Storage Quick Guide
This doc describes the different types of storage devices and outlines common questions about storage devices.
Common Storage Device Questions
- What is a storage device?
- Who needs a storage device?
- How do I know if it will be large enough?
- How do I tell if I need a hard disk drive (hard drive) or a solid state drive?
- How do I tell if I need an external drive?
A storage device, as the name implies is stores all the files on your computer. Programs, pictures, movies, documents, and the alike are all stored here. Most people refer to all storage drives as hard drives but the new standard in storage devices, a solid state drive, is not technically a hard drive.
Every computer owner needs a storage device. Without it, a computer will have nowhere to store software and personal data.
As a basis for hard drive size determination, it is good to know that typically your operating system and basic programs installed (Office, iTunes, Spotify, internet browsers, email clients, etc) take about 20-40 GB of data. If you are planing on buying a new computer it is often helpful to look at the usage on your current computer to determine how much space you will need.
Two things come into consideration when looking at what type of storage device to get: how much space do you need and is speed more important. Solid state drives are more expensive for larger storage quantities than hard disk drives are but they are much faster, more durable, and more reliable (see table on the bottom of the page for the comparison)
Everyone should have an external drive for backing up his or her machine. The size of the backup drive should be at minimum the size of the computer's hard drive.
Internal vs External Drives
- 2.5" drives are the storage devices that are most commonly found in laptop computers.
- 3.5" drives are the storage devices that are most commonly found in desktop computers.
- The two drives types, 2.5" and 3.5" are shown below (2.5" on top and 3.5" on bottom).
- 4 Pin molex connection
- SATA power connection
- mSATA power connection
- IDE (old drives)
- SATA (current standard)
- mSATA (future standard)
- 2.5" drives in an enclosure are the portable version of external storage devices. 2.5" drives receive power from the device that they are plugged into.
- 3.5" drives in an enclosure are the desktop version of external storage devices. 3.5" drives receive power through an AC wall adapter.
- USB 3.0 (left) & 2.0 (right)
- FireWire 400 (left) & 800 (right)
- Thunderbolt 1.0 & 2.0 (left) or Thunderbolt 3.0 (right)
SSD vs HDD Comparison Table
|Attribute||SSD (Solid State Drive)||HDD (Hard Disk Drive)|
|Drive Capacity||2GB-5TB (After 1TB price increases drastically, this will stop as the technology improves).||2.5": 40GB-2TB & 3.5": 120GB-6TB|
|Drive Speed (Average Latency)||There are no moving parts on an SSD so drive speed is not a specification.||5,400 RPM (2ms), 7,200 RPM (3ms), 10,000 RPM (4.16ms), 15,000 RPM (5.55ms)|
|Operating System Boot Time||SSDs have an average boot time of 10-20 seconds.||HDDs have an average boot time of 45-60 seconds.|
|Read/Write Speed||This varies greatly by device, however the average for SSDs is 100-500MB/s.||This varies greatly by device, however the average for HDDs is 50-190 MB/s.|
|Power Draw/ Battery Life||Less power draw with an average of 2-3 watts. Adds an average of 30 minutes of battery life.||More power draw with an average of 6-7 watts. Loses an average of 30 minutes of battery life.|
|Cost||Generally more expensive especially for larger drives (price will continue to go down in the future).||HDD are the cheaper option.|
|Noise||There are no moving parts so the noise is not a factor.||The spinning disk can cause noise, especially when in heavy use.|
|Mean Time Between Failures||Two million hours||1.5 million hours|
|File Encryption||Full disk encryption is supported on some models||Full disk encryption is supported on some models|
|File Opening||SSDs average around 30% faster than HDDs||Slower than SDDs|
|Effect of Magnetism||SSDs are safe from magnetism.||A strong enough magnet put close enough to an HDD will erase data.|