SSD vs HDD: Which is the best for my PC?

Today’s PC shoppers face a choice when it comes to data storage: should you buy a less expensive system with a traditional spinning hard drive (often called an HDD) or spend more to get a faster, all-electronic solid-state drive or SSD? For most buyers, the answer depends on the kinds of files they store, their budget, and their need for speed in data-intensive tasks.

Lenovo’s award-winning laptops and desktops are available in multiple storage configurations. There are even systems equipped with both HDDs and SSDs to exploit the best features of both technologies. But what’s the advantage of an SSD over an HHD? Is an HDD ever better than an SSD? And do you really benefit with a dual-storage system?

Advantages of a solid-state drive (SSD)

A solid-state drive or SSD is an electronic storage option that eliminates the moving parts that make traditional, magnetic hard drives susceptible to damage and mechanical failure. It uses low-latency flash memory like that found in cameras and smartphones, with data stored on the SSD chip in contiguous sections that get used (or erased and re-used) as needed.

There are several ways an SSD is considered superior to an HDD:

  • SSD benefit: Faster data access – SSDs call up data more rapidly, so they accelerate boot-up times and app loading.
  • SSD benefit: More durable – With no moving parts, an SSD is less susceptible to damage from drops and falls.
  • SSD benefit: Lighter weight – Compared to an HDD, an SSD weighs far less (great for laptops and other portables).
  • SSD benefit: Quieter, cooler – SSDs make less noise and run cooler than HDDs with spinning disks and mechanical arms.
  • SSD benefit: Less data fragmentation – Data on SSDs is stored in larger, tighter memory sections than on HDDs.

On the other hand, an SSD will cost two to three times more than an HDD. It will usually have less capacity, and it could have a shorter lifespan (SSDs are ideal for frequent storage and retrieval of lots of small data files (such as when booting up), but doing the same with large files is more problematic because the big swaths of semiconductor material needed can only be used/erased so many times). It’s also accepted that when an SSD fails, it can be more difficult to rescue its data than with an HDD.

Advantages of a hard disk drive (HDD)

A traditional hard disk drive or HDD stores data on one or more metal disks coated with magnetic material. The disks mechanically rotate until specific segments of data (or available empty spaces) align with a magnetic recording head that can read and write discrete bits of data on the allotted segments, which can be non-contiguous to maximize storage volume. The movement of the disks creates the distinctive clicking sounds associated with HDDs and is why they are sometimes called “spinning” disks or drives.

Here’s why some users consider HDDs to be superior to SSDs:

  • HDD benefit: Larger capacities – It’s easy to find multi-disk HDDs of 2 TB or larger, but the complex layout of the electrical circuits of an SSD chip has so far kept them far smaller (128 GB or 256 GB are common).
  • HDD benefit: Lower prices – Flash memory is still comparatively expensive. On a per-GB basis, an HDD will cost half or a third as much as a similarly sized SSD.
  • HDD benefit: Longer life – HDD technology is tried-and-true and usually works reliably unless there’s physical damage to the unit. And since it uses more of a physical process than an electrical one, rescuing data from an HDD can be easier than from an SSD.

On the downside, an HDD will save and retrieve data more slowly than a flash memory-based SSD. It’ll also be heavier, make more noise, generate more heat, and draw more battery power. As such, while HDDs are still a popular component in laptops, SSDs are gaining market-share in that category.

SSD vs. HDD: Does an HDD RPM rate matter?

If you’re looking at a PC with a traditional HDD, pay attention to the specs for RPM or revolutions per minute, a measure of how rapidly the media disks spin within the unit. The two most common RPM rates in today’s hard disk drives are 5,400 RPM and 7,200 RPM. [There are HDDs that work at much faster RPMs, but they’re typically not used in consumer PCs.]

Will a 7,200 RPM HDD work faster than a 5,400 RPM one? Yes. So, buying a 7,200 RPM HDD is one way to improve your new PC’s performance without paying the extra cost of a solid-state drive. [Another option is Intel’s Optane memory acceleration technology.] However, experts disagree on whether the faster RPM rate results in a proportionate increase in data access speed. Some say the real difference is smaller, with 5,400 RPM drives working at 100 MB/s and 7,200 RPM drives working at 120 MB/s.

Should I buy a dual-storage system (HDD and SSD)?

PC manufacturers also produce computers that use both HDD and SSD technology. These dual-storage systems seek to exploit the best aspects of each kind of storage: an SSD for data that needs to be accessed rapidly and repeatedly, and an HDD for material better suited to long-term storage (and less frequent access).

What are the advantages of a dual-storage, HDD/SSD system? By putting your OS on the SSD, initial boot-up times will be much faster, as the system can access the critical start-up files more rapidly (almost immediately) than with an HDD. Depending on the size of your SSD, you can also put your most commonly used software programs and personal files on the SSD. Meanwhile, you can use the much larger HDD to store bigger files such as photos, videos, and games that aren’t accessed as often.

Ready to make your selection? Lenovo makes it easy to find the SSD or HDD models you desire. Simply call up our laptops or desktops page and use the “Hard Drive” drop-down to filter the results for the specific storage option you’ve chosen.

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