Hard drives explained – 10 more things you need to know

We recently put out an article with 9 things you need to know about hard drives, well since then we have had a lot more questions come up that need answering so here are another 11 things you should know about hard drives!

Hard drives are often an overlooked aspect of our daily lives. They are used all around us in every computer, on almost every device in some form or another! In fact, the internet is stored on hard drives all over the planet! There is no escaping them so let’s dive deeper and answer some questions about hard drives that can leave us a little confused!

What hard drive do I need?

There are so many types of hard drives that often the question is what hard drive do I actually need?! We have created a handy guide to help you select the best hard drive for your situation, it covers everything from internal to external and HDD to SSD. Click the link below for help figuring out what drives you need for optimum computing!

Why are hard drives so expensive?

The reality is that hard drives are becoming more expensive as they increase in capacity while the amount of data you can store per dollar is coming down in price. Let me explain…

Hard drive prices are still on a downwards trend per TB but hard drive capacity is on the rise. With larger capacity hard drives available and in higher demand it can make for some confusing statistics, for example, HDD prices increased by 18% and SSDs by 5% in 2021 on average however that is taken across the number of units sold and their respective prices and doesn’t take into account the combined capacity of hard drives which is much higher and brings the average cost of a TB down considerably lower.

Also, a glance at the number of HDDs sold each year might give you a false indication that HDDs are becoming obsolete when in fact the increased capacity of them sees the need for as many hard drives reduced. For example, a 20TB NAS array would have needed to consist of 4 x 10TB hard drives a few years ago but now can be achieved with 2 x 20TB hard drives.

What is cost per GB?

Cost per GB is the amount of money it costs for a Gigabyte of data capacity. It is a metric used to average out the costs of data storage and is often used on price comparison websites to compare drives by how much you are paying for the capacity rather than a direct comparison between drives that might have completely different capacities at different prices points. For example, say you wanted to compare a 4TB hard drive and a 1TB hard drive by different manufacturers then you might use the cost per GB metric to establish how much storage you are getting for your money, bang for your buck so to speak, so you can compare that against other metrics to help decide which is the best choice for your needs.

How much does data storage cost?

Data storage covers more than just hard drives, this can include cloud-based storage as well as other storage mediums like DVD or tapes. The prices can vary a huge amount and the best way to calculate what price you are likely to pay is to first establish what type of data storage you need. More often than not data storage is the storage of photos, videos, and other personal files for archival purposes. Cloud storage solutions can be an excellent choice because they require zero maintenance. You simply upload your files and forget about them. However, the cost per GB is significantly more than a local hard drive, that said local hard drives need to be maintained and stored in very good conditions to ensure longevity, as well as being regularly backed up. Backups are automatic on cloud storage.

Once you have established what type of data storage you need then you will need to compare the options available to you. On average hard drives are about $0.018 per GB. Cloud services come in at around $0.025 per GB per year, given that a hard drive could last 8 years on average if treated well which relates to a cost per GB of $0.2 for a cloud service over that period.

What size hard drive for windows?

Windows can run on as little as 32GB but it is recommended to have at least 60GB to operate from to ensure you have room for additional programs and temporary files. This small operating system size means that you can buy a cheaper SSD as your start-up disk and ensure that your computer runs at optimal performance. Then you can use cheaper HDDs for data storage of files and folders. Or if you are using a netbook a cloud-based service can be a good alternative as well as external hard drives.

Do hard drives come with windows?

Hard drives don’t come with windows as standard, though may occasionally be offered with later versions of windows. This is rare though. This is because hard drives are seen as an interchangeable component and often require upgrading or replacing, this makes the need to offer a license key with them redundant as they can be used for so many things, not just for the C: drive of a computer system. In fact, a majority of hard drives aren’t used as a C: drive and instead are used for data storage.

Older versions of windows were directly linked to your CPU and motherboard, and the activation code came with it. However, nowadays it is linked to your Microsoft account which means you can upgrade a motherboard or CPU without having to worry about losing your activation. More often hard drives are bundled with third-party software that might be useful for a specific application or used to monitor the health of the hard drive itself.

Does removing a hard drive remove data?

So long as a hard drive has had a chance to finish all of its write processes removing it from a computer won’t cause any data loss. It is advisable to check that a hard drive isn’t in use before removing it and there is an option to do this on most operating systems. Macs have an eject hard drive feature and Windows have a safely remove device feature that ensures that no programs are using the device and that it isn’t currently writing data.

Removing a C: drive during operation could cause damage to the operating system and mean that the OS needs repairing or reinstalling. If you are not careful during this process the drive may be erased for a completely clean installation. Be sure that if you do remove a C: drive from a running computer that you back up any personal files from it before trying to use it as the master boot drive again.

Do hard drives come with SATA cables?

Hard drives don’t usually come with SATA cables but oftentimes are bundled with SATA cables. This is because there are various features on SATA cables for different needs so there is no one size fits all to offer. For example, some computer cases house the SATA drive trays further from the motherboard than others, so you may need longer or shorter cables, also the cables can come with a variety of angled connectors to get good connections in tight spaces. They also require power cables and the type needed is determined by the PSU (power supply unit). While the SATA power supply pins are always the same, the PSU side might offer different pinouts and the right cable has to be used to avoid reverse polarity or overloading of voltages.

How much cahce does a hard drive need?

There is a simple way to look at this, the more the better, more cache is going to increase the read times of your hard drive by streamlining the process of reading additional data stored in neighboring sectors so it knows what’s what. The cache size can sometimes be offered as a premium and ranges from 8MB to 256MB on HDDs and even as much as 4GB on SSDs.

The cache is essentially acting as a buffer for your hard drive so that it can offer the information directly to you while it loads the rest in the background, in very much the same way a video buffers on the internet. The higher the cache the more it can buffer. Depending on the use case the buffer might not be all that important. For example, if archival is the aim then it won’t help much at all, but if you wanted to edit videos from a disk a higher cache is going to serve you well.

What is a hybrid hard drive?

A hybrid drive is what happens when you mix an SSD with an HDD. Essentially it is designed to give you the best of both worlds. You can have the fast read-write times of an SSD while having the higher capacities of HDDs at a better price point. The data allocated to each space is dependent on your habits, more often accessed files will be stored on the SSD section while lesser accessed files will be allocated to the HDD portion of the hard drive.

With the gap in advantages still somewhat wide when it comes to HDD vs SSD, a hybrid drive can offer some great enhancements to a system that requires optimizations from either end of the scale. They can work well in a lot of situations, particularly if you only have one slot inside your laptop for example. You can get fast boot times while also having enough capacity to store plenty of films or photos!

Want to know more about hard drives?

If your thirst for more is still strong here are some articles for further reading that may interest you!

Can a hard drive catch fire?

9 tips to extend the lifespan of your hard drive.

How to use an external hard drive for gaming.

Happy reading!