Everything You Need To Know About Storage
Solid State Drives (SSD) have been one of the biggest improvements to computer performance in recent years. Unlike traditional analog HDDs that have spinning disks, SSDs have no moving parts, they are faster and more reliable. So why do PC manufacturers and retailers still include them as the primary drive in a new system? The answer is money. Manufacturers can save a lot of money over the cost of thousands of units.
I would try to ensure that your new PC has an SSD but if you can get a great deal on a PC with an HDD, I suggest buying it, then replacing the HDD with an SSD. They are easily replaced in most systems.
HDD vs SSD
Most likely new PCs will have an HDD or SSD Drive. There are other types, but these are the most common in refurbished systems. Internal HDDs have greatly increased in capacity. 512GB and 1TB drives are common while common SSDs in refurbished systems are 128GB and 256GB. Nevertheless, larger capacity SSDs can be purchased individually and used to upgrade your system. In laptops, it likely means a replacement but desktops only require adding the additional drive.
Most HDDs are rated in RPM or revolutions per minute with 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM being the norm. The faster the RPM, the faster it can transfer data.
The Two Biggest Differences
The big differences between an HDD and an SSD are speed and price.
HDDs have several high spinning magnetic disks that store the data. There is a mechanical arm that moves across the disks and performs the read and write functions. Because it is mechanical it takes time to receive the data request and move into position causing a delay in what is referred to as “seek time”. Because there are multiple disks the arm must wait for the right disk which we refer to as latency. Together they slow the time your software receives data.
Data Transfer Speeds
An HDD connected with a SATA 3 cable can deliver between 80 and 160mbs/s. An SSD can read and write sequential data in the 500 to 550mb/s range. This can translate to a boot time of fewer than 14 seconds and cutting a minute or more when opening some types of software.
2D NAND vs 3D NAND
The inside of a 2D SSD is a single plane of NAND flash memory. This is the same process that is used in flashcards and USB memory. The major benefit they have over USBs is that they are directly attached to your motherboard using a cable capable of transferring data at 6MB/s making them a much faster option than an HDD. The newer 3D NAND is also called VNAND where the “V” stands for vertical. This means that the flash NAND can be stacked on each other giving higher capacities and transfer rates.
The next big difference of course is cost. If we were talking about 10 or 12 years ago there would be no contest. In May of 2010 Amazon was selling a Western Digital 7200 rpm, 500 GB drive “on sale” for $75 or .12¢ per GB. They also had a Crucial 256GB SSD “on sale” for $240 or .95¢ per GB. With a 224% increase in price, it was hard to justify, even with the speed increase.
Compare that to today and Amazon is selling that same WD 500GB HDD for $37 or .07¢ per GB, but the Crucial MX500 500GB now has twice the memory and is selling for $59 or .12¢ per GB. With only a 60% increase in price, it’s hard not to choose an SSD. With the introduction of the even faster Intel Optane Memory with SSD, I believe SSD prices will continue to drop in the first quarter of 2022. A great example is the 1TB SK Hynix Gold S31 on Amazon for only $92 at only .09¢ per GB.
Other Storage Options
New computers may have the ability to run the M.2 NVMe hard drives. Unlike their 2.5” counterparts, these drives look more like a memory chip or stick of gum. Because they plug directly into your motherboard thereby omitting any cables, their transfer rates are even better. You can get a Gen 4 model 1TB M.2 NVMe for only $119.00. One additional storage type is using a PCIe adaptor that uses a slot on a desktop motherboard.
The Seagate IronWold 8TB is an excellent example of the kinds of drives available for power users. A mix of high-speed cache (128MB) and huge storage capacity gives you the best of both worlds. $199.99 for 8TB is a fantastic price.
You can expect a refurbished or remanufactured computer to contain a 512GB HDD, or maybe a much smaller capacity 128MB SSD. Most brand-new computers will already have an SSD or M.2 NVMe installed.
If you do decide to purchase that refurbished PC with a 512 HDD, just know that swapping with a new SSD is very easy. There are several articles on DCT about first transferring (cloning) your system to a new SSD and then installing the drive into your system with nothing more than a couple of screws:
See other articles in this series:
- Purchasing Your 2022 Computer
- Purchasing Your 2022 Computer – CPUs
- Purchasing Your 2022 Computer – The CPU – Part 2
- Purchasing Your 2022 Computer – Memory
- Purchasing Your 2022 Computer – Storage ⬅ You are here
- Purchasing That 2022 Computer – Final Installment