What Kind of Storage Drive is Right for You?

As we move further into the 2020s, the days of mechanical hard drives are slowly drawing to a close. Originating with the first 3.75-megabyte commercial hard drive in 1956, these rotating platter systems have served humanity well, but they’re increasingly hitting a wall when it comes to performance. So, what is it that’s bringing down the former stalwart, what might you need to upgrade, and where might aiming for the fastest end up wasting your money?

Limitations of Moving Parts

The big problem for mechanical hard drives is similar to the big problem of optical disks – physical stress limitations. The way both of these work is by spinning at high speeds and having the data read off as they go. As a storage disk spins faster, the faster data can be read, but the greater the physical forces it experiences. On a CD this is around 23,000 RPM, after which the critical spin rate is met, and the CD risks exploding. The same can be true for hard drives’ maximum speed potential.

Newer generations of storage drives get around this limitation by placing their memory on chips called NAND flash. This has no moving parts, and thus it overcomes the largest bottleneck that traditional spinning drives experience. With the name solid state, the various forms this technology takes are still evolving. While they’re not strictly necessary for most users, one of these solid-state drives can offer enormous advantages over older storage systems, even if adopted partially.

Drives in Action

For the least demanding kind of use you could expect from a storage drive, let’s consider a user who engaged with general browsing, media watching, and online gaming with live bingo games. Live bingo games are held to the highest level of modern HTML development, but they’re still light enough that they run perfectly well even on mechanical drives. Whether playing something like Odds & Evens, 5 Line Bingo, or any other variant, the games won’t have issues. This might not be true for your operating system, however.

With each new iteration, Windows gets bulkier and can take longer to load. If you’ve ever had to wait minutes for Windows to boot, you understand this concept. This delay is why many people are investing in solid-state boot drives, where Windows is stored on an older-generation SSD which still vastly decreases loading waits over an HDD.

Concerting additional drives to solid states then depends on your use case. For general-duty software, additional SSDs can be worth the investment, but for larger media files like movies where speed doesn’t matter so much, HDDs can still be the better choice.

There aren’t that many of us out there who need the newest and fastest generations of M.2 SSDs. They can be useful in the most demanding titles thanks to technology like DirectStorage, and for people who work with large files, but that’s not many of us. In general, if your work or hobbies haven’t taught you what the advantages of the new SSDs are, then odds are you don’t need them.

Image credit: Phiraphon Srithakae via Pexels

Make no mistake, SSDs are on track to replace HDDs entirely over time. With each year they become cheaper and their storage becomes denser, meaning the advantages of HDDs are failing to keep up. Until that point, however, don’t feel you need to run out and overhaul your whole system, though a new boot SSD might be worth a look if you’re tired of waiting for your computer to start.

Header image credit: Daniel Aleksandersen via Flickr

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