One of the most common questions we get at Donor Drives is, “HDD or SSD?” A quick Google search would indicate that everyone should transition to SSD, or Solid State Drives.  The truth, however, is more complicated than this, and you should consider a number of factors when making this decision, whether purchasing a new computer, building your own, or purchasing external storage.

A hard disk drive, or HDD, is the traditional storage device for computers.  It operates with quickly spinning disks coated in magnetic material which store your data. An arm reads and writes the data onto these disks.

A solid state drive, or SSD, is a slightly newer iteration of storage device that has gained popularity over the past few years. SSDs do not have moving parts like the disks in an HDD. Data is stored in stationary chips, much like a more advanced external USB or flash drive.

Solid state drives offer certain advantages, such as faster operating system boot time, meaning you can get to work sooner after starting up your computer. Additionally, thanks to having no moving parts, the sounds associated with a spinning disk are absent, and the power used is much less substantial. Also, unlike a traditional hard disk drive, magnets will not wipe your data if they come too close to the drive. These are some small advantages, but they can be very important to power-users who need to open large files quickly, and need battery life to be extended.

HDDs on the other hand offer two large advantages: cost and storage size. For comparable capacity, an SSD can cost three to five times as much as an HDD. And, speaking of capacity, currently SSDs do not offer the storage capacity of higher-end HDDs. (As ExtremeTech reports, Seagate recently began shipping an 8TB drive to enterprise customers. The largest available SSD is half that size but costs much more.)

The question is getting even more complex as some of the generally accepted benefits to each camp are beginning to be questioned. Some say SSDs run hotter and use more energy than HDDs at high performance levels. And the large lead HDDs had in storage capacity is quickly closing.  

In the end, consider your storage needs, your budget, and your usage. Those who need quicker performance may want to go for an SSD. Those who are need a very large storage capacity or who are more cost-conscious and don’t need the relatively minor speed improvement may consider a traditional HDD.

What will you choose for your next purchase and why? Tell us in the comments.