SSD vs HDD – which is best?
The uptake of solid state drives (or SSDs) has increased significantly in recent years. Whereas previously they were seen as an expensive luxury for very niche tasks, especially in business, it is no coincidence that their move to the mainstream has coincided with their continual fall in price and rise to a ‘usable’ capacity. An SSD with a reasonable amount of storage (say 120GB or so) can now be picked up for about £120. In fact we have ones that are even cheaper than this in stock at the moment at £99 Inc Vat, such as this OCZ Vertex Plus. Admittedly a HDD for £120 or so would have 2TB of storage, but if you just want something with enough space on it to install and run all the applications you need, then the 120GB on the SSD is more than enough.
But moving back to the question, which is better, SSD or HDD? Ultimately it comes down to how you use them. This post will tackle this by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of SSDs when compared to HDDs.
Speed – if speed is your priority then SSDs are the way to go. As processors, RAM, video cards etc. have become faster and faster, the hard drive, with its out-dated spindle technology has started to show its age; it has become the bottleneck. With no spindles to spin up or write-heads to write, SSDs are significantly faster at reading and writing data than HDDs. As a result your applications and documents will load quicker and your computer will start up and shut down more quickly.
Reliability – As mentioned above, SSDs have no moving parts. This doesn’t just make them faster, it makes them significantly more reliable too. If you drop a hard drive the spindles inside can scrape against the side of the disk, permanently damaging any data in that sector. SSDs are also not afraid of magnets. If you rub a magnet against a HDD it can wipe the data. Not the case with SSDs. HDDs also tend to get hotter, which can damage them.
Lower power consumption – with no moving parts and a different way of saving data, SSDs use significantly less power than HDDs. This makes them particularly well suited to portable devices where any drop in power can lead to better mileage out of the battery.
Capacity – As mentioned in the introduction, SSDs simply don’t match the capacity of traditional HDDs who simply have many more years of R&D to build on. So if it’s lots of storage you’re looking (say you’re building a server for example), then HDDs are really the best option right now.
Cost – Relating to capacity, while SSDs have come down in price considerably, they are still considerably more expensive per gigabyte of storage than HDDs. SSDs for example cost about £1 per GB, whereas HDDs cost give you about 20 times that amount of storage for the same £1.
Lifespan – SSDs have a limited lifespan when it comes to the number of times they can be written to (approximately 40 years of non-stop writing). HDDs by contrast have no limit, so providing none of their moving parts fail first (see above point about reliability) they have a theoretically longer lifespan. While most people will never reach anywhere near the 40 year life of a SSD, it is worth bearing in mind. It makes them particularly unsuitable for databases where they will be written to constantly for example.
We hope this list of advantages and disadvantages will help you to decide which type of drive is right for you. Ultimately, as I hope I’ve alluded to in the article, it comes down to what the drive will be used for. For mobile devices where battery life is important or for when speed is important, choose SSD, but if you’re building a NAS device or just require a lot of storage, then HDDs are the way to go. If you’re still undecided, the main manufacturers have also started to introduce hybrid drives which combine the speed advantages of SSDs with the capacity of traditional HDDs. Well worth a look.
If you’re eager for more, here’s a few videos to help you along the way: