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SSD and HDD Differences
Understanding the differences between SSD and HDD is pretty straight forward. A hard disk drive (HDD) is a traditional storage device that uses mechanical platters and a moving read/write head to access data. A solid state drive (SSD) is a newer, faster type of device that stores data on instantly-accessible memory chips.
If you bought an ultraportable laptop anytime in the last few years, you very likely got a solid-state drive (SSD) as the primary boot drive. Bulkier gaming laptops have moved to SSD boot drives, too, while only a subset of budget machines still favor hard disk drives (HDDs). The boot drives in prebuilt desktop PCs, meanwhile, are mostly SSDs now, too, except in the cheapest models. In some cases, a desktop comes with both, with the SSD as the boot drive and the HDD as a bigger-capacity storage supplement.
If you have to pick just one, though, how do you choose? Let’s get into the differences between SSDs and HDDs, and walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide.
Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
Hard drives are still around in budget and older systems, but SSDs are now the rule in mainstream systems and high-end laptops like the Apple MacBook Pro, which does not offer a hard drive even as a configurable option. Desktops and cheaper laptops, on the other hand, will continue to offer HDDs, at least for the next few years.
That said, both SSDs and hard drives do the same job: They boot your system, and store your applications and personal files. But each type of storage has its own unique traits. How do they differ, and why would you want to get one over the other?
SSD vs. HDD Pricing
SSDs are more expensive than hard drives in terms of dollar per gigabyte. A 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard drive costs between $40 and $60, but as of this writing, the very cheapest SSDs of the same capacity and form factor start at around $100. That translates into 4 to 6 cents per gigabyte for the hard drive versus 10 cents per gigabyte for the SSD. The differences are more drastic if you look at high-capacity 3.5-inch hard drives. For example, a 12TB 3.5-inch hard drive that sells for around $300 to $350 can push the per-gigabyte cost below 3 cents.
Since hard drives use older, more established technology, they will likely remain less expensive for the foreseeable future. Though the per-gig price gap is closing between hard drives and low-end SSDs, those extra bucks for the SSD may push your system price over budget.
SSD vs. HDD Maximum and Common Capacities
Consumer SSDs are rarely found in capacities greater than 2TB, and those are expensive. You’re more likely to find 500GB to 1TB units as primary drives in systems. While 500GB is considered a “base” hard drive capacity for premium laptops these days, pricing concerns can push that down to 128GB or 256GB for lower-priced SSD-based systems. Users with big media collections or who work in content creation will require even more, with 1TB to 8TB drives available in high-end systems.
Basically, the more storage capacity, the more stuff you can keep on your PC. Cloud-based storage may be good for housing files you plan to share among your smartphone, tablet, and PC, but local storage is less expensive, and you have to buy it only once, not subscribe to it.
SSD and HDD Speed
This is where SSDs shine. An SSD-equipped PC will boot in far less than a minute, often in just seconds. A hard drive requires time to speed up to operating specs, and it will continue to be slower than an SSD during normal use. A PC or Mac with an SSD boots faster, launches and runs apps faster, and transfers files faster. Whether you’re using your computer for fun, school, or business, the extra speed may be the difference between finishing on time and being late.
SSD and HDD Reliability and Durability
An SSD has no moving parts, so it is more likely to keep your data safe in the event you drop your laptop bag or your system gets shaken while it’s operating. Most hard drives park their read/write heads when the system is off, but when they are working, the heads are flying over the drive platter at a distance of a few nanometers. Besides, even parking brakes have limits. If you’re rough on your equipment, an SSD is recommended.
SSD and HDD Form Factors
Because hard drives rely on spinning platters, there is a limit to how small they can be manufactured. Years back, there was an initiative to make smaller 1.8-inch spinning hard drives, but that stalled at about 320GB, and smartphone manufacturers only use flash memory for their primary storage.
SSD and HDD Noise, Power, and Lifespan
Even the quietest hard drive will emit a bit of noise when it is in use. (The drive platters spin and the read arm ticks back and forth.) Faster hard drives will tend to make more noise than those that are slower. SSDs make no noise at all; they’re non-mechanical.
The overall takeaway? Hard drives win on price and capacity. SSDs work best if speed, ruggedness, form factor, noise, or fragmentation (technically, a subset of speed) are important factors to you. If it weren’t for the price and capacity issues, SSDs would be the hands-down winner. opens in a new windowClickAway provides hard drive replacement services to whichever drive you prefer.
Steps To Fix Hard Drive Failure
You turn your computer on and nothing happens. The first feeling you experience is panic, and then it moves to fear. The fear is that your data is gone and there is nothing you can do. But don’t panic. There are steps you can take to fix a hard drive failure. You can always call opens in a new windowClickAway for a free quote to get your data recovered by a professional technician. We have the tools and the know-how necessary to recover as much of your data as possible from your damaged hard drive. First, let’s discuss the recovery steps.
