SSD vs. HDD | Digital trends


When looking for a new PC or external hard drive, you’ll likely see two different storage options: a traditional hard drive (HDD) and an solid-state drive (SSD). Deciding which one is best for your needs can be a big hurdle if you don’t know the difference. Should you go for the old-fashioned hard drive or the newer, faster SSD? Here, we’ll help you make the best choice based on crucial factors like storage size, speed, and price.

If you decide that an SSD is right for you, we’ve also rounded up the best SSD deals available right now.

Storage capacity

It’s not difficult to find hard drives with several terabytes of storage – and they’re getting bigger and bigger – without adding too much to the cost to the consumer.

In contrast, SSDs have a lower capacity and become prohibitive when you exceed the 4TB capacity in the 2.5in SATA model or 2TB in the M.2 model.

However, when it comes to storage space, hard drives will retain their advantage for the foreseeable future, although the conversation will change over the next few years when SATA SSDs emerge with 16TB of capacity, and thereafter when new ones. prices will drop to affordable levels. If you want to store something for the long term or store large files and folders, hard drives are the way to go, but this is one of the only areas where hard drives still carry weight.

Speed, design and durability

The “speed” of drives is primarily focused on the speed at which they can read and write data. For hard drives, the speed at which the platters spin helps determine read / write times. When accessing a file, the “read” part of the read / write head notes the positioning of the magnetic section as it flies over the rotating platters. As long as the file being read was written sequentially, the hard drive will hover over it. However, as the disk becomes cluttered with data, it is easy for a file to be written across multiple sections. This phenomenon is called “fragmentation” and results in files that take longer to read.

With SSDs, fragmentation is not a problem. Files can be written to cells sporadically – and are designed for this – with little impact on read times, as each cell is accessed simultaneously. This simple, simultaneous access to every cell means files are read at blazingly fast speeds – much faster than a hard drive can, regardless of the fragmentation. This is why SSDs can give a system a vibrant feel, as their ability to access data on the entire drive, known as random access, is much faster.

This faster reading speed comes with a catch. SSD cells can wear out over time. They push electrons through a gate to set its state, which wears down on the cell and over time lowers its performance until the SSD wears out. Having said that, the time it would take for this to happen for most users is quite a long time; one would probably upgrade their SSD due to obsolescence or the desire for more storage space before a standard SSD fails. There are also technologies like GARNISH, which help prevent SSDs from degrading too quickly.

There is a balance between durability, capacity and speed as NAND storage technology has gone from original SLC with 1 bit of data per cell to MLC with 2 bits, then TLC (the T is for Triple), and now QLC for Quad, or 4 bits of data per cell. the Samsung 860 QVO earns this QVO suffix through its use of QLC flash storage.

By consolidating more bits of data into each cell, manufacturers can increase storage capacity and reduce costs. Unfortunately, there is a problem with hardware longevity, as it becomes more complicated to determine the state of each of the bits in a given cell as silicon ages. In addition, the read and write process takes longer than before, so we see a distinct division in the characteristics of the new SSDs. Some models, such as the WD Black or the Samsung 980 Pro, have a PCI Express 4.0 interface with TLC NAND and are extremely fast, while other SSDs offer higher capacity at a lower price but with lower performance. and a shorter lifespan.

The biggest problem with hard drives is that they are much more vulnerable to physical damage due to their use of mechanical parts. If one were to ditch a laptop with a hard drive, there is a good chance that all of these moving parts would collide, leading to potential data loss and even destructive physical damage that could kill the hard drive outright. SSDs have no moving parts, so they can better survive the rigors we place on our portable devices and laptops.

Another thing to keep in mind is the design of these devices. Hard drives are almost always 3.5 inch or 2.5 inch drives, while solid state drives come in different shapes and sizes. The most common is still the 2.5 inch drive, but smaller SSDs in the M.2 form are becoming more common. If you are planning to upgrade your PC or laptop with an M.2 SSD, you will need to do some research to determine if the M.2 supports NVMe protocol and if it is PCI Express Gen 3 or Gen 4. It is a shame to install a slow SSD in a fast system, and equally upsetting to buy a fast SSD for a system unable to reap the benefits of technology. We love M.2 SSDs, despite being priced higher than their SATA III counterparts, because they are much smaller and increasingly offer the fastest storage speeds.

For more information on SATA, you can check out our guide which includes everything you need to know about it.


Although prices have been dropping for years, SSDs are still more expensive per gigabyte than hard drives. For similar amounts of storage, you could end up paying almost twice as much for an SSD as a hard drive – and even more at higher capacities.

While you’re paying higher prices for less space with an SSD, you’re investing in faster, more efficient, and much more durable data storage overall. If you are building a system with speed, power requirements, or portability in mind, an SSD will be the best choice. Adding another hard drive is easy and inexpensive on most desktops, so it’s a good upgrade if you need more storage space. Having a separate data drive also allows you to update or reinstall your operating system with minimal effort.

Over the past year, we have suffered from a shortage of computer hardware, which has held back the steady decline in prices for SSDs. Even so, we find less reason to opt for hard drives in most systems. For as low as $ 60, there are 500GB branded SSDs available, which is almost the same price as the average 1TB hard drive. At these prices, even casual users will notice a drastic improvement in boot time, data access. and general liveliness of the system. We expect new systems to include an SSD – or at least a hybrid drive.

Hybrid, external drives and the last word

Hybrid discs offer a happy medium between the advantages of solid-state drives and hard drives. They combine hard drive and SSD into one device. There are several different versions of this type of technology.

First, there are SSHDs – or solid state hybrid drives. These drives are full-size hard drives (often around one or two terabytes) that come with an additional cache of NAND SSD memory (usually a few GB). SSHDs work by learning the files you use most often and writing them to the quickly accessible SSD section of memory. All other files are stored on the spinning disk of the hard drive. While an SSHD won’t give you the durability and lower power requirements of an SSD, it should still offer a huge speed boost for some processes.

You can find SSHDs that can fit a 2.5 inch slot, as well as 3.5 inch options. In addition to these two hybrids, which make excellent choices for those who only have space for a single drive, one could also choose to purchase multiple separate drives, depending on their configuration and the amount of drive. space they have for assembly.

AMD Ryzen systems with X399, X400 or X500 series chipset motherboards have access to different types of AMD StoreMI Technology discs. You can probably use any combination of these drives to create your own custom storage system; However, the ideal choice for most users is a small SSD paired with a larger hard drive. Another storage option is Optane memory from Intel, which functions as a small cache drive on its own, but which is not available on AMD systems.

You have the choice of using a drive as an external storage device for your system. A number of manufacturers create drives like this for the sole purpose of using them as an external storage source. They also tend to make external enclosure kits that are suitable for a range of SSDs and hard drives. External drives provide the functionality and benefits of an internal drive, but with increased portability.

SSDs are quickly identified as the preferred solution for older mechanical hard drives. When looking for a new storage configuration for your device, consider options that have an SSD. These drives tend to run faster and make a noticeable difference in your performance levels. The price tends to be higher for these products, but it will pay off in the long run, thanks to the increased speed you will experience with SSD technology.

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