Felix Nguyen
April 18, 2024

A little bit of History:

When were magnetic hard drives first utilized?

The inception of HDDs dates back to 1956. Their operational principle resembles that of tape recorders, albeit with durable plates coated in ferromagnetic powder instead of tapes. Present-day HDDs are available in 2.5 and 3.5-inch formats, with the former designed for portable devices and the latter for stationary ones. Over the span of 60 years, storage capacity has skyrocketed exponentially. In 2021, consumer HDDs typically offer capacities ranging from 1 to 5 TB, while advanced professional-grade models can accommodate up to 18–22 TB.

Semiconductor Memory

SSDs set themselves apart from HDDs by eliminating moving parts. They rely on floating gate transistors capable of retaining a charge even without power. SSDs also come in various formats, including the 2.5-inch casing or installation on slim printed circuit boards. Despite advancements, the typical capacity of consumer SSDs remains capped at 1 TB in 2021, with larger SSDs being relatively scarce and pricey. In the professional domain, capacities of up to 16 TB are available, albeit at significantly higher costs, often tens or hundreds of times more expensive.


The SSD market witnessed significant growth until 2015 - 2018, but then faced a bottleneck. This was primarily due to semiconductor shortages and a sluggish transition to new technologies. Despite advancements, the actual production volumes of 176-layer memory remain limited, leading modern SSDs to rely on older versions such as 96, 92, and even 64 layers. Meanwhile, solid-state data storage systems are evolving. Towards the end of 2020, Western Digital introduced zone-type SSDs, where memory is divided into specialized zones allowing only sequential recording. Unlike conventional block-based systems, zones in these SSDs contain no fragments of other files. This eliminates the need for "garbage collection" technology, streamlining resource management.

Compared to traditional SSDs, this new technology offers several improvements:

· 20% increase in memory capacity at the same cost

· 57% reduction in response latency

· Consistent reading, writing, and erasing speeds regardless of data volume

The zone-based approach is now part of the NVMe 1.4 standard and benefits SSDs without DRAM buffers, which struggle with processing large data volumes. It's anticipated that budget-friendly SSDs may become even more accessible or cheaper due to semiconductor shortages. Another direction in SSD development is the transition to the PCI Express 5.0 interface, known among computer enthusiasts for its enhanced speed of 32 gigatransactions per second. This translates to drives processing up to 16 GB of data per second. Samsung, for instance, has announced plans to manufacture such high-speed drives, particularly for enterprise applications.


Advancements in magnetic storage technology progress at a slower pace, with innovations from the late 2000s and early 2010s gradually being integrated. Seagate and Toshiba are adopting laser and microwave media heating systems in their HDDs, enhancing recording accuracy and reducing errors.

Western Digital, on the other hand, focuses on perpendicular recording technology with energy support ePMR. Unlike heating methods, this approach utilizes a reference current through recording head cores, achieving increased data storage density and reduced distortion.

Comparatively, the latest offerings from Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital surpass traditional HDDs in storage volume. Manufacturers aim to unveil 50 TB drives within the next two years, with capacities projected to reach 100–300 TB over the next decade.

Efforts are also underway to enhance HDD speed. Seagate's Mach 2 HDDs feature multiple independent head sets, eliminating speed discrepancies between magnetic disks and budget SSDs, reaching speeds of up to 600 MB/s.

Response times are also improved, comparable to SSDs, with only 4–5 ms compared to the typical 50–250 ms for HDDs. While currently available primarily to corporate clients, these drives may become accessible to consumers in the next 2-3 years.

Western Digital pursues alternative technologies, integrating iNAND semiconductor memory into HDDs. This allocates independent chips for each spinning disk, boosting cache loading speeds by up to 100 MB of data concurrently, around 50 times more than traditional HDDs. This accelerates file operations up to threefold for files up to 1 GB.

Furthermore, next-generation drives retain significantly more information in case of sudden power failures. With current technologies enabling up to 2.2 TB recording on a single platter, total HDD capacities can reach 16–22 TB. Western Digital anticipates surpassing the 50 TB threshold by 2024 with ePMR technology, maintaining these benefits.


Magnetic HDDs continue to excel in terms of longevity and cost per terabyte. New developments offer significant advantages in terms of storage capacity. While SSD capacities increase gradually, their speed continues to improve. Consequently, SSDs are poised for applications where rapid data processing is crucial in the foreseeable future.

Advantages and Disadvantages

HDD Advantages:

· High storage capacity, ideal for large data requirements.

· Longer lifespan under heavy usage due to technical characteristics.

· More budget-friendly compared to SSDs.

· Ease of data recovery.

· Zero risk of data loss during sudden power outages.

HDD Disadvantages:

· Audible noise due to mechanical parts.

· Requires periodic defragmentation for optimal performance.

· Bulky and heavy, often requiring rubberized casings for protection, impacting portability.

· Slower operational speeds compared to SSDs, slower performance noticeable in file access, data copying, and system startup.

· Higher power consumption, consuming 60-80% more energy than SSDs, resulting in more heat generation.

