A hard disk drive or a hard drive is a data storage device that uses magnetic recording to store and retrieve digital information. Unlike a solid-state drive or SDD that uses non-moving interconnected flash memories, a hard disk drive or HDD is essentially composed of a metal platter with magnetic coating. This coating stores the data. A paired magnetic head reads and writes data on this coating while the platter spins.
The stark difference between a hard disk drive and a solid-state drive also speaks of their unique advantages and disadvantages. Take note that HDDs remain a popular storage device among manufacturers and consumers because there are more accessible and affordable than SSD. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of hard disk drives:
Advantages of hard disk drives: HDD vs. SSD
1. More affordable than SSD: One of the primary advantages of a hard disk drive is that it is more affordable than SSD in terms of dollar per gigabit. An SSD with a storage capacity similar with an HDD can be twice as expensive. This means that desktop or laptop computers with hard disk drives are considerably cheaper than counterparts sporting an SSD storage system. External HDDs are also cheaper than external SSDs.
2. Higher storage capacity than SSD: Another advantage of a hard disk drive is that this storage system is available at varying storage capacity options—usually at a higher base capacity than SSD. 500GB HDDs have now become a standard storage capacity for computers and external drives. The availability of more computers and external drives sporting 1TB HDDs is promoting a new standard for storage capacity. On the other hand, compared with an HDD, computers or devices that use an SSD storage system have a base capacity of 128GB.
3. HDD is easier to buy in most stores: There is an abundance of internal or external hard disk drives in the market. Individuals who want to upgrade their computers or want to buy an external media storage to backup their data would find it more convenient to oft an HDD instead of an SSD. However, devices using SSDs are becoming more popular as well and the technology involved in producing this HDD counterpart is becoming more efficient. This could mean that SSDs can have the same availability in the immediate future.
4. Longer lifespan than SSD: Longevity in terms of read-and-write cycle is another worthy advantage of hard disk drives. The flash memories of a solid-state drive can only be used for a finite number of writes. An SSD cannot write a single bit of information without first erasing and then rewriting very large blocks of data at one time. As each cell goes through this cycle, it becomes more useless.
Disadvantages of hard disk drives: HDD vs. SSD
1. HDD is slower than SSD: Different variants of hard disk drives have different read and write speeds—depending on their respective RPM or rotation per minute specification. It is worth emphasising that solid-state drives are faster than HDD. A computer with an HDD storage system will boot slower than SSD. In addition, because an HDD is prone to fragmentation of data because of its rotary recording surface, it is inherently slower than fragmentation-free SSD.
2. Higher power consumption: Another disadvantage of a hard disk drive is that it consumes more power than SSD. The storage device basically needs more power input to rotate the metallic platter and move that magnetic read head. The implication of this is that manufacturers would instead opt for an SSD for computers that are more compact or that have limited batter capacity.
3. Produces noise while in operation: The spinning of the metallic platter and the back-and-forth movement of the magnetic read head create mechanical noises while a hard disk drive is in operation. Both spin and movement also create subtle vibrations. This is more noticeable during boot or whenever a user is storing large files. SDD is essentially noise-free.
4. Not durable compared to SDD: One great disadvantage of a hard disk drive is that it is more prone to integrity failure or data loss and overall device corruption. The movable mechanical parts of an HDD make it physically vulnerable to mechanical damages due to drops and shudder. For example, the close spacing between the read head and the metallic platter makes HDD prone to scrapes across the platter as the head grinds the thin magnetic coating.
5. Bulkier form factor: Another disadvantage of a hard disk drive is a bulkier form factor. There is a limit on how small HDDs can be manufactured because of the need for a rotating metallic platter and a moving read head. This makes HDDs not suitable for mobile computing devices such as laptops. Take note that smartphone and table computer manufacturers have been using an SSD storage system.