The Storage Battle: Solid State Drive vs Hard Disk Drive

Welcome to the Storage Battling Ring. In one corner stands an experienced fighter who’s been around for a long time. He’s showing grey hairs now but still packs a punch. Give it up for Mr Hard Disk Drive.

An internal hard disk drive uses spinning disks to store data.

In the other corner is a younger, energetic fellow with speed under his belt. Cheer for Mr SSD. These two storage types will battle it out today in different categories. But first, let’s get to know them a bit.

What’s an HDD?

Hard disk drives have been around for a long time. They use circular disks called platters to store and access data. To read or write data, the disk or disks spin at thousands of revolutions per minute and a read/write arm picks up data from the spinning platter.

The faster the platter spins, the faster the hard drive will perform. So, a drive that spins at 7200 rpm will open your files and run your OS faster than a 5200rpm drive.

What’s an SSD?

An SSD or Solid-State Drive uses NAND flash storage. It has no moving parts. Think of an SSD like a massive USB thumb drive. The result is fast read and write times.

SATA SSDs are still much faster than the hard drives. Image: Samsung

Now that we know the fighters, let’s get to battle categories.

Speed

The SSD draws first blood. The most significant advantage of SSDs is faster performance. Solid-state drives are objectively much quicker than hard drives. That’s because hard drives have many moving parts like spinning platters, a read and write head and spindles. All of these must work together to access or write information. All that waiting on a spinning disk causes latency.

Some SSDs move at gigabit speeds. Image: B&H.

On the other hand, SSDs rely on fixed components and can access any NAND flash cell instantly. So, while a hard drive can read and write data at about 100 – 150MB/s, even slow SSDs blows past that with read/write speeds of up to 560/540 MB/s.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSDs run at even faster speeds. For example, a Seagate Barracuda 510 has read/write speeds of 3400/3000MB/s. That’s crazy fast. However, these numbers only highlight large file transfers.

SSDs also excel at quick, random file read and write cycles. This is what matters most in day to day activities. You’ll notice the speed boost when opening files or running games.

Winner: SSD

Durability

SSDs land another punch when it comes to sturdiness. With no moving parts to speak of, SSDs are less likely to fail due to drops or bumps from day to day use.

If you drop your HDD, that could mean catastrophic data loss.

HDDs are more vulnerable in this regard. If any of the components fail, the entire drive is useless. So, SSDs are less prone to drive failure.

Winner: SSD

Storage Space

The hard drive strikes back in this category. HDDs are available with much more storage capacity than SSDs.

 HDDs are available with much more storage.

You can get up to 16TB of hard drive storage while most SSDs top out around the 2TB mark.

Winner: HDD

Price

Another swing from Mr HDD. Hard drives are less expensive than SSDs. That’s because hard drives have been around for a much longer time, so it costs less to make.

You’ll need more money for a large SSD.

At the time of writing, a 512GB, Samsung 860 PRO SSD costs US$149. For that price, you could get three Seagate 2TB Barracuda drives. So, if budget is an issue, go with hard drives.

Winner: HDD

Power Consumption and noise

Solid-State drives run much quieter and use less power than hard disk drives. That’s because they have no moving parts. Lower power consumption is especially useful in smaller gadgets like laptops. The less energy your storage pulls, you’ll get more battery life.

An SSD uses less power and is quiet. Image: Seagate.

Also, SSDs run silently. There’s no spinning disk or hovering read/write dead. By the way, if your hard drive is making clicking noises, it may be a bad sign.

Winner: SSD

Conclusion

The match is over, and if you were keeping score, Mr SSD won. It’s no secret that solid-state drives are the future. They’re faster, lighter, less prone to failure and use less power. However, HDDs aren’t relics deserving of the trash bin.

An ideal setup would be to have an SSD as your primary boot drive (load your OS and maybe frequently used files) while using hard drives to store the vast bulk of your data.

If the most important thing to you is raw performance, get an SSD based system. However, if you’re after the best cost per gigabyte and you don’t do demanding tasks, an HDD may be for you.