HDD: Pros and cons of hard disk drive

HDD: Pros and cons of hard disk drive

A hard disk drive or HDD is a hardware device used for storing data. This specific type of storage device uses magnetic recording to store and retrieve data. Specifically, a typical HDD has two critical parts: a paired magnetic head that writes and reads data on a spinning magnet-coated metal platter.

Both the magnetic head and metal platter are moving parts. These parts differentiate an HDD from a solid-state drive or SSD uses non-moving interconnected flash memories for storing and retrieving data. However, although HDDs are currently more popular, SDDs are becoming more prominent in computers where portability and form factor are important considerations. Hence, hard disk drives are regularly pitted against SDD.

This article lists and describes the advantages and disadvantages or pros and cons of a hard disk drive when compared to a solid-state drive.

HDD vs. SSD: The pros of hard disk drive

1. Cheaper than SSD: A hard disk drive is more affordable than a solid-state drive in consideration of dollar pricing per gigabit. Take note that an SSD with similar storage capacity as an HDD is typically twice as expensive. Hence, computers equipped with an SSD are more expensive than those equipped with an HDD.

2. Base storage capacity: Higher storage capacity is another advantage of hard disk drive over a solid-state drive. More HDDs in the market are sold at a higher base capacity of 500GB while SSDs are sold at a starting base capacity of 128GB. In other words, 500GB has become a base standard for HDDs. Computers equipped with an HDD come with at least 500GB of storage capacity.

3. More accessible than SSD: Another advantage of a hard disk drive is market availability. There is an abundance of internal and external HDDs from different manufacturers that flood the market. Although SSDs are becoming more available, it is still more convenient to opt for an HDD due to accessibility in addition to affordability and highest storage options.

4. Higher read-write cycles: Compared to a solid-state drive, a notable advantage of a hard disk drive is its longevity based on higher read-write cycles. Note that the there is only a limited number of times data can be stored and retrieved on an SDD because its flash memories have a finite number of writes. Unlike an HDD, an SSD needs to erase and rewrite large blocks of data at one time before writing a single bit of data. Repetitive read-write cycles shorten the lifespan of flash memories.

HDD vs. SSD: The cons of hard disk drive

1. Slower read-write speed than SSD: One of the disadvantages of a hard disk drive when compared to a solid-state drive is the speed it writes and reads data. An SSD is faster than HDD in this regard. Furthermore, depending on RPM or rotation per minute specification, HDD variants have different read and write speeds. Data are also fragmented in an HDD due to its rotary recording surface. SSD are not prone to fragmentation. Nonetheless, a computer equipped with an HDD boosts slower and can operate relatively slower than a counterpart equipped with an SSD.

2. Energy inefficiency: A hard disk drive consumes more power than a solid-state drive. Essentially, an HDD needs more power input to operate its moving parts, specifically the magnetic head and the rotating metallic platter. Hence, manufacturers choose to equip portable computers with an SSD to promote energy efficiency and lengthen the battery life.

3. Produces distracting mechanical sound: Noise is another disadvantage of a hard disk drive. The rotation of the metallic platter and the back-and-forth movement of the magnetic head create mechanical noises and subtle vibrations while an HDD is in operation. This is noticeable during booting the computers or reading and writing a large amount of data. On the other hand, an SSD does not produce any mechanical sound.

4. Less durable than SSD: Perhaps, the most notable disadvantage of a hard disk drive when compared to a solid-state drive is its susceptibility to data loss and integrity failure due to physical vulnerability. The moving parts of an HDD make it vulnerable to damages due to drops and shudders. This is the reason why an SSD is more appropriate for laptops or portable computers. Similarly, an external SSD is more durable than an external HDD. Note that moving and carrying a device increase the risk of physical damages.

5. Larger physical form: The form factor of a hard disk drive is bulkier than an SSD. Manufacturers cannot reduce the size of an HDD because they need to take into consideration the placement and operation of its moving parts. This makes HDD unsuitable for applications in which mobility and smaller physical profile are important factors. Hence, ultrathin laptops and devices such as smartphones and tablets are equipped with SSD.