- Clean Out the Computer Vents
Over time, dust and debris will visibly clog up the vents on your computer. When your computer vents are clogged, air cannot flow properly through your computer case and your computer can overheat. Clean out your vents and let your computer sit overnight to cool off. As long as there is no serious damage, it should start right up the next day. ClickAway also provides a computer cleaning service if you prefer to have us do it to fix hard drive failure.
- Check the Power and Data Cables
Your hard drive has power and data cables that connect to it from the computer power supply and motherboard. Open your case and check these cables at both ends. One of the key things to remember when learning how to fix hard drive failure is to check everything. Never assume it is your hard drive that is having problems because it could be something else in your computer.
If your power and data cables are plugged in properly to your hard drive and those cables are not frayed, then check the other ends. Your hard drive’s power cable could be frayed at the power supply. If that is the case, then use a different power plug from your power supply. If the data cable is bad, then replace it.
- Check Your Bios
Your problem could be your operating system. As your computer powers up, it will give you a prompt telling you what button to press to get into the BIOS. Press that button and then make sure the computer is seeing your hard drive. If the hard drive is being recognized by the BIOS, then it is an issue with your operating system. You may be able to find a fix online, or you may need to bring your computer to a technician.
- Listen for Sounds
If your computer beeps when you turn it on or you hear a loud clicking noise, then you need get your computer to one of our certified technicians immediately. Whenever your operating system is on, it is writing to and reading from your drive. The longer you allow the damaged drive to try and run your operating system, the more data you could be losing. Instead of taking any chances, we strongly recommend that you give ClickAway a call and set up a time to bring your computer in and allow us to recover your data for you.
You’ll need to replace the hard drive in your computer for one of two reasons: either your current drive has experienced a hardware failure and needs replaced or you want to upgrade your primary hard drive for increased speed or capacity. Replacing the hard drive is a pretty easy task that anyone can complete with a little help. ClickAway hard drive upgrade services is always here if you need us.
Steps to replace the hard drive
- First, you’ll need to back up any data you want to keep, uninstall the old hard drive, install the new hard drive, and then restore the backed up data. Backing up the data you want to keep is the most important step in this process! The hard drive isn’t the valuable thing—it’s the priceless files you’ve created and collected over the years. Backing up could mean something as simple as copying files you want over to a large flash drive or other storage you’re not using. Better yet, if you’re not backing up regularly already, use this as an opportunity to start with a cloud backup service so you never even run the chance of losing a file again.
- Uninstalling the existing hard drive is easy. Make sure your computer is turned off and then disconnect the hard drive and physically remove it. The details here depend on the type of computer you have but in general, this means removing data and power cables or sliding the hard drive out from the bay that it’s installed into.
- Installing the new hard drive is as simple as reversing the steps you took to uninstall the one you’re replacing! Secure the drive where the old one was before and then reconnect the same power and data cables.
- Once your computer is back on, it’s time to format the hard drive so it’s ready to store files. Once that’s done, copy the data you backed up to the new drive and you’re set!
How to format a hard drive on Windows – internal or external drives
Your Windows hard drive may be partitioned into several different drives. Aside from your primary C drive, you may have smaller internal drives with names like D, E, F, etc. External drives are, again, hardware like USB drives or other external storage devices. Luckily, it’s much easier to reformat all of those drives, because they don’t contain the OS.
Here’s how to format either an internal or external hard drive:
- Start up your computer as usual, but hold down the WINDOWS key and type in R to open the Run dialog box.
- When the box opens, type in diskmgmt.msc and then click OK.
- The Disk Management window will open. Select the drive you want to format (internal or external) by right-clicking and choosing Format…. You can also rename drives here if you wish.
- A Format box will pop up. That’s where you’ll choose the file system for your drive. (See above for our guidance on file systems.) You’ll also have the choice to do a “quick” format or not. A quick format is — wait for it — quick. It’ll do a basic delete of the hard drive in just a few seconds, but it doesn’t truly erase or wipe anything, meaning that it’s out of sight but not irretrievable. It’s a good option if you want to clean the drive, but also want to continue using it yourself. If you’re preparing your computer before giving it away or selling it, you should do a normal format by unchecking the Perform a quick format box. This may take several hours, but will more thoroughly wipe your personal information. It will also scan and remove any bad sectors, which prevents future corrupted files. Click OK and you’re done!
