Technology Explained

Buying a New Hard Drive: 7 Things You Must Know

Joel Lee Updated 28-11-2019

All hard drives die. It’s normal to purchase a new one every few years, either to replace an old hard drive or to use as additional backup drives.


But which hard drive should you buy? What hard drive do I need?!

Hard drive shopping doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, there’s a lot of room for error, so don’t be anxious! Just follow these guidelines and you won’t have to worry about buying the wrong hard drive.

1. Hard Disk Drive vs. Solid State Drive

The first consideration when deciding to buy a data storage drive is whether you need a solid state drive (SSD). While SSDs serve the same general function as traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), they have a few pros and cons.

An SSD is a type of data drive that uses flash memory instead of the spinning metal disks found in traditional HDDs. Think of an SSD like a massive USB drive or SD card.

But how important is that distinction?


Image Credit: Hadrian/Shutterstock

SSDs read and write data faster.

SSDs draw less power, which conserves energy and extends laptop battery life.

SSDs have no moving parts so they make no noise and have longer lifespans.


SSDs are more expensive per gigabyte, meaning they have smaller data capacities than HDDs at any given price point.

If money is a limiting factor and you need as much storage space as you can get, go with a traditional HDD. If you’re buying the drive mainly for data backups and long-term data storage, go with a traditional HDD.

Seagate BarraCuda 4TB 3.5-inch Internal HDD Seagate BarraCuda 4TB 3.5-inch Internal HDD Buy Now On Amazon $93.75

If the drive is going to run an operating system or hold a lot of frequently accessed files and programs, then go with an SSD instead. Speed and performance are the primary benefits of an SSD over an HDD.


Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5-inch Internal SSD Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5-inch Internal SSD Buy Now On Amazon $113.93

Looking for recommendations? You can’t go wrong with the Seagate BarraCuda 4TB 3.5-inch Internal HDD or the Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5-inch Internal SSD. Both are solid picks for most use cases.

2. Hard Drive Sizes and Interfaces

Once you’ve decided between HDD and SSD, you have to pick a form factor. Thankfully, there are only two “real” choices and the right choice is mostly dictated by your current setup.

Data drives come in two form factors: the 3.5-inch drive and the 2.5-inch drive.


In HDDs, data is stored on spinning metal disks, which means that more disks are needed for greater data capacity. For this reason, desktop HDDs tend to be 3.5-inches with a maximum capacity of 12TB while laptop HDDs tend to be 2.5-inches with a maximum capacity of 5TB (as of this writing).

Image Credit: Matee Nuserm/Shutterstock

SSDs don’t have any moving parts, so they can be made smaller than HDDs. As such, most SSDs come in the 2.5-inch form factor. What if you need to fit an SSD into a 3.5-inch enclosure? There are adapters that let you turn 2.5-inch drives into 3.5-inch drives.

As for connections, most modern internal drives (both HDD and SSD) use SATA connectors. Older internal HDDs that were manufactured before the SATA standard use IDE connectors instead. External drives, however, connect to your system through USB ports regardless of whether they’re HDDs or SSDs.

Note: Not sure what SATA, IDE, or USB mean? Check out our post on common computer cables What Are the Different Computer Cable Types You Need to Know? Not sure what that cord is for? Here are the most common computer cable types explained, from monitor cables to network cables. Read More .

3. Hard Drive Specifications and Performance

Here’s what to look for in a modern hard drive:

Storage capacity. HDDs come in a wide range of capacities, capping out at 16TB per drive due to physical limitations. SSDs can’t hold as much space, and consumer-grade SSDs currently max out around 5TB per drive.

Transfer speeds. The performance of a consumer-grade HDD is determined by many factors, but revolutions per minute (RPMs) is an important one. Higher RPMs means faster transferring of data to and from the drive.

You can ignore the drive’s SATA speed. For example, a modern drive might be listed as 3.0GB/s and 7200RPM. That first value is the SATA speed, which describes the theoretical maximum speed of a SATA connection. No HDD can transfer data at that kind of speed. However, a 7200RPM drive will always be faster than a 5400RPM drive.

Cache space. When a hard disk needs to transfer data from one section of the drive to another, it utilizes a special area of embedded memory called the cache (or buffer).

A larger cache enables the data to transfer faster because more information can be stored at one time. Modern HDDs can have cache sizes ranging from 8MB to 256MB.

