular desktop PCs, as you are limited to what the chassis and/or motherboard supports.
It all boils down to what you’re after. If your priority is getting a boost in performance, swap out your HDD for an SSD. If it’s more storage at a more reasonable price, then get a 7200RPM HDD with more capacity.
If your laptop permits, then in an ideal world, you could have both an SSD and HDD. Files such as documents, photos, videos, music, (most) games don’t exactly benefit from the faster speeds of SSDs, so you would put them in the HDD. The SSD would, of course, be reserved for your OS and most used programs.
You can have so much more configurations with a desktop PC, but again, it is very much the grand ideal of having an SSD for your OS and programs, and an HDD for mass storage.
Already have that and are looking to upgrade further? Well, it depends on what type of user you are. For example, If you’re a gamer, then the wise choice would be getting a bigger HDD, or even a second one to exclusively store your entire library. The only big way an SSD affects gaming performance is in the loading time. If you’re a creative user. then more SSD space will benefit you because of the file transfer/creation-heavy nature of the work.
If you could only have one, though? I’d say start with an SSD, because HDD’s are much cheaper, hence making them easier to pick up and throw in later on.
That’s it for this quick guide on choosing storage for your laptop or desktop computer.