Has HDD Become Obsolete?

Has HDD become obsolete?

Ever since its first instance of commercial use back in the 1950s, the hard disk drive, or more commonly known as the HDD, has been a staple for computer storage worldwide. However, in recent years, with the introduction of the new solid-state drives (SSD), the HDD is slowly starting to fall out of favor, as the newer, faster, reasonably priced, more eco-friendly SSD and the most recent M.2 variant are slowly becoming the staple choice for consumers. Does the introduction of new hard drives make the old reliable HDD useless? In this article, we will find out.

Comparing HDD and SSD

These 2 types of drive serve the same purpose: As a means to store and manage your data. However, these 2 types take a very different approach to achieve this task.

How they work

Let’s compare how they function.

 HDD: In the simplest of terms, the drive works somewhat like a vinyl record. The read and write process of data is done by a head that moves extremely quickly between the different ends of the disk. What this means is the data reading and writing process in an HDD is done “mechanically.”

SSD: The biggest difference is the data reading and writing process. If the HDD uses a mechanical cog to do so, SSD stores data on flash memory, which is a lot faster than the mechanical process of the former, which means the data read/write speed of SSD is significantly faster.

Impact resistance

Another factor we need to put into consideration is how they deal with hard impacts. Because of their mechanical build, HDDs are very open to damage from shock or dropping, as heavy contact will affect the mechanical gear built in the drive. This means that if you accidentally drop your HDD, there is a high chance that the mechanical parts in the drive, especially the reading head, will be damaged, leading to data failure. SSDs, on the contrary, are very resistant to these things, as there are no “moving parts” in the drive. That means if you happen to drop it accidentally, the chance of the inside being damaged is far lower, which is the reason why SSDs are a widespread means of storage in portable devices like Laptops, Tablets,…

Speed

Another criteria we need to look at is the speed of the drives. Yes, the SSD is clearly faster as it is newer hardware, but how much faster it is exactly compared to the HDD.

 

Here we compare the read/write speed (MB/s) of the most common HDD – the Western Digital 2TB 7200 RPM Hard drive to the most common SSD – the Samsum 950 EVO 1TB Drive.

 

Criteria Western Digital 7200 RPM Samsung 950 EVO
Seq Q32T1 103/96 557/531
4K  Q32T1 1,9/2 395/355
Seq 101/96 537/520
4K 0,7/1,7 37,3/142

The stat sheet shows a quite clear winner, and by a vast margin at that. In all criteria, the SSD shows to be around 5 times faster than your average HDD. And the difference also shows in the drop-off as in the 4K criteria, HDDs numbers fall off massively while SSD only witnessed a slight decline.

Lifespan

A significant thing for every consumer to consider when buying any product is its life span, which is especially true for storage devices. You would not want your data to be lost because of your hard drive breaking. So what is the lifespan of these drives?

HDD: The average HDD will last you around 3 to 5 years before starting to have issues and eventually break. It could be from the environment wearing the hardware down or unavoidable damage. Some HDDs do last beyond 10 years, but that is incredibly rare to encounter. When an HDD fails, while it is not impossible to recover the data, it will surely take a lot of work and, of course, cost quite a bit of money.

SSD: You can read many opinions stating that because of its use of cells to read and write data, it has a limited life span. While this opinion might be true in the early days of SSDs, this is no longer an issue with the current technological advancements. Thanks to the principle of wear leveling, the SSD controller allows the write operation to spread evenly across multiple cells to avoid it breaking. And modern SSDs also have spare cells to replace dead ones, massively increasing their lifespan. Another thing to note is the more storage an SSD has, the more cell it has, which means the larger the capacity, the longer the lifespan. Unlike HDD, whom if put in a perfect environment and with proper care, can technically last forever (although this is very impractical), SSD has a certain number of uses before it eventually breaks. And recovering data from a broken SSD is so much harder than doing so with an HDD, as it is recovering files from a processor.

Price

From all the comparisons we have made above, it is quite clear that the SSD is better in almost every way possible. But how much more are you paying for the extra power that the SSD provides?

Pc Partpicker, one of the most popular online computer part shopping sites, has stated the most popular SSD is the Samsung 870 EVO 1TB, with the price per GB of storage being $0,11. And the most popular HDD is the Western Digital, with the price per GB of storage being $0.028, which is 75% cheaper.

 

Is HDD now obsolete?

Now we have come to the answer. With the SSD being better in every single way, is there even any purpose for the HDD? The answer is yes. The HDD is incredibly slow in its processing department, so instead of using it as a drive to run software on, people use it as storage for videos, music, pictures. Because the slower read/write speed will be less of a problem when the drive’s only use is to store media. Moreover, for big storage systems often seen in movie and video makers, they need tens, even hundreds of TB worth of space to store all their data, and with that capacity, the price of SSDs needed would be massive. It is much cheaper and arguably more worthwhile to get a set of HDD which only use is being storage unit.

A storage unit using HDD

Many people opt to have an SSD to run their programs and a set of many HDDs to be their storage device. There are many companies out there that provide cases capable of maintaining the HDDs for long periods of time and increasing their lifespan. And another perk of using HDDs as storage is that it is way easier to retrieve data from a broken HDD than an SSD.

Conclusion

While the SSD is better, faster, and more convenient in every way compared to the HDD, the HDD still holds the important role of supplying the capacity needed for huge storage systems at a more reasonable price point, and, for the time being, is not yet out of the market.

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