Access times. Traditional HDDs have a couple of other factors that impact performance, such as the time it takes for the reader to position itself to read data from or write data to the drive.

While it’s true that two 7200RPM drives could perform differently (e.g. one of them might be slower at re-positioning the disk reader), there’s no standard way to compare access times. Plus, most hard drives perform at similar levels these days, so don’t worry too much about this particular detail.

For SSDs, you’ll want to look for sequential read and write speeds (also called sustained read and write speeds). As long as those speeds are within the SATA connector’s max speed, which they most likely will be, you should be fine.

Failure rate. Since HDDs have moving parts, wear and tear is expected over time—but not all HDDs wear at the same rate. Some models are prone to fail within 12 months while others have average lifespans exceeding six years. It’s your responsibility to research this on a per-model basis prior to making a purchase.

On the whole, according to StorageReview, modern SDDs tend to last longer (average failure rate of 2.0 million hours) than modern HDDs (average failure rate of 1.5 million hours). However, for long-term storage of data that stays disconnected for months or years, HDDs are more durable than SSDs Hard Drives, SSDs, Flash Drives: How Long Will Your Storage Media Last? How long will hard drives, SSDs, flash drives continue to work, and how long will they store your data if you use them for archiving? Read More .

4. Price and Cost of Hard Drives

When shopping, you’ll run into a wide range of hard drive prices for devices that all look very similar on the surface. It’s up to you to decide which factors and features are most relevant to your needs, then select a hard drive that fits those needs.

However, one way to determine value is to divide the drive’s price by its storage capacity to get its price-per-gigabyte.

For example, consider the WD Black HDD series.

The WD Black 1TB Internal HDD is an all-around great purchase for everyday consumers at $0.07 per GB. Note how doubling the storage capacity with the WD Black 2TB Internal HDD costs less than twice the price at $0.05 per GB. And if you double it again with the WD Black 4TB Internal HDD, it’s even more affordable at $0.04 per GB. The trend holds true for the WD Black 6TB Internal HDD at $0.03 per GB.

WD Black 6TB Internal HDD WD Black 6TB Internal HDD Buy Now On Amazon $227.99

Which one of these offers the best value? The 6TB model. The 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 6TB models have price-per-gigabyte values that decrease with larger storage space. There are other drives that DON’T become more affordable with scale though, so you have to be careful: some drives cost more per-gigabyte at higher capacities.

For example: The Samsung 860 EVO 250GB Internal SSD is affordable, and the Samsung 860 EVO 500GB Internal SSD grants twice the space for less than twice the price, and when you get up to the Samsung 860 EVO 1TB Internal SSD, you get the best bang for your buck. But the Samsung 860 EVO 2TB Internal SSD costs way more than twice the price of the 1TB!

Samsung 860 EVO 1TB Internal SSD Samsung 860 EVO 1TB Internal SSD Buy Now On Amazon $113.93

5. External Hard Drives vs. Internal Hard Drives

The final thing to consider is whether this hard drive is going to housed in a desktop case/laptop body or used externally to connect to many different devices.

External drives are ideal for storage, backups, and transfers. They typically connect using USB 2.0, 3.0, or 3.1, which have maximum transfer speeds of 60MB/s, 625MB/s, and 1,250MB/s, respectively. USB 3.1 is preferable of course, but not essential unless you’re transferring hours of data back and forth every single day.

External drives are portable. They can be shared between multiple computers without any hassle. Just unplug the USB, plug it elsewhere, and you’re done. They can also be plugged into TVs and media centers for direct media playback.

In all other cases, internal drives are preferable.

Note: Any data drive can be used internally or externally—external drives are essentially internal drives that are placed in a special protective casing. If you buy an external drive, you can actually take it out of the casing and use it internally!

How to Choose an External Hard Drive

For external drives that are mainly used for transferring files back and forth, get an SSD with USB 3.1 support for speed and performance. We really like the Samsung T5 500GB USB 3.1 Portable SSD and have had much success with it.

Samsung T5 500GB USB 3.1 Portable SSD Samsung T5 500GB USB 3.1 Portable SSD Buy Now On Amazon $139.99

For external drives that are mainly used for long-term data storage, get a large HDD like the affordable WD Elements 4TB Portable External HDD. I use this for personal storage myself, and I won’t be running out of space any time soon!