While formatting your disk will wipe it clean, it also deletes your files. If you’d prefer to keep your disk clean without taking the nuclear option, you can perform some disk maintenance instead. Why is this necessary? During the normal computing process, Windows accumulates a ton of junk that bogs it down: residual files, leftover installers, temporary files, cached data, and more. If you don’t clear it out regularly, your machine will start to slow down, freeze, and serve up error messages. Need some help with that? ClickAway can quickly do this for you in our shops or we can come to your home or business.
How to format a hard drive on Mac
Formatting a hard drive for Mac isn’t rocket science, but I wouldn’t let your neighbor’s first-grader do it for you, either.
Here’s how to format a hard drive on Mac:
- Start up your computer and log in.
- Open Finder, click the Go drop-down menu, and select Utilities.
- Then select Disk Utility.
- Here you’ll be able to select the hard drive you want to format.
- Click Erase to format the drive. A window will pop up to let you choose the file system you want, and how many times you want to overwrite the drive. Multiple overwrites will take longer, but they’re more secure (and will prevent your files from being recovered).
What about formatting external hard drives or flash drives?
The steps to format external drives and flash drives (also called thumb drives and USB drives) are basically the same as formatting internal drives. Luckily, that means learning how to format an external hard drive is fairly straightforward. See above for our step-by-step instructions on Windows or Mac. And remember that if you want your external drive to be both Mac and Windows compatible, your best bet is to use the exFAT file system.
Do new hard drives need formatting?
No! New hard drives are formatted automatically, either by default or when you first plug them in. So there’s no secret sauce to formatting new hard drives — just plug them in and you’re good to go. Further questions about how to format a hard drive can be answered by calling ClickAway.
Keep your hard drive performing at its best
Over time, your hard drive becomes cluttered with temporary files, cached data, duplicate files, apps you never use, and other junk. All that clutter will slow down your computer and could cause issues such as crashes and freezes. You can remove everything by completely wiping your drive as we’ve described above — but that’s not a long-term solution. The same junk data will quickly build up again with regular computer use. Call opens in a new windowClickAway for either a free diagnosis of your hard drive or to purchase and upgrade your hard drive today.
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More On Hard Drive Replacement
One of the quickest and most cost effective performance upgrades to your laptop or desktop computer is an SSD upgrade. For as little as $99 you can give up to a 10x performance increase to your computer. ClickAway's repair experts are here to help! Our certified technicians can upgrade your laptop or desktop's hard drive or replace it with a blazing fast SSD and get you up and running quickly. If your new computer takes a long time to boot up, that's likely because it runs on a regular hard drive. This is also the case of most older computers. The good news is that swapping out the drives is quite easy to do and not too expensive either, thanks to the fact that SSDs are now much more affordable than they were a few years ago.
Looking to turbocharge an aging laptop? An SSD upgrade is not only effective, but nowadays, it can be downright cheap. SATA drives, M.2 SSDs, PCI Express, NVMe: ClickAway can tell you everything you need to know about laptop SSD upgrades
- Lenovo ThinkPad, HP, Dell, and Toshiba laptop SSD upgrades starting at only *$99
- Desktop SSD upgrades starting at only *$99
*Not applicable to all models as part prices will vary with drive types and capacity.
MacBook Pro Hard Drive Replacement or
Install New Hard Drive Windows 10
There are many ways to make a slow laptop faster, but few are as easy and cost-effective as replacing your existing hard drive with SSD upgrades. Even student laptops benefit from SSD upgrades. Making the swap will, in most cases, dramatically reduce the time it takes to boot Windows, load programs, and perform any activity that involves significant amounts of disk access (video editing, gaming, transferring files, etc.). When I swapped out my hard drive for an SSD, my Windows boot time dropped from a very-painful almost 10 minutes to well under a minute. And programs like Adobe Photoshop that could take a minute or more to open, now open in seconds. Your old computer won’t just be as good as new; it will be better than it ever was.
With an SSD, you’ll also get the added advantage of greater ruggedness (SSDs are much less susceptible to damage from drops than hard drives because they have no moving parts), better battery life and quieter operation.
Despite the advantages of SSDs, in the past, upgrading wasn’t an attractive option for many people because of the high cost. But with 1TB SSDs now available for around $100, it’s almost silly not to make the switch. We run a cloning program (which literally makes a clone of your existing drive, so your operating system, your programs and settings, and all your files will be exactly the same and ready to go on your new drive).
Here are the simple steps we take to swap out your hard drive for an SSD.
- Buy an SSD from ClickAway
- We transfer data to the new SSD
- We clone your HD for security
- We install the SSD & related software
ClickAway is a full-service computer repair, phone repair, network installation and IT services company. Above all, we provide professional and opens in a new windowClickAway Repairs Computers for all your home, personal, or small business technology needs. ClickAway combines all your tech needs in one stop. We are just a click away for new purchases, repair service or if you simply have a question.