Do you want to know what are the different types of hard drives in a simple and practical way? Keep reading this article and discover what you need to know.
Part 1 – Hard Drives Basic Intro
Computers have existed for more than a half a century. When they made their first debut they had some kind of storage space so they could store information that was essential.
Of course that information needed to stay in that storage space even when the machine was off. That feature of being able to hold data even when the power is off is called non-volatility.
Hard drives possess this feature as they need to hold data permanently for continuous usage.
The opposite is called volatility. These types of storage lose their data when they have no current running through them. You must already know some of them (RAM – Random Access Memory, VRAM – Video RAM which graphics cards use).
Now from the first computer and hard drive that went along with it to now, there had been many advancements in hard drive technology.
In this post, the focus will be on the most commonly used hard drive storage types and not a historical walkthrough of hard drives. If you want this post to include the history of hard drives, feel free to leave a comment.
The HDD – Still Holding Its Ground
The HDD is the most commonly used type of hard drive. Even some new premade laptops and desktops come with HDD. HDDs will be still used for years to come but mostly as a secondary storage because it’s too slow nowadays to be used as primary storage.
What I mean by primary storage is the OS and some programs and (since this is a gaming site) games. You don’t need to put your OS in the HDD because it will take minutes to boot.
Your games will take longer to load. It will be a very negative experience.
But a HDD is perfect as a secondary storage which you use to store movies, music, images and whatever kind of media you can think of. I remember myself buying every 2 years a new external HDD to store movies and anime.
So don’t hate the HDD! You can use it where it counts and have fun! If you get one without a power supply then you are complete! (powered by the USB drive).
The SSD – Hero Of The Day!
SSDs are the must have nowadays. Especially if you are gaming. They are quite cheap too so there will be no problems if you are on a low budget. If you play many of the graphics-demanding games of today, you might need to buy like a 512GB SSD disk which again isn’t so expensive.
By graphics-demanding games I mean mostly non competitive games. Most competitive games (like LoL, CS:GO, Overwatch, Fortnite) don’t demand lots of graphics horsepower.
These graphics-demanding games usually need at least 50GB of disk space each so if you play lots of them, you might need a 512GB storage. For me who plays only League Of Legends, one 128GB SSD disk is more than enough.
Is An SSD Really Faster than HDD?
Yes it is. Let me tell you a story. My desktop is more than 11 years old. It has an i7-920 CPU and a AMD HD 4870 Graphics card. I bought it firstly with an HDD. At that time the SSDs were pretty expensive (like 100 bucks for 64GB).
That Kingston SSD I bought was marketed as 5 times faster than HDDs. Of course that was the maximum theoretical speed (which you might never experience) but in practice it felt it was twice as fast as the HDD.
I was really fed up with the low speed HDDs and wanted to get “some relief!” by bying an SSD. Hopefully, I got relieved enough!.
After quite some time I bought an OCZ SSD disk with 128GB capacity. I think the price was a bit higher than the Kingston’s but I needed it because I played more than one game at that time.
The OCZ SSD disk had a sticker which I sticked to the front of the desktop!
Unfortunately, both the Kingston and the OCZ SSD disks stopped working about a year ago so I got one Patriot SSD disk with 128 GB capacity. The price was ridiculously lower (about 25 dollars).
My motherboard is old so I don’t have an M.2 Slot to put an M.2 SSD disk, which is faster than the SATA3 I currently have.
I will mention details about the SATA 3 and M.2 Slots at Part 3.
Part 2 – Reload Brain Juices With Music!
First is a Japanese Intro!
Next is a KPop Dance (well good enough haha I have seen better!).
Finally Lady Gaga!
Part 3 – The Rest of The Crew
In this part, we will continue where we left off. There is more to say about the hard drives that are currently used for gaming and even for daily usage.
SSHD – The Hybrid
SSHD stands for Solid State Hybrid Drive. As you would expect from its name, it’s a combination of a traditional HDD with some SSD storage.
So what one’s expectation of SSHD? It’s a bit faster than a normal HDD due to the SSD storage but slower than SSD due to the mechanical parts it has.
So why they bother to make a hybrid. Well, the SSHD is cheaper than a SSD with a higher storage capacity. But then again, it is faster than a regular HDD.
Imagine someone has a computer with an HDD of 1 TB and filled that HDD up to 80% (800GB). Now if that person was to buy a SSD of 1TB, it would cost him or her a fortune. That person is a casual computer user that just needs some speed!