WD Elements 4TB Portable External HDD WD Elements 4TB Portable External HDD Buy Now On Amazon $99.99

If data security is your primary concern, you might consider something like the Transcend 2TB StoreJet M3 External HDD. It comes with military-grade shock resistance, an anti-shock rubber case, an internal suspension system that can survive drops, and built-in 256-bit AES encryption.

Transcend 2TB StoreJet M3 External HDD Transcend 2TB StoreJet M3 External HDD Buy Now On Amazon $79.97

6. Gaming Hard Drives: PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Your hard drive choice can significantly impact the performance of games, which is why we always recommend SSDs for gaming. This is true for PCs, Xbox One, Xbox One X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Slim, PlayStation 4 Pro, or any newer gaming console.

Since SSD speeds far exceed HDD speeds, games will launch much faster and load much faster between levels, stages, and maps. Seriously, the difference between SSDs and HDDs for gaming is night and day. You’ll regret getting an HDD!

When choosing a drive, you have to stick to the parameters of the device:

  • For PCs: Any hard drive will work as long as you know the form factor of the hard drive bays in your case and the connection types on your motherboard. Again, it’s most likely 3.5-inch for desktops and 2.5-inch for laptops and most likely SATA connections.
  • For Xbox 360: The original Xbox 360 uses 2.5-inch hard drives set within custom cases. To upgrade or replace, you’ll need to buy one of Microsoft’s overpriced replacements. Third-party drives can be used but need to be applied with Xbox-compatible firmware, which is far beyond the scope of this article.
  • For Xbox 360 S and E: The hard drives used in Xbox 360 S and E consoles are incompatible with the original Xbox 360, and vice versa. The 4GB models have internal flash memory that can’t be removed or replaced. The 250GB models can be upgraded to 500GB by purchasing one of Microsoft’s overpriced replacements.
  • For Xbox One: The Xbox One supports external drives through USB 3.0, which means you can use pretty much any SSD. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to replace the internal drive. Learn more in our article on taking advantage of Xbox One external drives Everything You Need to Know About Xbox One External Hard Drives Here's our breakdown of how to use an Xbox One external hard drive, plus some tips and recommendations for you. Read More .
  • For Xbox One X: The Xbox One X also supports external drives through USB 3.0 with a minimum size of 256GB. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to replace the internal drive, and doing so will void your warranty.
  • For PlayStation 3: All PlayStation 3 models have 2.5-inch SATA drives that can be replaced and upgraded by users without hassle.
  • For PlayStation 4: All PlayStation 4 models, including Slim and Pro, have 2.5-inch SATA drives that can be replaced and upgraded by users without hassle. They also support external hard drives through USB 3.0.

7. Internal and External Hard Drives for Mac

If you’re on a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, or iMac, then there are a handful of extra considerations you should keep in mind when buying a hard drive.

Internal Mac Hard Drives

The most important thing is that Mac hard drive upgrades are pretty much DIY projects. You have to tear your device apart just to reach the internal drive, carefully replace it, and then put everything back together. Even the easiest replacement can take at least an hour. This also voids your warranty and any AppleCare insurance you might have.

All MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac models 2012 and later use an internal 2.5-inch form factor (except for 27-inch iMacs, which use an internal 3.5-inch form factor). Fortunately, 3.5-to-2.5-inch adapters do exist.

Things get a bit murky as far as SATA, PCIe, NVMe, and AHCI are concerned. For example, 21.5-inch iMacs in 2017 only have a PCIe slot if the device was initially fitted with a Fusion Drive. You won’t know which connections are available in your exact device unless you specifically look it up.

Learn more in our article on SATA vs. PCIe and which is better PCIe vs. SATA SSDs: Which Storage Drive Is Best? PCIe SSDs are faster than SATA SSDs. But you might not need it. This article explains how PCIe SSDs differ from SATA SSDs. Read More .

External Hard Drives for Mac

For external drives, you have several connection options, listed in order of increasing data transfer speeds: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 2, and Thunderbolt 3 (also known as USB Type-C). We recommend USB 3.0 as the absolute lowest you should go.

Mac devices use Apple’s unique file systems, so external hard drives ought to be formatted in either HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) or Apple File System (APFS) for maximum performance.

