Finding the Right Hard Drive for Your Computer

When Good Hard Drives Go Bad

The hard drive is the beating heart of your computer. Most of the time it happily ticks away inside your computer managing all the tasks the CPU throws at it. But – just like a heart after one-too-many Big Macs – sometimes a transplant is necessary. When your outdated hard drive starts to cause trouble you’ll want to carefully select a new one. Your doctor wouldn’t throw just any heart into your chest, so why would you put an ill-fitted hard drive into your computer? To that end, this blog will help you pick out the hard drive best suited to your needs.

Interface

The interface is the most important component to consider. Buying a hard drive with the wrong interface would be like a doctor trying to put a horse heart into their patient. It’s not going to work and someone is going to lose money. Let’s take a look at a couple common interfaces before you buy anything.

SATA

This is the go-to interface for most recent computers. It was introduced in 2003 and has been a manufacturer favorite ever since. SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It tends to have faster rates and smaller cable connectors than the older IDE hard drives. Most recent desktop models are equipped to handle two SATA devices such as hard drives and CD-ROMs, but some can handle up to six. If you are using an older computer you must double-check to see if your motherboard is SATA-connector ready.

IDE

IDE stands for Integrated Drive Electronics. They’ve been on the market for over a decade now and most recent computer models have the connector options for both SATA and IDE hard drives. It should be mentioned that IDEs are sometimes referred to as ATAs and PATAs or even ATAPIs. Most computers can only handle up to four IDE devices such as hard drives and CD-ROMs. If you have an older IBM model this is your go-to hard drive.

SCSI

Unless you are restoring a much older Apple or IBM computer you shouldn’t have to worry about SCSI hard drives.

USB

There are some hard drives that connect to your computer through external means. These hard drives tend to be used more as back-up drives than the main operating hard drive. Most recent external hard drives use a USB cable to connect to your computer as USB ports are so ubiquitous.

SSD Vs HDD

The SSD versus HDD debate can sometimes be heated, but it ultimately comes down to what you need out of your computer and how much you are willing to pay.

SSDs – otherwise known as Solid-State Drives – are the high-tech muscle cars of the hard drive world. They are by far faster than HDDs and because they have no moving parts they last significantly longer. Despite this speed boost the have a lower power draw than HDDs and can therefore extend your computer’s battery life.

HDDs – otherwise known as Hard Disk Drives – are the minivans to the SSD’s muscle car. They tend to have higher capacity rates than SDDs and they are much more cost efficient.

Capacity

Hard drives come in a variety of capacity capabilities. Standard drives range from 120 GB to 500 GB, but if your needs are greater there are always more options. HDDs cap out at 4 TB, while SDDs cap out at 1 TB. What size of hard drive you decide on should be driven by what you need your computer to do. If you are going to be mapping data or editing video, then you are going to need that 500 GB drive. However, if you just want a computer to suffer the web, while denying the temptation to download, then the 120 GB drive should suffice.

Speed

Depending on whether you want a HDD or SDD, you’ll need to look at different speed measurements. HDD speeds are measured in rotations per minute (rpm). The higher the rpm the faster the drive. Most desktop HDDs spin at 7,200 rpm, while notebooks spin at a slower 5,400 rpm. The higher the rpm the faster the transfer time and the less time you will spend cursing at slow computing times.

When looking for SDD speeds you will want to look at the sequential reading and writing time. As long as these speeds are within the interface limits you will be fine.

Price

Most hard drives range from $70 to $300. Anything outside this range you might want to question.

Warranty & Failure Rate

Hard drives – especially good hard drives – are not cheap. Therefore you will want to look at the failure rate. The failure rate shows how likely your hard drive is to basically break. If the failure rate is high you will want a better warranty.