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If you’re buying or building a new computer, it is important to choose the right kind of storage for your needs. Either a Solid State Drive (SSD) or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) will boot your system, store your applications, and preserve your files. However, they are very different, and each type of storage has its pros and cons. Which one is right for you? It really depends on how you plan to use your computer, and how much room you have in the budget.

SSD vs. HDD: How They Work

A traditional hard drive is basically a metal platter with a magnetic coating where data is stored.  When the platter is in motion, a read/write head accesses the data necessary to run applications, watch a downloaded movie, or do pretty much anything else. By contrast, an SSD does not have any moving parts, and accomplishes this same function using flash memory chips, which contain transistors (cells) wired together. In both forms of storage, the data is accessible when the computer is powered on, and always stored there when the power is off.

SSD: The Pros and Cons 

SSDs are increasingly popular for good reason. They’re super fast, and can boot a PC in a matter of seconds. One reason for their speed is that they are able to store the data physically anywhere, and thus are not susceptible to fragmentation. They’re also quite durable; because SSDs have no moving parts, it’s far more difficult to damage them by, say, chucking a laptop around in a backpack all day. For the same reason, SSDs are virtually noiseless in operation, and also very energy efficient.

Of course, SSD technology does have its downsides, and the greatest of these is easily the price. SSD is more expensive than HDD, by a wide margin. It is also more limited in capacity; on average, the SSD you’ll find in a consumer machine ranges from 500GB to 1TB. They top out at 4TB, but are prohibitively expensive at this level. 

HDD: The Pros and Cons

As the older, very well-established technology, HDD has the considerable advantage of being much cheaper (at this time, a 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard drive costs about $60, whereas an SSD of this capacity and form factor is in the range of $400). It can also boast much greater capacity, and the price does not increase drastically along with the capacity.
The downsides are essentially the flipside of all the positives about an SSD. HDDs are slower, and still vulnerable to fragmentation, despite considerable advances in the algorithms used to store data. They are also less durable, in that their moving parts are delicate and more easily damaged in transport or with rough handling.

So, which is right for you?

If your priorities are durability (you’re a road warrior, or buying it for a youngster), quiet (you’re recording music or podcasting), and speed (you’re like almost everyone else) it is probably worthwhile to spend the extra money on an SSD, and get an external or internal HDD as well if you also need a lot of capacity. 
On the other hand, if you are on a tight budget or require a massive amount of space for, say, your collection of downloaded videos, an HDD is probably your best bet.

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