Every computer system is made up of a lot of components and storage is one of them. Visualizing a computer system working without storage is near to impossible. Storage is what holds permanent data into your computer.
When buying a new computer system, storage is one of the primary specs that people look for. The more storage you have, the more data you can hold in your system. But storage capacity is just one side of the coin. There are a lot of other things to consider when it comes to system storage– durability, reliability, and speed of the storage drive are a few of them.
You will see most of the computer experts/companies/marketers/enthusiasts saying that you should go for an SSD in today’s modern world. But, not everyone will need an SSD in all cases.
SSDs or SSHDs are required only when you need fast data read/write capabilities. These devices will help your computers load games, software, and OS faster. However, HDDs are enough if you use your computer for data processing or other low-end tasks. HDDs are great to have huge storage spaces at comparatively low prices.
You might have various other questions in mind related to these storage devices. I am going to answer all of them below in this article.
Types of Storage Drives
The storage capacity, speed, durability, reliability, the technology used, everything differs from one type of storage drive to another. And that leads us to a very important question– what type of storage drive is the best to buy in 2021.
Before we talk about the best option, we should know about all the available options. The three most popular types of storage drives in use today are–
What is a hard disk drive?
Hard disk drives are the traditional storage drives that have been in use for over 5 decades. Hard disk drives are still manufactured and sold on a large scale.
What that means is HDDs are trustable storage devices.
How HDDs work?
As the name suggests, hard disk drives make use of a spinning disk inside them to store and read data.
An HDD has a platter and an actuator arm in it. The platter is magnetically active. The platter has tracks in it and the tracks have sectors in it. Tracks and sectors together form a unique location where data is written or stored.
Every time you wish to write or store data in the HDD, the disk spins, and then the actuator arm with a read/write head on it writes data in the available location.
And when you wish to retrieve or read data, the disk spins and the actuator arm reads it from the location where the data is present.
However, it’s not the actuator arm that is making decisions in an HDD, it is the I/O controller and firmware inside it that is responsible for communication with the system. It is the I/O controller and firmware that tells the actuator arm where to write data or from where to read data. It is also responsible for error handling.
In a nutshell, hard disk drives are complex mechanical drives that use a rotating disk inside them to read and write data.
Earlier, HDDs used to be large and heavy. With time, both the size and performance of hard disk drives have improved. Most HDDs today have a read/write speed of 4200 rpm to 7200 rpm.
The speed at which the disk rotates determines how fast the data will be read or written.
Let’s talk about the modern storage drives- SSD.
Solid-state drives are one of the most popular storage drives in use today. They are the modern type of storage drives. With the introduction of SSDs, HDDs have lost their preference in the market.
I have written another article discussing the reasons for choosing an SSD over HDD. Now, just see how SSD actually works.
SSDs are available in two types- SATA and NVMe.
How Solid-state drives work?
SSDs don’t rely on mechanical moving parts like a rotating disk, instead, it uses NAND flash memory to read and write data. Similar to SSD, The RAM in your computer also uses flash memory.
In an SSD, the flash memory has a grid of electrical cells, and those cells further have pages in them. The pages could store electrical charge. Multiple pages come together to form blocks in an SSD flash memory.
When you write data in an SSD, the data is stored in a block. If the block already has some data in it, that data is shifted to another block, erased from the original block, and then the data is written in the block.
So when you write data in a block, the entire block is refreshed, the same happens when you update some data in a block. The working of an SSD is complex and we won’t get much into it.
In a nutshell, the process of data rewriting and deletion in an SSD is not as straightforward as in HDDs.
The process of data rewriting and deletion takes some time. As you fill up your SSD with more and more data and blank pages become more limited, the rewriting process becomes even more time-consuming. However, even when I say time-consuming, we are still talking in milliseconds and nanoseconds.
SSHD- What is IT?
Solid-state hybrid drives or SSHD is a mix of both an HDD and an SSD. It uses both flash memory and a rotating disk to store data. A major part of an SSHD is an HDD and some of it uses flash memory.
It is a clever device that could use the SSD part for operating data or data that needs to load fast, and it can use the HDD part to store more permanent data. For making such storage location decisions, SSHDs use a controller. The NAND memory in the SSHD acts similarly to large cache storage.
SSHD overcomes the storage capacity limitations of SSD and the performance limitations of an HDD by amalgamating both in one hardware device.
Drawbacks of SSHD over SSD?
