SSD and HDD. They refer to the two most common types of hard drives. If you’re building your own computer, or even trying to improve the performance of an old machine, you’ll need to choose one. Which one is right for you? The most common form of data storage is the hard disk drive (HDD). To give you some perspective, it was introduced by IBM in 1956, and put into standard use in the late 1980’s. A Solid-state drive (SSD) is a relatively new and less commonly used form of storage in both laptops and desktops. As prices plummet and SSD deals are abundant, their usage and availability has skyrocketed. We want to note that while there is a technical difference between flash and SSD, virtually all SSDs manufactured today are flash based, so it is alright if you use flash drive and SSD interchangeably. Any hard drive with out moving parts is an SSD. Flash memory allows a drive to not have moving parts. This guide will help you make an informed hard drive choice.
What’s the difference between an SSD and an HDD?
Simply put, you can think of an SSD as the “Hard Drive 2.0”. While an HDD is bulkier, and filled with mechanical spindles reading and writing on magnetic layers, an SSD is not. Those little USB flash drives that you put in your computer? Those are made with flash memory technology, and like the bigger SSDs, have no moving parts. The memory is stored in flash cells. Although some people think SSDs will outperform and be cheaper than HDDs within the next decade, right now they both have their benefits.
SSD vs HDD: Why is an SSD better?
If you’re looking for performance, the best choice is the solid state drive (SSD). Because of the flash memory that today’s SSDs use, it performs considerably faster and more reliably than an HDD, which uses a mechanical and magnetic function to store your data. Many people have replaced HDDs in their slow and old machines with SSDs and seen the speed improve drastically. Not only does the speed and performance increase, but so does the reliability and comfort-ability. Since there are no moving parts, you won’t have to worry about corrupted data from accidentally dropping your laptop, they produce virtually no sound, and significantly less heat. Boot speeds, file access, and opening applications are all drastically faster with a Solid State Hard Drive. If you’re looking for more reliability, performance, and convenience, SSD is the way to go.
Why is an HDD better?
On a budget? In that case, seriously consider the HDD. Since the technology is older and more established, HDDs are lower priced than SSDs. To wit: you can get more storage space for significantly less money with a standard hard drive. Usually the same amount of space will cost you at least double for an SSD. Speaking of space, that is another limitation of SSDs. Because of the younger age of SSD technology, and the issues we discussed above, space is much more limited than it is with HDD technology. If you need more than 500 GB of space and you don’t want to spend a large sum of money, you’re better off with an HDD. If you’re looking for a more price stable and established (perfected even?) technology, a larger spaced HDD is definitely the way to go.
Let’s look at the numbers!
I can go on all day about which one is better, but you’re a smart consumer, you want proof. There are tons of websites that test these sort of things, and one of them is userbenchmark.com. To show you the speed difference between HDDs and SSDs, they have done all the testing you’ll ever need to see! When it comes to drive speed, there are two main factors that need to be taken into account. Those two factors are read and write speed.
The writing speed of your drive effects how long it takes to install programs and save data. When you’re installing a game or a business program, your writing speed is going to effect how quickly that’s done. According to userbenchmark, the highest write speed for HDDs is attributed to the WD Velociraptor 1TB, coming in at 193 MB/S. The highest writing speed for SSDs is on the Corsair Neutron XT 240GB, coming in at 511 MB/S.
Contrary to the writing speed, the reading speed effects how long it takes to read the data that’s been written on your drive. So when your opening a document, or loading a game, your read speed will dictate how quickly it’s done. According to userbenchmark.com, the highest read speed for HDDs is on the WD Red 6TB, at 236 MB/S. As for SSDs, the highest read speed is on the OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 240GB, at 728MB/S.
Why Not Both? (SSHD, Dual Drive)
When you need both size and performance, you might be able to get the best of both worlds. One of these options is a double setup. If you’re working with a desktop, or even a larger laptop, you could have two hard drive bays that you can use. You can grab a smaller SSD (128 GB) to put your OS and a few choice programs on, while having a larger (1 TB) HDD to store the rest of your data.
On the other hand, most people with laptops are not going to have two hard drive bays, so you’ll have to go for an all-in-one type deal. They do have “Hybrid Drives”, or SSHDs, which have a small amount of flash memory (usually around 8 GB). These drives will automatically partition certain programs and data that are used most often onto that flash memory. The performance isn’t as high as an SSD, but is still a pretty big upgrade compared to your old HDD.
When you have only one bay, but still want the best of both worlds, it gets tough. Well, that’s still possible. WD has a drive called the Black², which is a “dual drive”. The great thing about this drive is that it comes in the form of one, but has 128 GB of SSD with 1 TB of HDD. What sets this apart from an SSHD is that you can manually organize everything and have two digital drives, with the physical space of one.
No matter what your needs are, there are storage options for you, you just might have to pay a little extra to get the one you want. Hopefully you understand the choice a little better. Building a gaming rig? Get an HDD and use the money you saved to upgrade the video card. Need portability without freaking out about every little bump? Invest in an SSD. As always, if you have a particular question, feel free to ask in the comments, or check out our Technology Forum and ask the FatWallet community. Ready to make your purchase? Head on over to to our Hard Drive Deals page and get the best price!