That would be a case where the SSHD will be useful. 1TB SSHD isn’t so much expensive than a normal HDD.
Many gaming laptops offer the option of an SSHD instead of an SSD. There must be as many choices as possible because there are many people around the world that need different things!
Do I Consider Ever Getting an SSHD For Myself?
Not really (as a primary storage medium). If you read above in the SSD section I got rid of the HDD as soon as possible and replaced it with an SSD.
I would consider an SSHD as an external secondary medium. For my gaming desktop or laptop I would always get the fastest hard drive available.
This is a SATA3 SSD. As you can see, the disk is quite big (compared to the M.2 SSD which we will see below).
The SATA3 Protocol has maximum speed of 6GBit/ second. In MegaBytes, that would be 750MB/ second but the protocol says 600MB/ s. The other bandwidth must be used for control signals (like if something went wrong in the data so they must be resent).
One note here about the maximum speed. Just because SATA3 (or any other protocol or inteface) provides some theoretical maximum speed it doesn’t mean that will be the speed that the SSD operates.
The protocol (or interface) is like a bridge that offers some maximum traffic. If the device using the interface or protocol can’t “keep the bridge busy at all times”, then you understand that the speed will be lower.
M.2 SSDs – Are They Faster Than SATA 3?
A note about the term M.2. M.2 is a form factor (which actually means size) which means plain M.2 SSDs aren’t faster just because they use the M.2 form factor.
This M.2 SSD image shown above uses a SATA Connection. You can distinguish that by the 3 connectors it has.
So as you can guess, the maximum speed is bound by the SATA protocol it uses (600MB/s).
M.2 NVMe SSDs – Are They The Fastest of Them All?
And here we are at the NVMe SSDs! NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express. If you watched the M.2 SSD image in the previous section, you can notice the difference in the connectors.
The non-NVMe plain SSD disk has 3 connectors. The NVMe has 2. So what’s the big deal?! Well the NVMe SSD disk uses PCI Express lanes to do input and output which makes it faster than the SATA M.2 SSD.
If you don’t know about PCI Express lanes it’s no big deal. You only have to think that your graphics card uses these lanes as well to do its work. So with only that knowledge you can already understand that the NVMe M.2 SSD and the plain M.2 SSD have a huge difference.
For example, the Samsung 970 Pro and Evo SSDs can reach reading speeds up to 3,500 MB/s and writing speeds up to 2,700 MB/s. Not all NVMe SSD disks can reach that but I mentioned the highest speeds available to see the difference between NVMe and SATA(600MB/s max).
So be careful to notice the difference between a NVMe M.2 SSD and a plain SATA M.2 SSD (Well the form factor is the same and there is only one connector difference).
mSATA – A Soldier Left Out?
The best for last?! Not really. It’s another SATA disk! Not a NVMe which uses PCI Express lanes. So the maximum 600MB/s applies. The size (form factor) is different than M.2 so that will make it easier to notice (if you see it from the other side!).
So Which One Would I Take?
For me, the answer is obvious. I will buy the NVMe M.2 SSD that’s the fastest. If you read my personal story above, you know it already. The price for a Samsung EVO NVMe SSD disk isn’t so high than the Kingston or OCZ that I bought 11 years ago.
It’s even 512GB. Plenty of storage compared to the 64GB and 128GB I had.
Conclusion – What Are The Different Types Of Hard Drives?
The most commonly used Hard Drives today are:
- SSHD (Hybrid HDD with SSD parts)
- SATA SSD
- mSATA SSD
- M.2 SATA SSD
- M.2 NVMe SSD
HDDs are the oldest but will continue to be used since they are the cheapest.
SSHDs are quite popular even with gaming setups because they offer some speed improvements over the HDD while maintaining a low cost per GB.
SSDs are here to stay as the are smaller and faster than HDDs.
There can be a confusion especially in the mSATA, M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe department so below there is an image which shows 2 of the 3 together.
The long one is the M.2 SATA (with 3 connectors) and the short and fat is the mSATA.
Well this is clear enough (due to the connectors). I believe the most confusing will be to distinguish between an mSATA and a M.2 NVMe because both have 2 connectors.
So be careful with the above 3 so you can distinguish them easily.
That’s all for now. If you think something is unclear or missing from this article, feel free to comment. Farewell!