But note that most non-Apple devices won’t be able to read HFS+ or APFS drives! There are ways to read HFS+ on Windows 6 Ways to Read Mac-Formatted Drives on Windows We show you how to read a Mac drive formatted with HFS+ or the Apple File System (APFS) on Windows. Read More , but APFS is so new that compatibility is severely limited. The only format that cleanly works with both Mac and Windows is FAT32 (but it’s old and has several downsides FAT32 vs. exFAT: What's the Difference and Which One Is Better? A file system is the tool that lets an operating system read data on any hard drive. Many systems use FAT32, but is that the right one, and is there a better option? Read More ).

Tips for Hard Drive Care and Maintenance

Do you have any spare hard drives lying around? Don’t throw them away! Here are some neat ways to breathe new life into old hard drives. Get some more use out of them!

Now you know all there is to know about buying a new hard drive. Once purchased, be sure to take care of your hard drive properly How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer Sometimes an early death is the fault of the manufacturer, but more often than not, hard drives fail earlier than they should because we don't take care of them. Read More to extend its lifespan and keep it running.

Image Credits: AH Images/Shutterstock

Related topics: Buying Tips, Hard Drive, Hardware Tips, Storage.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. CityguyUSA
    June 25, 2020 at 9:27 am

    Where is my comment?

  2. CityguyUSA
    June 25, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Years back I bought into the external usb hard drives when they 1st came out. They had very small hdds. As time went on I was buying them for about $100 per terabyte towards the end but they also added green drives which would automatically spin down when not being accessed and since most of mine are long term storage that made sense and extended the life.

    They've been hard at work way past 6 years and most of them aren't green but they have data that's not backed up.

    So my question is do they make hdds that will spin down, green, that I can put in my server or does that need to be accomplished by the board in the enclosure? I've never seen a way in Windows to control single drives to spin down without changing the entire servers power options unless there's software available that I could run?

    At some point I expect they wil need replaced so I need to think about it now while they are still spinning.


  3. Michael Pollard
    August 1, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Interesting that MUO is re-sharing this post from 2015 in 2019. It needs some serious updating, particularly concerning the various newer SSD physical formats and interfaces.

  4. Hans de Wolf
    July 26, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    The part on external Mac drives states “Thunderbolt 3 (also known as USB Type-C)”. Not true, that is too simple. . Thunderbolt 3 does use the USB-C connector but differs in many aspects. Higher transfer speeds. Daisy chaining of devices. Video signals. Power supplied to devices. It is true that (most or all?) Thunderbolt 3 drives can be connected as USB 3.1 devices with a USB-C connector.

    That means that you connect a Thunderbolt-3 drive used by a Mac to any USB connection on a PC (although without daisy chaining, and at lower speeds. And of course the PC must be able to read the file system on the disk. FAT, FAT-32, exFAT or NTFS will be not a problem. For HFS+, APFS or ExtFS file systems the PC needs extra software.

  5. Joe tricase
    March 23, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Simply written easy to understand and published by a bunch of well meaning people.thank you.

  6. Alucard
    February 9, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    "(...)SSDs (...) have longer lifespans."

    This arcticle is clearly written by some one that knows jack about HDD's and SSD's... thank you not even gonna bother read the rest.

  7. TPB
    October 22, 2018 at 4:22 am

    One note: you can always (read: "usually") mount an internal SSD into an external drive case so while external SSDs aren't common, for as little as $25-$30 over the cost of an SSD, you can make your own external SSD.

  8. Sunil Semwal
    July 27, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    nice article, thanks for this information
    SSD vs HDD which is better for you

  9. Abrar Faisal Habib
    January 1, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    If I buy a 500gb hdd then will it give 500gb to all of my hard disks or will it divide the space to each of my hard disks?

    • Pritam Vidrohi
      April 6, 2018 at 11:31 am

      500gb will get divided into parts named as Local disc C,D...

  10. Phillip
    November 23, 2016 at 3:58 am

    If like to leave a note about any drive being usable internally, I bought an external WD drive 3 years ago that had a USB 3.0 interface directly on the drive instead of having a SATA to USB adaptor in the case

  11. amita s
    August 30, 2016 at 9:31 am


  12. Harsha
    August 23, 2016 at 6:40 am

    This was detailed post, but I think storing data on personal computer is safe when compared to laptops, but unfortunately we tend to lose data when hard disk crashes due to technical failures in my case it was no UPS, so I thought I should give heads up and have similar article in my blog

  13. Rishu
    August 21, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Hey ... Now all the Hard Drive are of 2015 model ... It's August 2016 ... Let me know if the new model Hard drive will be launched soon enough or not .... As per my analysis every 1 year the market shift the price .....

