Short for solid-state drive, an SSD is a storage medium that uses non-volatile memory as a means of holding and accessing data. Unlike a hard drive, an SSD has no moving parts, which gives it advantages, such as faster access time, noiseless operation, higher reliability, and lower power consumption. The picture shows an example of an SSD made by Crucial. In this article, we will discuss SSD vs HDD.
As the costs have come down, SSDs have become suitable replacements for a standard hard drive in both desktop and laptop computers. SSDs are also a great solution for netbooks and other applications that don’t require a lot of storage.
If you bought an ultraportable anytime in the last few years, you very likely got a solid-state drive (SSD) as the primary boot drive. Larger laptops are increasingly moving to SSD boot drives, too, while budget machines still tend to favor hard disk drives (HDDs). The boot drives in desktop PCs, meanwhile, are a mishmash of SSDs or HDDs; in some cases, a system comes with both, with the SSD as the boot drive and the HDD as a bigger-capacity storage supplement.
If you have to pick just one, though, how do you choose? Let’s get into the differences between SSDs and HDDs, and walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide.
SSD vs HDD Explained
The traditional spinning hard drive is the basic non-volatile storage on a computer. That is, information on it doesn’t “go away” when you turn off the system, unlike data stored in RAM. A hard drive is essentially a metal platter with a magnetic coating that stores your data, whether weather reports from the last century, a high-definition copy of the original Star Wars trilogy, or your digital music collection. A read/write head on an arm accesses the data while the platters are spinning.
An SSD does functionally everything a hard drive does, but data is instead stored on interconnected flash memory chips that retain the data even when there’s no power present. These flash chips are of a different type than the kind used in USB thumb drives and are typically faster and more reliable. SSDs are consequently more expensive than USB thumb drives of the same capacities. Like thumb drives, though, they’re often much smaller than HDDs and therefore offer manufacturers more flexibility in designing a PC. While they can take the place of traditional 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch hard drive bays, they can also be installed in a PCI Express expansion slot or even be mounted directly on the motherboard, a configuration that’s now common in high-end laptops and all-in-ones.
Note: We’ll be talking primarily about internal drives in this story, but almost everything applies to external hard drives as well. External drives come in both large desktop and compact portable form factors, and SSDs are gradually becoming a larger part of the external market.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Both SSDs and hard drives do the same job: They boot your system and store your applications and personal files. But each type of storage has its own unique feature set. How do they differ, and why would you want to get one over the other? Let us see SSD vs HDD.
Price: Between SSD vs HDD, SSDs are more expensive than hard drives in terms of dollar per gigabyte. A 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard drive costs between $40 and $60, but as of this writing, the very cheapest SSDs of the same capacity and form factor start at around $125. That translates into 4 to 6 cents per gigabyte for the hard drive versus 13 cents per gigabyte for the SSD. Since hard drives use older, more established technology, they will remain less expensive for the near future. Though the price gap is closing between hard drives and the very lowest-end SSDs, those extra bucks for the SSD may push your system price over budget.
Maximum and Common Capacity: Although consumer SSD units top out at 4TB, those are still uncommon and expensive. You’re more likely to find 500GB to 1TB units as primary drives in systems. While 500GB is considered a “base” hard drive capacity in 2019, pricing concerns can push that down to 128GB or 250GB for lower-priced SSD-based systems. Users with big media collections or who work in content creation will require even more, with 1TB to 4TB drives common in high-end systems. Basically, the more storage capacity, the more stuff you can keep on your PC. Cloud-based (Internet) storage may be good for housing files you plan to share among your smartphone, tablet, and PC, but local storage is less expensive, and you have to buy it only once, not subscribe to it.
Speed: This is where SSDs shine. An SSD-equipped PC will boot in less than a minute, and often in just seconds. A hard drive requires time to speed up to operating specs, and it will continue to be slower than an SSD during normal use. A PC or Mac with an SSD boots faster, launches and runs apps faster, and transfers files faster. Whether you’re using your computer for fun, school, or business, the extra speed may be the difference between finishing on time and failing.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand SSD vs HDD clearly.