Hard Drives, Solid State Drives

Hard Drives vs. Solid State Drives

Hard Drives vs. Solid State Drives

Ever wonder what the difference was between hard drives and solid state drives? Though both are widely used, solid state drives are increasing rapidly in popularity in the modern market. These are the key differences between the main types of data storage on the market today.

Hard Disk Drives: The Old Veteran

If you’ve been using a computer for more than 10 years, you’ve probably used a hard disk drive. HDDs have been around as long as storage has been an option. And for good measure – they’re inexpensive to manufacture and reasonably reliable. HDDs utilize a serial AT attachment (SATA, for short) cable that connects them to the motherboard. HDDs work by using metal plates that spin at high speeds (today, it’s usually 7200 RPM). As these plates spin, a metal arm writes data on the plates. The metal arm is also how the data is read. Since they require the same physical action, HDDs cannot read and write at the same time. This limits the speed that they can transfer data, known as throughput.

Aside from data limitations, HDDs also have plenty of physical drawbacks. The spinning disks within them generate a large amount of heat and noise. HDDs also tend to be large, heavy and bulky, which forces manufacturers into making bulkier devices. A change in storage device type was long overdue.

Solid State Drives: The Cutting-edge Pro

Enter the solid state drive. The SSDs entered the mainstream data storage market around 2007. While they offered great benefits over traditional hard drives, they were adopted in the market much more slowly than anticipated. The primary reason? Price. In 2007, SSDs prices averaged at $40 per gigabyte of storage. That same year, HDDs prices averaged $2.70 per gigabyte of storage. Despite this cost disparity, the technology evolved and prices dropped over the years, making SSDs more accessible to the general public.

SSDs solved all the problems that came with HDDs: no more heat and noise from spinning plates, smaller devices, and exponentially faster data throughput. Since SSDs process all data digitally rather than physically, they can read and write at the same time and with far greater speeds. However, they use the same SATA connection as the HDDs, which bottlenecks them. SATA cables have been around since 2002 and were never created to handle today’s average amount of data throughput. This was the spark for SSDs to evolve once more.

M.2 Solid State Drives: The Child Prodigy

The M.2 solid state drive is the newest standard for SSDs today. The primary difference is that they abandon the bottleneck of the SATA protocol and instead use Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (a mouthful that is usually shortened to PCIe). PCIe slots are found on most modern motherboards and support a variety of peripherals, such as graphic and audio cards. By using PCIe slots to connect to the motherboard, rather than the standard SATA cable, M.2 SSDs are able to attain an enormous boost in throughput.

How large, exactly?

The typical throughput of an SSD can be placed at 6 gigabits/second. The newest M.2 models will achieve over five times that amount, with an average throughput of 32 gigabits/second. For comparison, HDDs are often far below 1 gigabit/second. So these breakthrough M.2 SSDs will boot faster, use less power and deliver better overall performance than either the HDDs or the SSDs.

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