  14. ryan
    August 3, 2016 at 6:16 am

    How old is this article? It's in serious need of an update. "[hard drives]...cap out at 4TB per drive." Um. No. "consumer-level SSDs rarely exceed 512GB." Again, false.

    • Anon Y. Mouse
      November 12, 2016 at 9:14 am

      Right under the title.
      "March 23, 2015"

  15. Byron Gordon
    July 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm


    I don't know if you're still reading the comments from this post of yours but if you are, I greatly appreciate your feedback. First, thank you for a very informative read. I wanted to learn and understand better the difference between a SSD and a HDD. Do you have any recommendations for ready-made PCs that have a SSD installed in it? I can't seem to find very many at all. I would have thought Dell, one of the kings of PC makers would have a line-up of PCs with SSDs in them but they don't. All I could I identify is one! And that's their XPS 8900 special edition. And it is expensive, around $1,500. But I can't find any other recommended PC with a SSD. Can you recommend any?

  16. vishal saraswat
    June 5, 2016 at 10:55 am

    very informative indeed and that additional hyperlinks also helped in increasing my understanding.
    thanks alot

    • Joel Lee
      June 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      You're welcome, vishal. Glad you found it useful. :)

  17. Hmm
    June 4, 2016 at 6:01 am

    I would like to see what is in store in the future. For example, several years ago I spent a lot on a new system and about a year later, UEFI was the gold standard which really ticked me off. At that time SATA 6 was sharing bandwidth with the video slot, part of Asus mobo's. I believe that is no longer the case.

    As we are also seeing USB 3.1 replace USB 3.0, it would nice to have a better idea of what is planned for the next year or two in terms of PC peripheral advancements.

  18. Alpesh
    April 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Good article

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks Alpesh! Appreciate it. :)

  19. Papillon
    February 5, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    One thing that doesn''t often gets accounted with is the power consumption per TB. This is a advantage to SSD's, however at a price tag (SSD tend to cast approx 250 per TB).

    Now comes the part not everyone sees. 3.5 inch spindle drives (@5400 rpm) often use approx 5 - 7 W idle. The 2.5 inch drives however approx 0.7 - 1.4 W. I ended up with building a NAS based on 2.5 inch (1.5 TB M9T) drivers. Per GB a little more, but keeping in mind that every W continous usage is apprx 1.8 EUR a year. With 4 TB I get approx 1.5 W per TB (approx 30 EUR per TB) and with 2.5 inch drives I get approx 0.5 W per TB (approx 37 EUR per TB). The price difference between these drives per TB justify the power savings (ROI of 3.7 years).

    Quite a mathmetic thing.. but to me this is true.

  20. Kelsey Tidwell
    April 10, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    Line n above, I was thinking there was another form factor, and there is at least one.
    Many Chromebooks use the NGFF, or Next Generation Form Factor, which measures 22x42x1mm (referred to as "2242").

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:30 am

      Ah, so M.2 and NGFF are both the same thing? Interesting!

  21. Cool Penguin
    March 29, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Seagate (at least) makes an 8TB HDD.

    I also have to give props here to Silicon Power external drives. I had bought 5 or 6 external drives from big name manufacturers with good reputations and every single one of them failed within 2 years. I finally decided to do some research into drives intended to be shockproof, not because I abuse drives, but because I figured they'd protect the delicate parts that tend to fail.

    I went to amazon and started to read reviews and found one that said to search "silicon power a80 torture test" on youtube. I did, and no other reviews were necessary. I bought one right away, and it is now 3 years old.

  22. A41202813GMAIL
    March 24, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    No Crap SSDs - Only Storage With Moving Parts, Period.

    Internal SATA 3.5 HDD - The Bigger The Better.


    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:31 am

      I'm guessing you don't think that the increased speed warrants the move to flash memory? Would you consider a mix-and-match approach with HDDs for important data and SSDs for OS/programs?

    • A41202813GMAIL
      April 12, 2015 at 1:51 am

      I Have Never Used SSDs.

      How Different Is Their Technology From USB Flash Drives ?

      Some Of The Files In USB Flash Drives Become Easily Corrupted.

      For Me, No Storage Without Moving Parts, Period.

      Thank You For Responding.

      • God
        March 1, 2016 at 6:49 pm

        ssds are ridiculously fast compared to slow older hard drives. The problem is that they are too pricey. When I had my 240gig ssd in my gaming desktop it would boot pc games almost immediately and loading times were almost non-existent. While on my 7200rpm hard drive loading times on games varied from 30 seconds to a minute.

