For many computer users, the difference between SSD and HDD does not matter. After all, for the average computer user, so long as the computer is working fine, there is no need to learn about the intricacies of how components work. However, for those who want only state of the art technology in their computer systems, and have the time and curiosity, understanding the differences between the two devices is worthwhile.
Knowing the differences will allow you to benefit from the advantages each one provides and enable you to make full use of their lifespan. This post will be rather long and a bit technical. However, most of the explanations are explained in layman’s language, so it will not be difficult for users who are not as tech savvy.
Want to see best hard drives right away? If yes, than check out our top picks in thoose articles: In the articles you can find specific products with small reviews which will point out the main specifications of each product.
SSD vs. HDD: What Are They?
They are also referred to as nonvolatile storage devices. Nonvolatile memories are essential to computer systems since they are used to store and retrieve modifiable and erasable data that remains even if the computer system is restarted.
Your files, which can be in form of songs, documents, movies, pictures, and apps, are stored in your computer’s hard disk drive or solid state drive. They act pretty much the same as your phone’s internal memory and external memory card.
For more than two decades, hard disk drives have dominated the market when it comes to storage devices. After all, nothing has rivaled its reliability, cheapness, and availability. Desktops, laptops, and some other computing devices have relied on hard disk drives for data storage.
Hard disk drives use the same technology as cassette tapes. This technology is called magnetic recording or magnetic storage. Hard disk drives use magnetic materials that are ‘placed’ on top of disk platters to store data on them. These platters are spun like CDs in CD players and data is read and wrote by a read/write head like a CD player’s lens. Find the best hard drive exactly for you.
On the other hand, solid-state drives are new players in the storage media market. It is considered faster against regular hard disk drives. Solid-state drives are often installed in desktop systems. Only a handful of vendors equip laptops with SSD.
Unlike hard disk drives, solid-state drives do not use any form of magnetic recording. Instead, solid-state drives primarily use electrical components, such as capacitors and integrated circuits, to store data.
Technically, those components are used to create RAM (Random Access Memory) – a volatile computer memory type. In a different perspective, solid-state drives are composed of volatile RAM modules that were made non-volatile memories.
On a different note, SSDs in the market use different technologies in order to save data. A few of those technologies are DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory), which is often referred to as flash memory. As of now, NAND Flash Memory is often used in modern SSDs. These technologies are often used in non-volatile memory modules.
These technologies are not that new. For example, DRAM is used to create RAM modules for computers though SDRAMs (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) are used in modern RAM modules.
On the other hand, NVRAMs or flash memories are used a lot in most electronic devices. A fine example of a device that use flash memory modules is a smartphone. Most smartphones have flash memories that serve as the smartphone’s phone or internal memory. Also, USB memory sticks are also a form of NVRAM.
HDD – Brief History and Development
Magnetic recording has been around for a long time. In the late 1950s, government computers used humongous hard disk drives, which are as big as regular closets, with a capacity of 3.75MB, which is already considered ‘huge’ during those times.
Of course, decades have gone by and continuous efforts were made to reduce the size and improve the storage capacity of the old hard disk drives. As of now, most hard drives come in two forms: 2.5-inch for laptops and 3.5-inch for desktops. Alternatively, hard disk drives have storage capacity of 80GB (80,000MB) up to 1TB (1,000GBs) or more.
SSD – Brief History and Development
Unfortunately, hard disk drives have a few limitations and shortcomings. First of all, the read and write speed of these drives are lackluster compared to RAM. Second, hard disk drives have moving parts, which can be noisy and more prone to mechanical wear and tear.
Due to that, many have fancied making RAM modules non-volatile. It was a good idea. After all, data transfer in RAM modules is almost instantaneous and they do not have moving parts. However, many obstacles, such as a need of RAM for constant power to retain data, were to be removed before it can become possible.
A few years after, some were successful in finding ways on how RAM can be used as a non-volatile memory. This gave birth to NVRAM. Unfortunately, the capabilities of flash drives were still limited. In order to become non-volatile, a lot of performance decreases were needed. Speed and memory capacity were needed to be reduce in order to create functional NVRAM. Most of the devices that used this version of this memory were in form of USB flash drives, internal phone memory for old smartphone models, etcetera.
