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Hard Drive 101: What You Need To Know


I can still remember the day when the first 1 gigabyte hard drive was released. At the time, it was unfathomably large for a personal computer user. “That has more storage that I could ever use.” I thought. Today, hard drives top out in Terabytes rather than the gigabytes and operating systems alone like Windows 7 take up 16GB of storage. Today, the size of hard drives varies drastically. Notebook PC have hard drives that vary from 4GB up to 1 terabyte on souped up media laptops. Desktops are typically more robust with most featuring at least a 160GB with many multimedia systems boasting 750GB to 1 terabyte drives at a relatively affordable price (below $1,000). However, what do you really need, and what are the differences between hard drives?

Every computer has a hard drive. They are the main storage facility for your computer. Whenever you install a new program, save a document, or download something from the internet, it is stored somewhere on the computer hard drive. The storage size of a drive is in typically megabytes (1MB equals around one minute of music), gigabytes (made up of 1,000 megabytes), and terabytes (One terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes). You might expect that the greater the storage capacity the better the drive, but that is not necessarily true. Since so much that your computer does is dependent upon the hard drive, the speed of the hard drive is critical. Hard drive speed is measured in the rate per minute (rpm) that they spin. Most drives will spin at 5,400 or 7,200 rpm but premium specialty drives are available at 10,000 or 15,000 rpm. With a faster hard drive, data can be accessed faster, thus speeding up almost everything that you do on your computer.

While every computer has a internal hard drives, external hard drives are also available which can offer many of benefits. Many users safely store and back up all of their important data against disk failure by using an external hard drive. Additionally, one of the best ways to speed up your computer is by freeing up your hard disk. Many people choose to use an external hard drive to boot up their hard drive if their internal drive is slower. For example, if their internal hard drive spins at 5,400 rpm, they could use an external drive that spins at 7,200 rpm to boot their computer, a process that can often take several minutes, in a much quicker time.

Both internal and external drives have their benefits. Internal drives are safe because of their secure and stable casing. Plus, with the fan cooling available on internal drives ensures that the drive stays cool. External hard drives are housed in boxes outside of a computer and are connected by firewire or USB drives. The potential benefits of an external drive include improved performance if the external drive is faster than the internal drive on your computer, durability versus many laptop hard drives which can be jarred as they are moved and the ability to be used as backup storage.

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