Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to Find a Good Hard Drive

A hard drive is one of the easiest computer parts to learn about. In short, it's where everything is saved on the computer! Now for the longer explanation.

The amount of space that is on a hard drive can range from a several gigabytes to a few terabytes. You can learn more about these terms here. A typical size nowadays is around 250 gigabytes or higher. I usually try to aim for 500 gigabytes or more. Is space all that matters with a hard drive? Not exactly. There are other big factors to consider that affect the performance of the computer. We'll look at some of these.

Above is a hard drive I found that I would consider an excellent choice. This hard drive was made by Western Digital. This model claims to have 500 gigabytes of memory. In reality, only expect to have 465~475 gigabytes. They never give as much as they say.

A hard drives RPM speed is also very important. Hard drives have platters inside that rotate at fast speeds. The faster it rotates, the faster you will load and save things. Some standard RPM speeds are 5400, 7200, 10000 and 15000. 5400 is what you find in a lot of cheaper laptops. 7200 is the standard speed in desktop computers. 10000 and 15000 are very fast speeds that many enthusiast enjoy but they can get kind of pricey.

The example then says that it is SATA 3.0Gb/s. This is the port used to plug the hard drive into the motherboard. The most current version of SATA runs at 6.0Gb/s. 6.0 isn't needed as much for regular hard drives as it is for solid state drives. These are talked about in this article.

The cache for this hard drive is listed at 64MB. Cache is RAM specifically made for the hard drive but cache is faster then regular RAM! Because it is built into the hard drive it has less latency and runs much quicker. I try to find hard drives with 64MB of cache but 32MB is okay also.

Things to Keep in Mind
These are the most important things to know but before making the purchase, check the benchmarks previous buyers have posted in reviews. Check how many MB/s the hard drive runs at. Lots of times hard drives run around 70~130 MB/s. Don't settle for anything too low.

Although companies like Western Digital and Seagate have a good reputation for making hard drives, remember that even these companies can make lemons. Always search for hard drives based by user reviews after narrowing your search. After reading these reviews, you will know what to expect for pros and cons.

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