Computer Hardware

SSD vs. HDD: The Difference Between Computer Storage

December 7, 2020 • 14 min read

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Getting the right storage for your computer is pretty important, since you don't want to lose valuable research, work, gaming data, photos or anything else you keep on your system. You don't necessarily need both but using both drives simultaneously can make your computer faster and more stable.

Let's look at some pros and cons of an SSD and HDD, as well as why it's a good idea to have a backup of your data.

Why SSD storage?

SSD stands for Solid State Drive. They store data persistently on chips (usually flash based), are much smaller and faster.

PRO: Data stored on SSDs are typically considered to be more reliable, and both the read/write speed to the SSD tends to be faster than storing on a traditional hard drive.

PRO: Data stored is generally also considered to be "safer" because there are no moving parts within an SSD, so it's less likely for a physical part to fail, and they are relatively shock proof.

CON: An SSD is more expensive than an HDD.

Why HDD storage?

HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive. Data is stored on a spinning magnetic disk/platter that is accessed by a read/write head.

PRO: Much cheaper than SSD and you get a lot more space. You can find a 16TB Seagate ST16000NM001G Enterprise grade hard drive for under $0.02 cents per Gigabyte versus most standard SSD drives costs of around $0.90 cents per Gigabyte. That's a huge pricing difference!

CON: Data loss is more likely with age or part failure.

What about having a backup of my data?

This is definitely a good idea since you don't want to lose years of work, memories, gaming progress and other personal data. There are many different ways to save duplicates of your data, including Cloud Storage, RAID 1/RAID 5, and External Storage.

Cloud storage

Storing your data online, on storage hosted by someone else is a popular way to keep your most important work safe.

PRO: No additional hardware is needed. You simply need an Internet connection to both upload and download your data.

PRO: Can store a large amount of data relatively cheaply, leaving you more space to use on your own system.

CON: Typically, uploading data can take a very long time depending on your ISP provider. Downloading data tends to be pretty fast, but again, this will depend on your Internet speeds. This service also typically has a monthly/year service fee.

CON: Your data is not stored physically in your home or office, so if your Internet goes down you have no access to what's stored online.

RAID 1/RAID 5

RAID stand for Redundant Array of Independent/Inexpensive Disks. This allows you to store data across multiple hard drives.

PRO: Depending on your setup, you will either have an exact duplicate of your data, or you will have a part of your data on multiple additional hard drives to minimize loss of data if one of the drives fail.

CON: Will require additional drives which increases your cost.

External storage

In addition to having an SSD and/or HDD installed in your computer, you can also have one or more additional storage drives that you can back data up on when plugged into your computer. This can be an SSD or HDD, for example.

PRO: This external drive will not be in constant use (which will increase the life of your drive), and can also be stored separately away from your current computer (in case of fire, earthquake, or other acts of nature).

CON: Will require additional drives which increases your cost.

Our Recommendation

A common configuration now when building a home computer, gaming rig or research workstation is to have an SSD as a boot drive and an HDD for data storage. This is the best of both worlds. Your operating system and the most commonly used applications all should go onto the SSD as your computer is constantly reading and writing to that data. This will give you a big speed boost.

For all the data that you are saving as attachments/photos/music, since they tend to be much bigger files with less daily usage, the traditional HDD has a much better bang for your buck in terms of space needed.

In terms of having backups for your data, it really depends on how much effort you are willing to put in. If you don’t mind regularly connecting an external drive and copying data, this will be a highly recommended option. If you know you will forget to backup regularly, a RAID 1/RAID 5 solution will probably be a better option for you.


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