Hard Drives, Solid States, & Hybrids

Published 18 July 2019

Many users are taking the leap and upgrading their computers from HDDs (hard disk drive) to SSDs (solid state drive). Why? What's the difference? Is there a middle road option? Read on to find out:

Hard Disk Drives

These are made up of moving components, most notably drive motor, platter (the “disk') head motor, and moving arm with track head. These mechanical parts work together to write and read data. The fact that there are moving parts involved in this form of data storage means that it takes longer for data to be accessed, written, and read. As with all moving parts, wear and tear builds up over time. Thus all HDDs are subject to eventual mechanical failure.

What they do have going for them is their pricing. For example, you could purchase a 1Terabyte HDD for about half the price of a 500 Gigabyte SSD.

Good to Know: The estimated life expectancy of a HDD is between 1.5 and 4 years under normal use.

Solid State Drives

These use flash technology rather than moving parts. This gives them a tremendous increase in speed in all sectors, such as during system boot up, when running software, transferring and copying data, surfing the net, running antivirus scans, playing games, et c. SSDs are cheaper now than they did when they were first introduced, but are still a bit on the pricey side. But with the time-demands placed on the modern businessperson, making the upgrade to an SSD (at least when your HDD gives in) is a logical move. And doing so definitely tops the list of "most recommended upgrades to give your computer".

While some people have had concerns that the life expectancy of SSDs is shorter than that of traditional HDDS, this has mostly proven to be unwarranted, and trends show that the average life span of an SSD may even exceed that of HDDs by approximately 6 months or more.

Hybrid Drives/ Solid State Hard Drives

Or SSHDs, are about what you would expect by the name: a combination of the 2 storage systems discussed above. Inside a SSHD you will find both a spinning platter (the same you would find in a regular HDD), as well as a NAND flash storage module that makes up a SSD. Having that flash technology does add a bit more speed to your processes, but its nowhere near that of a sole SSD. One reason for this is that on a typical 1TB hybrid SSHD only 32GB of that storage space is made up of SSD technology, leaving the other 968 GB working on mechanical HDD tech. And while the firmware that comes programmed into these devices is pretty smart in "choosing" what data gets stored on which tech, this process cannot be determined manually. So you will find that you're still having to deal with the slower mechanical functioning of the HDD side of the device more than enjoying the speed boost of flash.

That being said, you can get a 1TB hybrid drive for the same price as a 500GB SSD, which makes these devices worth it for those that are more concerned about storage capacity, but would still like to benefit from a small speed increase on their machine.

Image of a floating FLS icon portraying a feather within a colorful circle