• Steven Burstyn

The Pros and Cons of a Solid-State Hard Drive



Hard drives are not exactly new. You may be surprised to know that hard drives have been around since the 1950s. IBM invented the first hard drive in 1953 and received a patent on the technology in 1956. The first hard drives did not look like the hard drives of today. They were much larger units, about the size of two refrigerators, weighed about a ton, and had a storage capacity of 5MB. They had to be stored in air-conditioned rooms and were used to complement, not replace, the tape storage solutions used at the time.


IBM dominated the hard drive market for 30 years. The first significant advancement to hard drive technology was in 1961 when IBM moved the head that reads the data on the drive closer to the platter with just a thin layer of air between the head and the hard drive. This allowed for greater storage capacity.


In 1964, IBM standardized hard drive technology to be compatible with all of their models, while the original hard drives were only compatible with a single model, the RAMAC 305.

In 1968, things started to happen quickly as Memorex separated from IBM and produced IBM-compatible hard drives. Then, in 1970, Western Digital was founded in California. Western Digital is now the largest manufacturer of hard drives in the world.


Seagate, another major player in hard drives, was founded in 1979 and introduced the “piccolo” drive, which had a storage capacity of 64MB.


IBM created the first drive with capacity measured in gigabytes in 1980. The IBM 3380 weighed 500 pounds, cost $40,000, and had a capacity of 2.5GB.


The advent of the personal computer in the 1980s led the technology to advance very quickly. Hard drives became smaller and lighter.


While the technology became more advanced, something all of these drives had in common was all of the moving parts, and while there are moving parts, there is a chance for things to break.


Solid State Drives are also not exactly new technology, with the first RAM-based Solid State Drives being invented by StorageTek in 1978. The first flash memory SSD was developed in 1989 by Western Digital. RAM is the memory that can process information retrieved from storage. Flash memory is primarily used for data storage.


The benefits of a traditional hard drive are:

  • Proven technology

  • Less expensive

  • More storage space is available

Drawbacks of hard drives

  • Moving parts break, especially if dropped

  • Relatively slow to find and retrieve data

  • HDDs are heavier and require more power, and run hotter.


Benefits of solid-state drives

  • No moving parts

  • Faster and more reliable when reading data for games, applications, and video

  • Smaller and lighter requiring less energy allowing a computer to run cooler

  • Less susceptible to damage, even when dropped


Drawbacks of Solid State

  • More expensive

  • Difficult to find large capacity drives

  • Retrieving deleted data is far more difficult, if not impossible. Data forensics is much harder due to how the technology works.


It is hard to say which you should go with on your new computer. As we have mentioned, large capacity drives are not common, and they are far more expensive. New computers might benefit from a combination of technologies. For example, many new computers use solid-state for the operating system while having a large traditional hard drive for data storage. For now, this compromise might be the best way to go for most people. Get the benefit of speed for the operating system with the capacity to which we have become accustomed.

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