Fast forward to year 2000, fully capable SSDs were born. They were initially installed in laptops during those times. Some were integrated directly to the board of laptops – those SSDs functioned in a manner similar to smartphone’s phone memory.
SSD vs HDD: Advantages and Disadvantages
Solid-state drives and hard disk drives are fully capable of providing the average user’s need of having a storage media device. Both are capable of giving a decent boot time. Both are capable of storing lots of data (4TB and higher SSDs are already available on the market). But what if the user has certain demands on his computer system? What are those demands that the two can and not meet?
SSD vs HDD: Price
Before anything else, pricing of the two must be discussed. Unfortunately, if you have a small budget, getting HDD is the best solution. After all, SSDs are expensive than their HDD counterpart.
For the same capacity, an SSD’s price is twice as expensive as an HDD. One of the main reasons SSD is more expensive is that the production of SSD is not yet fully mature. Despite being stable, it still has some flaws, requiring research, development, and improvement. Due to that, production of SSDs is still rapidly changing, resulting to high production expenses.
On the other hand, performance has great bearing for its price. After all, SSD might be twice expensive, but it can be twice as fast as an HDD. Of course, the stabilization of SSD’s price is still unpredictable as of this moment.
As a guideline, each GB of storage capacity costs $0.10 in SSD while it costs $0.06 in HDDs. A regular 1TB SSD might cost $100 while a regular 1TB HDD might cost $60.
SSD vs HDD: Read and Write Speed
This is the biggest edge of SSD vs HDD. Regular SSDs have a speed of 200MB/s. More expensive SSDs can have a speed of 550MB/sor faster. Copying a Blu-ray quality movie from one SSD to another, can take up to 8 up to 15 seconds.
On the other hand, regular HDDs have a speed of 50MB/s. More expensive HDDs can have a speed of 120MB/s. Copying a Blu-ray quality movie from one HDD to another can take up to 25 up to 60 seconds. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the two.
When it comes to operating system boot speed, an OS installed in an SSD drive boots to desktop within 10 – 15 seconds. An OS installed in an HDD drive boots to desktop within 30 – 40 seconds. There is a huge difference in here because of HDD’s slow start time. Unlike SSD, HDDs need a few seconds before it can operate in its max capacity.
To get more idea on how faster SSD than HDD is, it will be best for you to check out storage drive benchmarks on the net. Of course, SSD will have much higher scores due to the multiple limitations of HDD when it comes to read and write speed.
On the other hand, there are some cases wherein SSD will appear slow. When copying files from an SSD to an HDD, the speed will be limited to the speed of the slower unit. For example, if the HDD can only handle 100MB per second write or read speed, the transfer between a regular SSD with 200MB per second will be limited to the 100MB per second read/write speed of the HDD.
Why is speed important anyway? First of all, the speed of your main storage device will dictate how fast your operating system will boot up. Second, a faster read/write speed can help in boosting the speed of opening and running computer programs. On the other hand, it can enhance the speed of your operating system when handling virtual memory. However, despite being SSD being a better option to improving your computer’s virtual memory, there are some disadvantages to it, which will be discussed later.
SSD vs HDD: Storage Capacity
In most cases, it is down to storage capacity. Most computer stores (or computer parts retailers) tend to highlight the maximum capacity of storage drives. Despite being essential, storage capacity is not always the key component that you should consider when getting a storage drive.
Nevertheless, most consumers are uneducated when it comes to storage devices, so it will be much easier to market storage drives using their storage capacity. After all, people are more familiar with the importance of storage capacity in storage devices than the other properties of storage devices.
Anyway, in this category, hard disk drives have the upper hand. As of this writing, most HDDs sold in the market have the capacity of 500GB and higher. Alternatively, most SSDs sold in the market have the capacity of 120GB.
You can find SSDs that have capacities that go around 60GB up to 100GB. The highest that you can get from a typical computer parts store will be around 250GB. Despite 1TB to 4TB SSDs being already available, it is difficult to find them and they are very expensive. Usually, these SSDs are sold to businesses who use and host servers.
On the other hand, 4TB HDDs are already ubiquitous. They can cost around $180 to $200. SSDs with capacities of 250GB already cost $160 to $180. As you can see, there is a huge gap between the values of each GB on an SSD and an HDD.
SSD vs HDD: Performance
This is another aspect where SSD wins over HDD. Due to the hardware limitation of HDDs, a unit filled with files, to the point that it has only a few GBs free space left, will have performance degradation. This phenomenon is attributed to the fact that HDDs file system gets fragmented over time.
You see, to make sure that a computer will be able to use all the free space in an HDD, it will usually split big files into chunks so that they can fit. For example, a hard disk has 10 sectors. Unfortunately, sectors 2, 4, 6, and 10 already contain files. You have a big file that is 6 sectors big. In order for the computer to fit that file in your hard disk, it will need to split the file into four chunks. The first chunk will go to sector 1, the second chunk will go to sector 3, the third chunk will go to sector 5, and the fourth chunk will be placed on sectors 7, 8, and 9. Since the file is stored this way, it can be considered as a fragmented file.
How is that problematic for an HDD’s performance?
Well, a disk drive is just like a CD. If sector 1 is located on the inner edge of the CD, sector 3 and 5 are in the middle of the CD, and sectors 7, 8, and 9 are located on the outer edge of the CD, the read/write arm will need to move around a bit to access the whole file. The additional physical movements of the arm add to the read/write time of the hard disk drive.
Unfortunately, many operating systems produce a lot of fragment files (Windows XP is a good example). And HDD filled with lots of fragmented files will experience significant drops in read/write speed.
However, it is true that modern operating systems (mostly Linux operating systems and distributions that enforce the use of the ext [EXTended] file system: ext2, ext3, and ext4) have a better way of handling and preventing files from being fragmented. In some operating systems, there are defragmenting apps that will help alleviate that issue. Nevertheless, it is a complete hassle.
In SSDs, issues with fragmentation do not exist. It does not matter if the file is split into chunks and placed in different memory locations in SSDs. The chunks will still be accessed with no change in read/write speed.
After all, the absence of a moving arm that needs to go around eliminates this issue. Together with the modern file systems and operating system, it is expected that SSDs experience little performance drops when they are used for long periods of time and when their free space becomes limited.
SSD vs HDD: Wear and Tear
Just like any electronic devices, SSDs and HDDs will break down one day — the question will be when? This is where it gets blurry on which is better and will last longer.
You must have thought that due to the moving physical parts in HDDs, it will automatically lose to SSDs hands down, right? Well, unfortunately, SSDs can be worn down easily with frequent use.
Unlike HDDs, SSDs have a limited number of ‘writes’. It means that storage locations or units within SSDs will die out after a certain times data was written on it. For example, the data in sector 1 in an SSD has been rewritten for 10 times. If its limit was set to 11 rewrites, that sector will become bad, unreadable, and rewriteable in the next rewrite. If that sector is as big as 1GB and the SSD was 250GB big, the SSD’s capacity will be subtracted by 1GB and you will be able to use the remaining 249GB only. Of course, this is just an example and SSDs’ capacity do not drop that fast.
According to some battery tests doneonline, SSDs with 250GB capacity can withstand 800TB to 2.5PB (2,500 TB) of data being rewritten on them nonstop for one and a half year. Using simple math, it can be deduced that each storage location within those SSDs can withstand 3,200 up to 10,000 rewrites. If you generate and store data as big as 1,450GB (1.45TB) up to 4,500GB (4.50TB) a day, then an SSD will only last a year and a half to you.
SSD vs HDD: Recommendations
Average Budget Conscious User
Storage capacity and speed does not really matter to you. You might be probably using your computer for creating documents, saving pictures, and browsing the internet. There is no need for you to spend extra money to get optimum performance.
SSD is recommended for those who do not care about the price of SSDs. It will be reliable since you are not the type of person who rewrites a lot of data in your storage device. You will be free from the ‘shorter’ lifespan of HDD. With typical computer use, your SSD will serve you for a long time.
SSD or HDD
Content Developer (Image, Audio, and Video)
It is recommended that you stock up a lot on RAM to prevent your SSD from wearing out. SSD is there to maximize your computer’s performance. On the other hand, you will need an HDD because you can get higher storage capacity. And SSD with 250GB capacity is not enough to store the data you use for the content you generate. Sample movie clips alone can hog 1GB up to 10GB of data instantly.