HDD vs SSD: Which One Should You Choose?

Written by: Justine Liew

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 Are you looking for extra storage space for your laptop or desktop? Or are you building your first ever dream PC? Picking the right choice between HDDs and SSDs storage devices is probably the first thing you would consider. Confused and unsure of how to start and want to make the best decision? Here’s all you need to know.

What Is An HDD?

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A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is a traditional hard drive. It is a type of data storage device that is usually installed inside of a computer, attached directly to the disk controller of the computer’s motherboard. It uses mechanical platters and a moving ‘head’ - known as transducers, to access the data. 


Here’s a little history lesson for you. The first HDD was invented and introduced into the market by IBM (International Business Machines) in 1956. Initially, HDDs were much larger but with the competition, they became smaller but with an increased storage capacity. Today, you get to see HDDs that are less bulkier and sleeker. 


HDDs are available in different form factors - this is defined as a hardware design aspect that determines the size, shape and other physical specifications of components. The two common ones are 2.5 inch SATA drive (usually used in laptops) and 3.5 SATA inch (for desktop computers).

What Is An SSD?

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On the other hand, a Solid State Drive (SSD) is a newer, modern, and faster type of data storage device that stores data on instantly and readily accessible memory chips. SSDs use flash memory instead of moving parts. If we take a look inside, we can see that it is just a circuit board with multiple small components one of which includes tiny flash chips where all data is stored. 


Here’s another history lesson for you (woohoo!). Much later, SSDs were invented and introduced into the market in the 1970s. When it was invented, some companies used SSDs as RAM, which is used for temporary quick access. However, as the size increased, companies began to sell them as permanent storage drives. 


SSDs come in many form factors, such as 2.5 inch SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) SSDs, the M.2 SATA SSDs, and the M.2 NVMes. SSDs also come in another form factor known as the PCIe. 


If you’re eager to learn more, keep an eye out for our next article on SSDs!

Why Do Computers Need Storage Devices?

Think of it this way, storage is like a computer’s long-term memory. For computers to operate well, it will require an operating system that allows users to interact with and use. These operating systems understand and translate keyboard and mouse movements which then admits the use of software like an Internet browser and video games. 

Therefore, an HDD or SSD is required to act as the storage medium for the operating system to be installed and stored.

So What Are Their Differences?

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Speed

One distinct feature that makes SSDs a progressively popular choice comes down to their speed. SSDs outperform HDDs because it utilizes an electrical circuit with no physical moving parts. This is in contrast to HDDs that have physical read/write ‘heads’ moving up and down the data-filled mech platter limited by its spin speed. 


Therefore, this leads to shorter waiting times when starting up your laptop/desktop computer, fewer delays when waiting for apps and services to start, or copying over large files. As SSDs technology uses electronic interfaces, the speed of the SSDs is much quicker as compared to HDDs. The speed itself is almost 6 times faster than traditional HDDs. 

Reliability

SSDs are generally more reliable than HDDs, this also means that SSDs are less likely to break as compared to HDDs. As the nature of SSDs has no moving parts, they are more likely to keep your data safe if you have fewer components to break. Without any moving parts, SSDs are not affected by vibration or thermal related issues. Unfortunately for HDDs, this means that an unexpected drop from your desk could be disastrous due to the presence of their moving part-filled components.


Conversely, HDDs and SSDs can be measured by their Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). MTBF can be defined as how reliable a hardware product or component is over its expected lifetime. HDDs have a failure rate that fluctuates between 2 - 5% as compared to an SSD with a failure rate of less than 0.5%. This makes an SSD roughly 4 - 10 times more reliable than an HDD!

Noise and Power

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Other than that, if noise is a concern of yours, an SSD would be the preferred choice. Similar to the reasons above, no moving parts mean it would not emit any noise. Whereas even the quietest HDD will still emit some form of noise when it is in use. This is caused by the spinning platters and the read/write head ticking back and forth.

Adding to that, SSDs commonly require less power which results in longer and better battery life due to their non-mechanical nature. Unlike an HDD, the energy consumed by an SSD  is not wasted on friction or noise, making them more efficient. The data access is also much faster as the device is idle more frequently.


Lifespan

There is also the question of longevity between these two drives. Both HDDs and SDDs have write cycles, this can be defined as the measure or endurance of life for an SSD and most flash-based storage devices. Interestingly, HDDs have no read/write limits. This indicates that SSDs would start to decline after crossing the limit of the number of write cycles it has. However, SSDs still have a write cycle limit between 3000 to 10,000, which is still a significantly high number. 


While it’s true that SSDs have no moving parts, the use of storing flash memory to its full capacity may be the determining factor to how long it would last. One method of measuring the longevity of an SSD is the total number of terabytes written overtime (TBW). 


Even though both SSDs and HDDs can last very long in terms of write cycles, HDDs will ultimately wear out first due to constant use from their physical data recording methods and any damages to the drive itself. Although with modern technology, HDDs can handle larger physical shocks as some may incorporate shock-proofing technology used to protect the drives.

Price Per Storage

SSDs are much more expensive than HDDs in terms of price per storage. For similar amounts of storage, an SSD would be priced at nearly double the price of an HDD - with possibly even higher capacity. To illustrate, the Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA SSD costs $169. While the Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA HDD costs $85. That is almost double the price for similar storage space!


Fun Fact, the price of traditional hard drives is lower as the mechanism used is not as costly. Whereas the price of a solid-state drive is very high due to silicon chips being present and the cost of silicon chips is not cheap. 


Even though SSD prices continue to drop, closing the gap between the two drives, they are nowhere close to matching the price per storage offered by HDDs. At least, not yet. A good source for a direct price comparison between HDDs and SSDs throughout the years can be found at PCPartPicker.


Conclusion

There are multiple considerations to be mindful of when choosing between an SSD or HDD. Regardless if you're using your computer for leisure, school, or work, the difference in speed, reliability, lifespan, power, and price between SSDs and HDDs may be the deciding factor that affects your overall experience.


Here is a simple breakdown of the differences between HDD and SSD.


HDD
SSD
Speed

Slower

Faster

Reliability

Failure rate fluctuates between 2 - 5%

The failure rate of less than 0.5%

Noise

Yes as there are moving parts included.

No, as there are no moving parts included. 

Lifespan

Unlimited write cycles

Limited write cycles

Power

More power and energy consumed

Less power - longer and better battery life

Price

Less expensive

More expensive


On average, the popular choice to go for would be HDDs as this storage device option is relatively cheaper in comparison to SSDs. Contrary to that, if your budget is not a major concern but the speed and performance is a priority of yours, then SSDs would be the better option. 


Generally speaking, if you were a gamer, you would undeniably prefer SSDs over HDDs to optimize your gaming experience. This is because video games contain numerous assets such as their high-resolution graphics, audios, textures, and more which adds up to their large file storage. Longer load times could disrupt the gaming experience while shorter load times allows you to be immersed in the game!


Another way you can do it is to have the best of both worlds! This means you can set an SSD as your main storage drive where Windows and all your apps are installed, while an HDD will be used only for storage - your photos, videos, and documents. 


To sum it all up, it may be challenging to decide what your main priority would be but choosing the right storage drive that suits your needs will be worth the research. Good luck and we hoped the information provided was helpful (even if it’s just a little)!