Despite all the hype about cloud storage, your computer still needs a hard drive. Hard drives are where all your data is locally stored, from your OS to the files you’re working on or that game you play daily. Depending on what you use your computer for, you’ll need a hard drive that’s powerful enough to meet your needs.
Essentially, you have three choices. SATA, SSD, and NVMe. To choose the best option, you need to know what the pros and cons of each drive are and how they perform.
How To Choose The Right Hard Drive: SATA, SSD Or NVMe?
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives have been around since 2003. They took over from their predecessor PATA and are still the default hard drive in almost all desktop computers.
SATA drives range from 500 GB to 16 TB. They use tiny needles to write to a disk with an interface rate of 6 Gb/s and a throughput of 600 MB/s. They’re the cheapest option of the three types of drives and are ideal if you need plenty of storage at a lower cost.
However, if you deal with sensitive data or need high reads or writes, they’re not a great option. As the data is physically written to a disk, it can become defragmented. This slows the PC down and can cause it to crash. Regular defragging can prevent this, but it’s time-consuming.
Because of their moving parts, SATA drives are vulnerable to impact or shock, so they don’t work well on laptops. Recovering data from a SATA drive can be difficult or even impossible, and it’s a costly exercise.
SSD Hard Drives
SSD (Solid State Drive) has been around since the 1990s, but they’ve only gone mainstream in the last decade. These drives have no moving parts. Instead, all the data is stored on non-volatile flash memory, almost like a large USB drive.
SSD’s don’t have a needle that writes the data, so they’re far faster than SATA drives. The speed will differ depending on the manufacturer. But even a low-performing SSD will equal or surpass a SATA drive.
SSD drives range from 120 GB to 2 TB, and their price tag is significantly higher than their SATA counterparts. However, they are far more durable and a popular choice as external drives. This makes them more versatile and a good choice for anyone who needs external storage space.
NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) drives were first released in 2013 and provide the ultimate in speed. A type of SSD, an NVMe attaches to the PCI Express (PCIe) slot on the mainboard (where you attach a graphics card). This allows them to reach speeds of 32 Gb/s, with a throughput of 3.9 GB/s.
If you use your computer for hi-res video editing or gaming—both of which require a lot of disk throughout—an NVMe is ideally suited.
While incredibly speedy, these hard drives have a few downsides. For starters, they are the most expensive of the three, and they’re only suitable for desktop computers. Plus, most BIOS won’t support booting from these drives, so using them as secondary drives isn’t feasible.
Making Your Selection
When deciding which hard drive will work best for you, you’ll need to weigh up your technical requirements, budget, and whether you need a drive that’s laptop compatible. It’s also important to bear in mind that you can upgrade as your PC can handle more than one drive.
Once you’ve weighed all this up, you can go ahead and make your purchase. Just remember to always back up your data when installing a new drive, and to run regular backups thereafter.