SSHDs comes with a small amount of flash storage along with a magnetic disk. The disk setup is just like a traditional HDD but the flash storage is used to store the most commonly used files. So, this can be very beneficial if you have limited number of software to use in your computer.
However, when you try to access the files or data which is not stored in that flash memory area, you are going to have the same speed which you will get in an ordinary HDD.
It’s time to put all three storage drives into a comparison battle. We will consider different parameters to compare different drives. Buyers could opt for one drive over another depending on the parameters that matter most to them.
Comparison Table (Infographic)
1. Storage Capacity
Storage capacity is a very crucial parameter, the majority of people look for its storage capacity before buying a storage drive. And unless you are a hardcore user or gamer, storage capacity would be the first thing you would check in a storage device.
2. So who has got the most storage capacity?
Surprisingly, SSHDs are the ones that offer the highest storage capacity in the market. You can easily get an SSHD with 10-14 TB of storage capacity. So if you are looking to buy a storage drive that has never-ending storage capacity, SSHD is the one to go for.
Next to SSHD, hard-disk drives have the highest storage capacity. You can get a GDD with a storage capacity of up to 12 TB. Large storage capacity is one of the major advantages of an HDD.
Storage capacity is one of the biggest limitations of Solid-state drives. Despite being modern technology and blazing fast, SSDs in the market today have a maximum storage capacity of 4 TB.
3. Performance and Speed
Performance is where Solid-state drive outshines every other storage drives on the planet. Solid-state drive very fast when it comes to reading and writing data. SSDs are up to ten times faster than HDDs.
If performance is a primary concern for you, then go and grab an SSD. SSDs are suitable for gamers, developers, designers, and everybody who needs superior performance for optimal workflow. Most people prefer installing their OS and heavy programs on SSD to get faster boot and load times.
HDDs are poor when it comes to speed. Their reliance on rotating disks to read and write data makes them both noisy and slow.
SSHDs deliver good performance and good storage capacity at the same time. An SSHD can store data that is frequently used on flash memory and more intact data on the hard disk. Therefore, SSHD can boot and load crucial programs and OS at a speed comparable to SSD.
For those who wish to own a storage drive that is both fast and provides large space, SSHD is something to consider.
Budget plays an important role when deciding to buy things. When you have more money, you can buy expensive stuff and you get what you pay for. But when the budget is a constraint, choosing one gets tricky.
HDDs are one of the cheapest storage drives available today. Despite being cheap, you get massive storage capacity with a hard-disk drive.
You can get a 1 TB HDD for under 100$. But for an SSD of the same size, get ready to spend at least three times more. SSDs are getting cheaper day by day, but when compared to HDDs- SSDs are still expensive.
An SSHD costs a bit more than an HDD and provides you with the best of both worlds experience.
5. Life Expectancy and Durability
How long your drive will last depends on a multitude of factors. But some storage devices tend to last longer than others.
HDD generally has a better life than others in terms of read/writes possible. However, they are not as durable as an SSD due to the presence of moving parts in them. HDDs are more prone to physical damage.
An SSD is often accused of low life expectancy, and indeed it is true when compared to HDDs. It is believed that the storage units in an SSD degrade with constant use.
Most SSDs can be written and overwritten only a limited number of times. However, SSDs work fine for a decade on average. Newer SSDs are far more durable and reliable than older versions.
When it comes to the maximum number of reads and writes, SSHDs have a higher life expectancy than an SSD. And SSHDs very reliable but less durable than an SSD.
6. Form Factor
SSDs are often the thinnest and least bulky. This is because SSDs use NAND memory and they don’t have bulky mechanical moving parts.
HDDs are more bulky and fragile due to moving parts in them.
SSHDs are average of both due to presence of both technologies in one chassis.
7. Power Consumption
The amount of power hardware consumes may not be an issue for PC users, but it is worth considering for laptop users.
SSDs are power-efficient and they don’t consume as much power as HDDs do.
Hard disk drives are known for consuming power and heating up when put in an extensive load.
Since SSHDs have both SSD and HDD in one, they consume power depending on the part which is in use.
Which one should you buy? SSD, HDD or SSHD
As you would have realized by now, the best option depends on your requirements. If you want to be able to store massive amounts of data without spending a fortune then going with a hard-disk drive would make more sense.
SSD is the ideal choice if your primary interest is performance and speed. However, the thing with SSDs is– they are available in limited storage capacity and they are most expensive.
SSHD gives you a blend of hard disk and flash memory. When tight on budget and high on expectations, getting an SSHD could be a good deal.
Thanks for reading and hope it helps.