        • Anonymous
          March 2, 2016 at 8:40 am

          "Power Is Nothing Without Control" Is A Well Known Slogan For Some Tech Company.

          I Will Not Trade Reliability For Speed, Ever.

          I Would Not Mind Pricey Reliable Devices.

          Companies Should Pay Customers To Use Their Crap, Not The Other Way Around, Period.


  23. Rick M
    March 24, 2015 at 3:41 am

    Your article is referring to consumer drives correct? On the enterprise side we have 6TB SATA drives and 1.92TB cMLC SSD drives available.. These are expensive little guys listing at over $14K each list price but guaranteed for 5 years. Using de duplication technology and compaction we can get the cost down to about $1.52 per GB. Very soon you'll see 3.84TB SSD but I have no idea who will be able to afford them.

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:29 am

      Yes, we try to focus on the consumer side unless explicitly stated otherwise. But you're right, there are a lot of HUGE HDDs and SSDs out there that can cost more than cars!

  24. n
    March 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    You say that 'there are only two choices' for drive sizes, however my Dell laptop has a 1.8" drive with ZIF connector inside. I know that it isn't very common but this laptop is not very old (came with Windows 7) and so maybe the article should be updated to reflect there is a rarer option out there.

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:28 am

      Wow, I've never seen a 1.8" ZIF in the wild. I wonder how those are doing in terms of market growth? Would be interesting to see some stats since, as you mentioned, they are pretty rare.

  25. Jon Green
    March 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    No mention of hybrid drives: a combination of HDD and SSD that delivers most of the SSD speed at HDD capacities, and near-HDD pricing.

    Also, no mention of one major win for SSDs over HDDs: near-invulnerability to physical shock, which can annihilate spinning HDDs (and potentially damage ones that aren't even spinning).

    Finally, external drives aren't necessarily just USB-connected. Thunderbolt and (to an extent) ePCIe are also used. And watch out for the new USB-C devices, which are not connector-compatible with existing USB.

    • likefunbuntot
      March 23, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      The benefit of a hybrid drive is pretty minimal for the cost. They made a certain amount of sense when an 80GB SSD cost more than a decent laptop, but 10% improvement in access time (if you're lucky ) over any old 7200rpm drive is fairly dubious otherwise. Since relatively high capacity 480GB drives can now be found for $.40/GB, they're really more of a curiosity these days than a viable product.

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:26 am

      Regarding hybrid drives, I considered including them but figured that their era would soon be coming to an end (look to likefunbutnot for reasons). But you're right, I should've mentioned them off-hand, at least.

      Notes on Thunderbolt, ePCIe, and USB-C were good, thanks for bringing them up!

  26. likefunbutnot
    March 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    You may also have the option to select a different disk interface. Small form factor desktop boards and business-type notebook computers frequently support tiny mSATA solid state drives while new high-end desktops and business laptops may offer the option of M.2 drives.

    mSATA is technically just a very small SATA drive, but having one opens the option of using existing drive bays for slower high-capacity drives. On a laptop, an mSATA drive also represents a small savings in weight and an improvement in battery efficiency vs. a traditional magnetic disk.

    m.2 is a direct link to the PCI Express bus, meaning that it is a disk that has a straight connection to your CPU. m.2 drives, while not capable of accessing data more quickly than other SSDs, do tend to transfer data much more quickly. High end M.2 drives from Samsung and Plextor are capable of moving around 900MB/sec of data in real-world data transfer tests vs. 300 - 400MB/sec for most SSDs.

    Finally, as an IT guy: External drives are, in almost all cases, just internal drives with an adapter board to turn a SATA connection into USB. USB, even USB Superspeed ("USB 3.0") will never provide end users the data transfer rates that the protocol theoretically offers. Your external drive will always be slower on USB than it will on some other external interface like External SATA, Thunderbolt or even in some cases Firewire. If you have the option to use something besides USB to plug in a drive and you're at all concerned about speed, the other thing is probably better. Also, external drives are not indestructible. For some reason, there's a common perception that external drive "backup drive" and "backup drive" = does not fail. This causes headaches for the techies trying to help end users far more often than anyone else would suspect.

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2015 at 1:24 am

      Learned some new stuff here, so thanks a lot for sharing. Really appreciate it!