· Susceptibility to external impacts.

SSD Advantages:

· Enhanced durability without mechanical components, less susceptible to damage from falls.

· Silent operation owing to absence of moving components.

· Eliminates the need for defragmentation, enhancing efficiency.

· Lightweight design, consisting primarily of a single board.

· Significantly faster operational speeds than HDDs.

· Lower power consumption and as a result minimal heat generation, eliminating the need for constant cooling.

· 2-3 times faster operational speeds compared to HDDs, improving program responsiveness and file transfer times.

· Immune to magnetic interference.

SSD Disadvantages:

· Higher cost per storage capacity compared to HDDs.

· Limited storage capacity in comparison to HDDs.

· Shorter lifespan depending on data rewriting frequency.

· Risk of data loss during sudden power failures.

· Higher initial cost compared to HDDs, but the benefits outweigh this drawback when considering performance gains.

Choosing an HDD: Key Parameters

Form Factor and Purpose: 2.5" for laptops, 3.5" for desktops (though many PCs support 2.5" drives as well).

Type: Internal: Installed within the computer. External: Placed in a portable enclosure, connected via USB.

Storage Volume: Pay attention to the capacity, noting that manufacturers use decimal values (e.g., 200 GB) instead of binary prefixes (e.g., 186.2 GiB).

Spindle Rotation Speed: 5400 RPM for storage. 7200 RPM for storage and operating systems.

Buffer Volume: Look for a buffer size typically ranging from 8 to 128 MB, which helps smooth out data transfer speeds.

Interface: Understand the interface for connecting the HDD, such as ATA (IDE), SATA (SATAI, SATAII, SATAIII), and associated bandwidths.

Connectors: For SATA devices, note the two connectors used: 7-pin (data) and 15-pin (power), ensuring compatibility with your system.

Performance Checking: Ensure each HDD undergoes pre-sale technical inspection, including tests like HDD test and CrystalDiskInfo.

Reserve Sectors: Learn about reserve sectors, which enhance disk longevity by replacing faulty sectors with backups, thus maintaining overall capacity. These sectors are managed via reassignment tables stored in the disk's electronics unit.

By considering these parameters, you can make an informed decision when selecting an HDD tailored to your specific needs and system requirements.

Choosing an SSD: Key Parameters

Form Factor and Purpose: 2.5" SATA SSDs are commonly used in laptops and desktops, while M.2 NVMe SSDs are ideal for compact laptops and desktops with compatible slots.

Type: Internal: Installed directly into the computer's motherboard. External: Housed in a portable enclosure and connected via USB or Thunderbolt for convenient external storage.

Storage Capacity: Pay attention to the storage capacity, typically ranging from 120 GB to multiple terabytes, ensuring it meets your storage needs.

Endurance and Lifespan: Check the endurance rating, often expressed in terabytes written (TBW), which indicates how much data can be written to the SSD before it may start to degrade. A higher TBW rating implies a longer lifespan.

Controller and NAND Type: Evaluate the controller and NAND type used in the SSD, as they significantly impact performance and reliability. Look for reputable brands and the latest NAND technologies, such as TLC (Triple-Level Cell) or QLC (Quad-Level Cell).

Interface: Understand the interface for connecting the SSD, such as SATA III, PCIe Gen3, or PCIe Gen4, and ensure compatibility with your motherboard or laptop.

Cache: Consider the presence of a cache, which helps improve performance by temporarily storing frequently accessed data. Look for SSDs with larger cache sizes for enhanced performance.

Reliability and Warranty: Choose SSDs from reputable manufacturers with proven reliability and warranties, providing peace of mind in case of any issues.

Price and Value: Balance the SSD's price with its performance, reliability, and warranty coverage to ensure you're getting the best value for your investment.

By considering these parameters, you can confidently select an SSD that meets your storage requirements and offers reliable performance for your computing needs.

Why are Apple computers often perceived as much more responsive compared to regular PCs, seemingly never slowing down?

In the tech community, there's a prevalent belief that the operating system plays a significant role. Mac OSX, found on Apple computers, is often described as "optimized," "never slow" and "free from blue screens of system failure."

However, it might be due to several factors:

 · Apple computers, excluding the most basic configurations, typically come equipped with m.2 SSD drives or proprietary equivalents. These SSDs operate at high speeds (700 - 1100 MB/s) via NVMe, capable of handling 65,000 wait threads executing 65,000 commands each.

· Apple systems incorporate features to prevent data loss and include overheating protection systems. These features aid in preventing errors and freezes, particularly when dealing with several gigabytes of data, mainly consisting of small blocks, during multitasking.

· Conversely, the experience with Windows PCs often involves regular HDDs running at 5400 rpm. These HDDs tend to be noisy and vibrate during operation due to moving parts. They process only one standby thread executing 32 commands and operate at speeds ranging from 60 to 110 MB/s.

· Windows PCs are often associated with the frustrating experience of encountering the "Not responding" state, especially during multitasking. This sluggishness occurs not only with small data blocks but also with relatively large ones.

