If you’re looking for internal storage for your computer, you’ve likely seen the acronym HDD. What is it? Well, an HDD is a hard drive disk. It’s the type of hard drive that’s been around since the birth of computers. It’s likely the computer you’re using has a HDD, and if it doesn’t, you’ve certainly used a computer with an HDD in the past. In this article we’ll tell you how an HDD works, the benefits of using an HDD in your setup and
Basically, a hard drive disk is a spinning wheel with a magnetic coating that stores your data. Music, movies, images, Word documents: all of this is stored on your hard drive. The first IBM computer with a hard drive had spinning-disks that were two feet in radius—and they stored less than 4MB of data. In part, this is why the first computers literally took up an entire room to store. Today, hard-drive disks are 3.5 inches in diameter (or less for laptop hard-drives) and they can hold up to 10 Terabytes of data—that’s 10,000 Gigabytes.
If you look at an HDD outside of a computer, it looks a lot like a tiny record player. It’s rectangular body holds a magnetic disk called a platter. This disk spins and by the use of a spindle (the part that looks like the arm of a record player). When it spins, binary code is sequentially written on the disk by a magnet. The magnetic coating stores the sequence of the code and then data is re-read when the disk spins. This disk spins very quickly, clocking in at the industry standard of either 5,400 or 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM).
Sometimes when your computer is working hard to run a program, it sounds like a wheel is spinning very quickly. This is your hard drive working at maximum speed. Much of your computer’s speed is determined by how fast your hard-drive is moving and how quickly it can access the data on your hard drive. You’ve probably noticed that your computer gets slower the more data you have stored on it: that’s why your operating system gives you pop up messages when your hard drive is almost full. This is why having a lot of space on your hard drive is essential for top performance. A bigger hard drive has more platters; thus, the more platters, the more space available on your hard drive.
Space is important when buying an HDD, but so is speed. As mentioned, the spindle is spinning the platters to access the data. This is powered by a voice coil actuator—essentially, a motor. The faster the spindle can spin the platters, the faster your data can be accessed. In the highest-end hard drives, the spindles are in a compartment filled with helium or another noble gas that’s lighter than oxygen. This allows the spindles to spin even faster and with less resistance. As you pay more money for an HDD, you’ll find the performance speed of the device increases.
There are some downsides to HDDs. As they fill up with data, they get slower: this is because of fragmentation. HDDs work best when files are written in one continuous string of binary code. But when the drive gets full, it starts fragmenting data to different parts of the platters, and sometimes even to different disks. This increases the time it takes for your system to pull up a necessary file. The remedy to this is the Solid-State Drive (SSD). These drives use integrated circuits to store data—they don’t spin a disk, but instead write the binary directly to a network of electronic computer chips. SSDs have no mechanical parts (meaning, they don’t have any parts that move), so they are significantly faster than HDDs. However, they’re also much more expensive and they’re confined to smaller storage capacity. HDDs cost around 4-5 cents per GB, wherein SDDs cost 24-28 cents per GB.
When you’re buying an HDD, here’s what you’ll want to consider: space, speed and price. Often, the higher the price the higher the speed and space—however, good manufacturing can significantly impact the performance of a hard-drive disk. A well-manufactured hard drive will have components that function efficiently, with spindles that hold data over a long period of time. When your hard drive “crashes,” it means your spindles can no longer write and read data. This is why it’s so essential that you check out user reviews of the brand before you buy a hard drive (and look at the warranty too while you’re at it).
HDDs are the classic model of hard drives, but the technology has upgraded immensely over time. They hold the most data for the cheapest price. If you’re buying an HDD for your computer, you’ll get great value to performance.