Updated: May 17
SSD vs HDD:
Most people now buy laptops for their computing needs and have to make the decision between getting either a Solid State Drive (SSD) or Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as the storage component. So which of the two is the better choice, an SSD or HDD?
There’s no straight-forward answer to this question; each buyer has different needs and you have to evaluate the decision based on those needs, your preferences, and of course budget.
Even though the price of SSDs has been falling, the price per gigabyte advantage is still strongly with HDDs. Yet, if performance and fast bootup is your primary consideration and money is secondary, then SSD is the way to go. For the remainder of this article, we will make a comparison of SSD and HDD storage and go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of both.
What is an SSD?
We’ll make no assumptions here and keep this article on a level that anyone can understand. You might be shopping for a computer and simply wondering what the heck SSD actually means? To begin, SSD stands for Solid State Drive. You’re probably familiar with USB memory sticks – SSD can be thought of as an oversized and more sophisticated version of the humble USB memory stick. Like a memory stick, there are no moving parts to an SSD. Rather, information is stored in microchips.
Conversely, a hard disk drive uses a mechanical arm with a read/write head to move around and read information from the right location on a storage platter. This difference is what makes SSD so much faster. As an analogy, what’s quicker? Having to walk across the room to retrieve a book to get information or simply magically having that book open in front of you when you need it?
That’s how an HDD compares to an SSD; it simply requires more physical labor (mechanical movement) to get information.
A typical SSD uses what is called NAND-based flash memory. This is a non-volatile type of memory. What does non-volatile mean you ask? The simple answer is that you can turn off the disk and it won’t “forget” what was stored on it. This is of course an essential characteristic of any type of permanent memory. During the early days of SSD, rumors floated around saying stored data would wear off and be lost after only a few years. Regardless, that rumor is certainly not true with today’s technology, as you can read and write to an SSD all day long and the data storage integrity will be maintained for well over 200 years. In other words, the data storage life of an SSD can outlive you!
An SSD does not have a mechanical arm to read and write data, it instead relies on an embedded processor (or “brain”) called a controller to perform a bunch of operations related to reading and writing data. The controller is a very important factor in determining the speed of the SSD. Decisions it makes related to how to store, retrieve, cache and clean up data can determine the overall speed of the drive.
We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details for the various tasks it performs such as error correction, read and write caching, encryption, and garbage collection to name a few. Yet, suffice to say, good controller technology is often what separates an excellent SSD from a good one. An example of a fast controller today is the SandForce SATA 3.0 (6GB/s) SSD controller that supports burst speeds up to 550MB/s read and write speeds. The next gen SandForce 3700 family of controllers was announced in late 2013, and is quoted to reach a blistering 1,800MB/s read/write sequential speeds as well as 150K/80K random IOPS.
Finally, you may be wondering what an SSD looks like and how easy it is to replace a hard drive with an after-market device. If you look at the images below, you’ll see the top and undersides of a typically-sized 2.5” SSD. The technology is encased inside either a plastic or metal case and looks like nothing more than what a battery might.
—Some Commons Faq’s
1) What is a hybrid SSD?
In computing, a hybrid drive is a logical or physical storage device that combines a fast storage medium such as NAND flash solid-state drive (SSD) with a hard disk drive (HDD), with the intent of adding some of the speed of flash storage to the cost-effective storage capacity of traditional HDDs.
2) What is meant by Sata hard disk?
Serial ATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or SATA) is a standard for connecting and transferring data from hard disk drives (HDDs) to computer systems. As its name implies, SATA is based on serial signaling technology, unlike Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) hard drives that use parallel signaling.
3) How does a hybrid hard drive work?
Hybrid hard drives blend HDD capacity with SSD speeds by placing traditional rotating platters and a small amount of high-speed flash memory on a single drive. Hybrid storage products monitor the data being read from the hard drive, and cache the most frequently accessed bits to the high-speed NAND flash memory.
SSD Vs HDD Comparison:
Now it’s time to do some comparisons and determine which might be best for your individual needs – SSD or HDD? The best way to compare items is a table with a side by side comparison of items in which a green box indicates an advantage:
SSD (Solid State Drive)
HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
Power Draw / Battery Life
Less power draw, averages 2 – 3 watts, resulting in 30+ minute battery boost
More power draw, averages 6 – 7 watts and therefore uses more battery
Expensive, roughly $0.20 per gigabyte (based on buying a 1TB drive)
Only around $0.03 per gigabyte, very cheap (buying a 4TB model)
Typically not larger than 1TB for notebook size drives; 4TB max for desktops
Typically around 500GB and 2TB maximum for notebook size drives; 10TB max for desktops
Operating System Boot Time
Around 10-13 seconds average bootup time
Around 30-40 seconds average bootup time
There are no moving parts and as such no sound
Audible clicks and spinning can be heard
No vibration as there are no moving parts
The spinning of the platters can sometimes result in vibration
Lower power draw and no moving parts so little heat is produced
HDD doesn’t produce much heat, but it will have a measurable amount more heat than an SSD due to moving parts and higher power draw
Mean time between failure rate of 2.0 million hours
Mean time between failure rate of 1.5 million hours
File Copy / Write Speed
Generally above 200 MB/s and up to 550 MB/s for cutting edge drives
The range can be anywhere from 50 – 120MB / s
Full Disk Encryption (FDE) Supported on some models
Full Disk Encryption (FDE) Supported on some models
File Opening Speed
Up to 30% faster than HDD
Slower than SSD
An SSD is safe from any effects of magnetism
Magnets can erase data
If we tally up the checkmarks, the SSD gets 9 and HDD gets 3. Does that mean the that an SSD is three times better than an HDD? Not at all. As we mentioned earlier, it all depends on individual needs.
The comparison here is just to lay out the pros and cons for both options. To aid you even more, here are some rules to follow when you decide which drive is best for you:
An HDD might be the right choice if:
You need lots of storage capacity, up to 10TB.
Don’t want to spend much money.
Don’t care too much about how fast a computer boots up or opens programs – then get a hard drive (HDD).
An SSD might be the right choice if:
You are willing to pay for faster performance
Don’t mind limited storage capacity or can work around that (though consumer SSD now go up to 4TB and enterprise run as high as 60TB).