The World of Hard Drives

A Hard Drive Platter

So, you want to buy a new hard drive. Maybe you’re building a new computer, or your current hard drive either failed or is unsuitable for your computing needs. There are a variety of flavors available available in the market, with a wide array of specs and prices. When choosing a hard drive, the most three important factors in determining how much the hard drive costs are storage capacity, revolution speed, and cache size.

Hard Drive Capacity

The capacity of the drive is usually the most referenced spec of the hard drive, measured in “bytes.” A byte is the amount of data that traditionally was needed to encode a single character on the screen. In recent years, the capacity of hard drives was usually measured in “gigabytes”, a unit that means 1 billion bytes. As technology has advanced, and computer storage has become much cheaper, the new standard of measurement has begun to switch to “terabytes”, or 1,000 gigabytes.

The amount of space you need is subjective to the manner in which you use your computer. Using your computer to surf the web or make basic Microsoft Office files means a hard drive with a couple hundred gigabytes is usually more than enough. However, as you install more programs and create files that have much higher storage requirements, such as editing videos and pictures or installing the latest computer games, your capacity needs will be pushed much higher, and terabyte hard drives become more ideal.

Hard Disk Revolution Speed

The actual disk that is referenced in the term “hard disk” is the component within the unit where electromagnetic fluctuations are “remembered” so that your data can be retrieved. hard drives have speed specifications rated in Revolutions Per Minute, like in a car’s transmission. Every hard drive has a maximum number of revolutions it can complete in a minute without exceeding its mechanical capacity. The higher the number, the faster your information will be read and written. A typical hard drive ranges from 3600 RPM towards the low end, up to 10000 RPM for high performance models.

Though drive rated at the higher end of the speed spectrum have been engineered to run faster, it is always a good practice to not use a high performance drive unless the natureof your work specifically requires it. Most users will not see much of a benefit utilizing a high performance drive for simple tasks (i.e. creative a Microsoft Word document) as file sizes are quire small and does not require a large amount of computer resources to run smoothly.

Hard Drive Cache

The hard drive cache is a part of the hard drive where it stores data that it needs to access quickly. It is similar to a cache on a computer processor – data that is pertinent is stored on the cache where the hard drive can access it much quicker than if it needed to access it from the physical disk. This component is like your RAM; it is a microcontroller that holds a small amount of data. A hard drive today may boast anywhere from 8 Mb up to as many as 64 Mb. Essentially, the larger the cache, the quicker the data can write and retrieve the data. Choosing a hard drive with a larger cache can be more beneficial in terms of speed than choosing a hard drive with a high rotation speed.