Internal Hard Drive Speeds

Different hard drives have different rates of spin. The faster you want your PC to operate, the faster the hard drive you will need to buy, and you will usually have to pay more for the fastest ones that are currently available in the market.

The current average speed for a desktop hard drive is in the range of 7,200 revolutions per minute (rpm). You can get that rpm right up to the top volume of 4TB.

10,000 rpm hard drives are also available in the market, which are visibly faster but are available in generally smaller capacities (the standard being 1TB) and at a much higher price range. Some ’green’, ’energy-saving’ or ’low-power’ hard drives have even lower spin rates and cost even less.

Need for speed

Yes, the speed of the hard drive is quite important. With modern processors being as fast as they are, every time you have to wait for your computer to do anything it is most likely the hard drive that is holding things up.

It is necessary to understand the fact that there are two separate ways to calculate drive speed. These two ways are access time (the time that is taken to locate a file) and transfer rate (the time taken to read or write the file after it has been located).

For those people who want their computer to boot and start up programs more quickly, the access time happens to be the most important governing factor. The reason for this is that there are a lot of files that have to be located, but they are not very large.

Classes

There are in essence three different classes of hard disks:

1. ‘Green’ hard disks use low power and normally spin at 5400rpm and have comparatively slower access times and rates of transfer (most of the laptop drives fall in this category too).

2. Standard drives are those which spin at 7200rpm and have medium levels of speed.

3. High-performance drives have a spin rate of 10,000rpm or more and boast the fastest access times (these drives, however, typically do not have transfer rates which are better than the other drives).

Solid State Disks (SSDs) are the best when it comes to performance. They boast access times that are about a hundred times faster than any other standard hard drive. However, they are much more expensive and have a limited capacity.

Form factor

Most of the desktop hard drives come with a 3.5-inch form factor which causes them to fit easily inside the bays and caddies that are used in most computer cases. However, some of the newer drives use an even tinier 2.5-inch form factor.

The physical size of a drive does not give an indication of its performance. Before buying any drive, check its size in order to make sure that it will fit comfortably in the case.

Some things to consider

If you have got more than one hard drive installed in your system, there should not be any problem with allowing each one to operate independently. Setting them up in a RAID arrangement, however, can provide you with added performance, options and security.

RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks (alternatively known as Inexpensive Disks). Here you can put together multiple smaller drives to make one big drive called RAID Level 0 or ’striping’. Alternatively, you can create a single ’mirrored’ drive that will offer no additional space but which protects against data loss, or a variety of other combinations.

Most motherboards these days have integrated RAID controllers built in. You can check your system or motherboard manual if you are not sure about your system having one. Weigh up the advantages and reliability versus cost before deciding on any particular system.

The drive or drives that you decide upon will essentially depend on your distinct computing usage and the amount of money you are willing to spend. A good combination is to purchase a moderately sized but fast main drive, or an SSD, and install all of your programs onto that.

Additionally, keep a second, bigger sized hard drive for the purpose of storing your data, even if it has a lower rate of spin. A ’green’ drive should be especially handy in such a case. You can definitely choose SATA drives with 6 GB/s speeds for both uses if your computer can support the technology.

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