Every computing device you own contains some sort of storage. An iPhone or iPad contains flash memory, and a desktop or laptop computer contains either a solid state drive (SSD), which is flash memory, or a hard disk.

You might be curious to know, what’s the right hard disk for you? Choosing which drive to use in a computer involves a trade-off between speed, capacity, and cost.

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Hard Drives/Hard Disks

Common Hard Drives

Hard disks were the most common storage devices of the past decade or so. They are reliable, have large capacities, and are relatively inexpensive.

From the first Hard Drive which was limited to approx 20 MB of storage, we have gone to the relatively common capacity of 4TB. Disk manufacturers have released drives that are 10TB and 12TB, and we should even see a 16TB hard drive early next year if not before that.

In terms of cost for storage, hard drives are the cheapest. As a disadvantage, however, they have moving parts, which means they are susceptible to failure if something goes wrong or if you drop a laptop containing a hard drive. They are also heavier and they make noise. This latter point may not bother most people, but I prefer not to hear anything spinning in my computer.

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Common 2.5″ Solid State Drive

Solid state drives, or SSDs, use flash memory to store data. When they’re built into a computer, in appearance they’re just a few chips on a circuit board. (You can also buy them in 2.5″ format to install in a laptop, or in an external enclosure.)

SSDs are compact, quiet and very fast, especially when you start up a computer or wake the computer (hard disks may go to sleep when not used for a certain time, and take a few seconds to spin up). SSDs also use less power, run cooler, are lighter, and have no moving parts, which makes them ideal for laptops.

If you drop a laptop when its hard drive is spinning, the drive can be damaged, and you can lose data. SSDs tend to be more reliable overall, and if they fail, you can still read data (unless the actual memory chips are damaged), whereas you may not be able to do this with a hard disk.

However, SSDs are much more expensive when you look at the cost to storage ratio. Currently, you can buy an 8TB external drive for less than €150, whereas that amount of money will only buy you a 500GB SSD.

In Conclusion

The speed and reliability of SSDs make them the ideal solution for today’s computers. Most people do not want a computer/laptop without an SSD, because an SSD enables it to boot much faster, apps launch faster, and files copy more quickly. SSDs by far out weigh the Hard Drives and if you can at all afford it choose an SSD.