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SSD or HDD: Which One Should You Use?

By Julia Clarks | December 18, 2019 |

greater than 6 minutes

This is a hot topic and not a simple choice because it’s another interesting comparison. We are at a crossroads era, a time when most PC users are switching from their long-serving HDDs to  SSDs. Now, the question is, like many, do you also need an SSD or is it just another luxurious technological invention meant for those with extra spending money? Again, we have been using HDDs for quite a while. Therefore, when switching to an SSD, one needs a solid reason for the move. In this article, we will compare the two drives and highlight the pros and cons of each drive to assist you to come up with a sound decision on which drive you should use.  

Before the millennial era, buying a PC was as simple as counting numbers. There wasn’t much to decide on when it came to your storage device choice as the main concern was on the size and speed (the number of revolutions per minute). However, today, buying or upgrading a PC needs one to be prepared as there are a lot of technical decisions that you have to make, which will determine the smoothness of your experience in the future. 

The purpose of both drives is the same: to store information such as videos, images, programs, documents, etc. However, the technology applied in each of the drives is what makes a huge difference.  

HDD: This drive features a series of rotating platters sheltered using a ferromagnetic coating. The direction the magnetization moves represents an individual bit. The way the information is read and written to the drive is similar to the technology used in vinyl records. The drive uses a head to read and write data, and it moves from one area to the other extremely fast. With all these components being mechanical, an HDD is considered to be the most fragile and slowest hardware component of a PC.  

SSD: This is the latest form of disk storage, and it uses flash memory. The drive features separate memory cells that store bits that become accessible to the controller instantly. An SSD does not have any moving parts in it, and it is, therefore, less noisy and smaller in size. 

SSD vs HDD: Which Is Better? 

From the way both drives function, there is no doubt that an SSD is better than an HDD. An HDD uses physical components to store data. These components spin, thus making the drive more submissive to wear and tear. An HDD is fragile and is more likely to crash than its competitor. The user will require more space to mount an HDD. HDDs also make noise when they are operating (especially when executing intensive tasks). So, when an HDD is working hard, you can hear its sound increasing. On top of that, when stressed by heavy programs, an HDD can heat up pretty fast.  

From longer boot times to files taking longer to open or save, HDDs take longer to complete tasks. Adding to your woes, your programs, such as games and other applications, will also experience slow loading times. Well, these are some of the downsides of using a hard drive.  

With all the cons of an HDD put into consideration, that doesn’t mean it is bad to use it though. After all, we have been relying on it for decades. The main advantage of using an HDD is that it’s affordable. It is much cheaper to get more space on an HDD than on an SSD.  

On the other hand, we have an SSD, which is modern and packed with the latest technology. Today, when you hear of an SSD, the first thing that comes to mind is speed. Thanks to technology, we are now less patient and prefer things to be done at lightning speed. Therefore, an SSD will always be more attractive to most computer users than its venerable competitor. However, speed is not the sole advantage it has. SSDs are designed in a more sophisticated manner and deliver results more efficiently compared to HDDs. For starters, an SSD has no mechanical parts, therefore requiring less power to operate. Laptops with an SSD will have a better battery life compared to the ones using HDDs.  

An SSD is resistant to shock. Since an HDD uses a physical head that moves when reading/writing information, chances of data failure when you drop your laptop are high. This isn’t applicable to SSDs. 

Speed is essential, especially if you have tasks to complete and deadlines to meet. That split-second delay can cost you money, so it is vital to make sure your operating system is at its best and supported by the best components. The huge difference between an HDD and SSD is in the copying and moving of files. With HDDs, the speed of data transfer is from 30 to 150MB per second. However, a standard SSD normally processes data at a speed of 500MB per second, while the latest NVMe SSDs have speeds up to 3500MB per second. Clearly, the difference is quite huge. For instance, transferring 20 GB of data will take 10 seconds with an SSD, while with an HDD, it can take more than 2 minutes.  

How Long Can an SSD Last? 

When it comes to the lifespan of an SSD, myths related to it never end. However, the actuality is that an SSD fairly lasts as long as an HDD would. In most cases, the theory supporting the short lifespan of an SSD revolves around the use of cells that have a limited number of write cycles. Each cell can survive around 3000 cycles, which sounds not enough if you are to consider the amount of time we spend using our computers. However, thanks to the wear-leveling principle, SSDs do not write their operations on a single cell. They spread the writes across all their cells to reduce cell death. Moreover, with more modern SSDs, once cells reach their demise, they are replaced instantly by backup ones using the process called “bad block management”. Therefore, the larger the SSD, the longer it will last.  

So, even if you are to spend 24/7 constantly writing data on an SSD, it will still take you more than a decade to experience its death.  

The Difference in Capacity between HDDs and SSDs 

There isn’t much difference: most HDDs and SSDs have a capacity range between 128 GB and 2 TB. However, SSDs with more capacity are very expensive compared to HDDs. For instance, a 500GB high-end HDD costs from $25 to $50, whereas an SSD of the same capacity will cost from $60 to $150. If you’re not in a rush, you can wait. With time, SSD prices will continue to decrease as the better and more reliable technology takes the front stage.   

Should I Choose an SSD Instead of an HDD for Gaming? 

There is a lot of back and forth movement of data when gaming. Therefore, using an SSD instead of an HDD when gaming will give you not only better results but also a smoother experience. With an SSD, games load faster and it is unlikely for you to experience lag. If you are an eSports gamer, then an SSD will put you at an advantage because the whole PC won’t have to wait for game data to load. For example, an HDD will take more than 2 minutes to load GTA V, whereas it will only take 25 seconds for an SSD to load the same game.  

Is an SSD Good for Windows? 

Windows is everything to your computer. If you fail to take good care of your operating system, then you will have an awful experience in everything you do, from programs to games and everything in between. An SSD is a great component to use on Windows. For starters, we are talking about fast boot times. The latest SSDs take less time to boot compared to smartphones – that is how fast they are. Windows updates also do not take much time to install.  

If you just want to store your data and nothing more, then an HDD is a better choice as it will serve the purpose at a much cheaper cost. However, if you want to complete tasks faster or experience smooth gaming, then you should consider an SSD. Alternatively, you can have both installed in your computer. Install your operating system and other applications on the SSD and keep your videos, images, documents, and other stuff on your HDD.  

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