Swapping the disks between an Apple computer and a Windows PC underscores the significance of the disk drive. The regular HDD drive, known for its sluggish performance, can severely impede system responsiveness. It forces the entire system to wait until it completes processing all task queues from programs and the OS, particularly evident during multitasking. Moreover, background applications, ranging from auto-updating project dependencies to user-assigned tasks, further compound the slowdown.

Synthetic Tests (potential disk speeds)

We have conducted a synthetic test aimed at evaluating disk performance in an HDD vs SSD scenario, specifically focusing on small data block operations (specifically 4 KB). The results are as follows:

Reading Operations:

· HDD is 94 times slower compared to SSD, achieving speeds of 0.68 MB/s versus 63.6 MB/s.

· HDD is 53 times slower compared to SSD, with speeds of 0.36 MB/s versus 19 MB/s.

Writing Operations:

· HDD is 178 times slower compared to SSD, achieving speeds of 0.78 MB/s versus 139 MB/s.

· HDD is 86 times slower compared to SSD, with speeds of 0.64 MB/s versus 55 MB/s.

The emphasis on small block data operations stems from their significance in everyday computing tasks. Whether you're browsing the web or importing files into a program like Unreal Engine, the system processes a vast number of small data blocks. Hence, read speed takes precedence over write speed in such scenarios.

Sequential speed, denoted by "Seq Q32T1" and "Seq," is crucial for handling large file operations (in MB or GB). While important, these operations occur less frequently and have less impact on system responsiveness compared to the frequent processing of thousands of small data blocks.

Test Setup and Real-world Performance Metrics

The following performance metrics were gathered from tests conducted on a laptop equipped with the following components:

Operating System: Windows 10

CPU: Intel Core i7 3610qm

RAM: 12 GB

Drive Specifications:

HDD: Toshiba MQ01ABF050 | Capacity: 465 GB (SATA)

SSD: Kingston HyperX Fury | Capacity: 120 GB (SATA)


Windows 10 Boot Time:

· SSD Boot Time (including tray programs): 16 seconds | Total Time: 23 seconds - 217% faster (3.17 times) than HDD

· HDD Boot Time (including tray programs): 48 seconds | Total Time: 1 minute, 13 seconds

· PDF opened immediately after desktop appeared; the countdown concluded after loading programs in the tray and fully opening the PDF file

Application Launch Time:

· SSD Application Launch Time: Total Time: 1 minute, 44 seconds - 274% faster (3.74 times) than HDD

· HDD Application Launch Time: Total Time: 6 minutes, 29 seconds

Application Task Execution Time:

· SSD Application Task Execution Time: Total Time: 2 minutes, 29 seconds - 175% faster (2.75 times) than HDD

· HDD Application Task Execution Time: Total Time: 6 minutes, 50 seconds

Performance Metrics:

When evaluating performance metrics, SSDs stand out as clear frontrunners. With their absence of moving components hindering data retrieval, SSDs deliver rapid read/write speeds, enabling quick system boot-ups, application launches, and file transfers. In contrast, HDDs are limited by physical constraints, resulting in slower performance and higher energy consumption.

Reliability and Durability:

SSDs hold a significant edge over HDDs in terms of reliability. Their lack of mechanical parts makes SSDs more resistant to shocks, vibrations, and temperature changes, reducing the risk of data loss due to hardware malfunctions. Additionally, SSDs offer a longer lifespan, making them well-suited for demanding workloads and frequent data access scenarios.

Practical Applications:

In today's fast-paced computing environment, characterized by a need for speed and efficiency, SSDs have become the preferred storage solution for discerning users. Whether it's for gaming, content creation, or business tasks, the advantages of SSDs translate into improved productivity and seamless multitasking capabilities.

Noise and Power Consumption:

HDDs, with their moving parts, generate noise and consume more power compared to the silent and energy-efficient operation of SSDs. This makes SSDs preferable for users seeking quieter and more power-efficient systems, especially in laptops where battery life is critical.

However, HDDs maintain relevance in specific domains where cost-effectiveness and high storage capacities are paramount. For users requiring extensive storage for media collections or archival purposes, HDDs remain a viable choice, providing ample space at a fraction of the cost of SSDs.

Future Outlook:

Looking ahead, both HDDs and SSDs are poised for further advancements. SSDs are expected to see progress in memory density and interface technologies, offering even faster speeds and greater efficiency. Meanwhile, HDDs continue to evolve, with manufacturers exploring innovative methods such as laser and microwave media heating to enhance data density and speed.

In the ongoing debate of HDD vs SSD, SSDs emerge as the clear victor in terms of performance, reliability, and overall user satisfaction. While HDDs continue to fulfill niche needs, the benefits offered by SSDs make them indispensable for modern computing tasks. Whether upgrading a desktop PC or investing in a new laptop, opting for an SSD ensures a smoother, faster, and more efficient computing experience! As technology evolves, the trajectory of data storage remains dynamic, driven by a relentless pursuit of efficiency and innovation.