What is the difference between ssd and hdd?

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.

Category: hard drive upgrade
Tags: hdd, solid state drive, ssd, ssd vs hdd