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HDD vs SSD – how do they differ and which one is better?

Surely, when buying a new PC or laptop, many noticed that it is the size of the storage device – HDD or SSD – that can significantly affect its price. What is their difference?

Is it worth opting for an SSD drive in a computer and what are the advantages of such drives? In this article, I will try to answer questions related to choosing a hard disk for different systems and needs.

The main differences between HDD and SSD

For starters, it should be noted that despite the general purpose, SSD and HDD are completely different technologies. In fact, the difference between them is just as great as the difference between a compact disc and a flash drive. Generally speaking, an HDD is a kind of CD, just made of another material and installed in its own drive. And the SSD is a large, capacious flash drive, with a particularly fast data transfer speed, increased capacity and, if it’s not an external storage device, with a slightly different way of connecting to the motherboard.

Unlike the hard drive, the SSD does not have any moving parts. HDD devices belong to old, analog technologies, while SSDs to new, digital ones.

So what are the advantages of more expensive, modern SSD-drives, in comparison with obsolete hard drives?

Firstly, the SSD has a smaller size and weight, which is especially useful when building compact systems, such as laptops and tablets.

Secondly, SSDs have a much faster data transfer rate than analog drives, because nothing needs to be recorded or searched for by mechanical actions. HDD takes time to distribute data on the disks, and also to find the information already written on it. Especially if you are searching for parts of the disk that are far apart from each other. For this reason, the loading of the operating system is somewhat slower, the files take longer to open and the response speed of the programs is smaller. But the storage and reading of data from a solid-state drive occur almost instantly.

Speed, as a rule, is limited only by the bandwidth of the interface. Gamers may find this useful, as you do not have to wait for a long time to download and install games, as well as download levels in them.

Thirdly, as it was said before, there are no moving elements in the SSD. Due to this, solid-state drives are characterised by silent operation and higher reliability – they are resistant to shocks and falls. So, SSD better suits as an external storage device for people who want to use one drive for several systems, or as a second hard drive for laptops.

Fourthly, SSD is characterised by lower power consumption, and saving on electricity bills never hurts.

Now it’s time to talk about the shortcomings of these “big flash drives”

The first flaw, which many may deem a serious problem is the limited lifespan of the SSD. The fact is that flash memory has a certain number of write cycles.

The write cycle is the moment when the amount of downloaded data reaches the storage capacity of the drive, or rather, when all the memory cells on it are full. But not in the literal sense of the word – from the fact that you will delete the data and leave some space on the disk, nothing will change.

The total weight of the data recorded on it during the whole lifetime is important.

For example, I downloaded a 1 GB file, then deleted it and loaded a 2 GB file – and the disk has already written 3 GB of data, even though some of it has already been deleted.

In addition, due to the peculiarities of the SSD operation, when counting, it is necessary to multiply the amount of data recorded on it by 9-10 times. Thus, those 3 GB become almost 30, almost a quarter of write cycle of a disk with a capacity of 120 gigabytes. However, these are not exact figures, I took it with a margin. In practice, it all depends on how the storage space was used.

Yet do not be scared necessarily: on average, SSDs are designed for 3 years, and even for 5 years of service. Unless, of course, you download hundreds of gigabytes of data on them every day.

To say with certainty which drive is more durable – SSD or HDD, I, alas, can not. There are many other nuances that affect their lifespans. But in terms of stability to external influences, the SSD clearly wins.

The second drawback is the price

The price of an SSD can be several times higher than the cost of a hard drive of the same capacity. Surely, with time, the situation will change a little, but today it is more advantageous to take such a disk for PC as an additional one, install an operating system and some applications on it, and store everything else on the HDD.

And finally, the last problem of SSDs, which will probably be solved soon – the maximum memory capacity. SSDs were developed much later than hard drives, and so far, even the best available models can not accommodate as much data as most HDDs. But this is most likely just a matter of time. You can, simply, use several memory devices at once.

Conclusion

At the moment, I do not think that buying a PC or laptop with an SSD will be a good idea for the average user. After all, its price is several times higher than the cost of a good old hard drive. Someone will consider the differences between these two types of drives to be important for themselves. For example, gamers like to buy expensive equipment, even with a small gain in system speed. In general, I do not recommend buying an SDD as your sole storage device. If you are really attracted by the performance boost SDDs offer, consider using it in combination with an HDD.