Storage is something every PC needs, whether you are a gamer or just an average user you need to store all your files somewhere.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed considering the plethora of different types of options available in today’s day and age.
I hope that by the end of this guide you will be clear about which storage to buy for your PC!
Table of contents
What do you want from your Storage?
Just like when buying any other component in your PC, the first step is to have a clear mind about what you want out of your storage. For example, do you want an internal or external drive? Or what kind of data will you be storing, some files or your whole operating system?
Then you need to also consider how much you are willing to spend on storage.
With all these things considered, you will make a better decision and save money and time.
In recent times, the storage options for PCs have evolved drastically. You no longer have a single type of storage for your PC like in the 90s. In today's world, there are different storage options for almost anyone out there.
Internal vs External Storage
Internal storage is found within the case of the PC and usually uses the SATA or PCIe to connect to your PC's motherboard, while external storage is portable and is present outside the computer. External storage uses either a USB cable or eSATA.
If you only need to expand your existing storage and would like the added portability then external storage is the best option for you. Not only is external storage relatively cheaper, but it is also easier to use. We only cover internal storage in this article.
However, if the wires bother you or you strictly want an internal storage device for your PC, then internal storage is the better option.
Generally, there are three main types of storage options available:
- HDDs (hard disk drives)
- 2.5 inch SSDs (Solid states drive)
- M.2 NVMe SSDs
A general rule of thumb for comparing storage devices is how their read and write speeds pit against each other. Since, no matter the type, every storage device has to read and write data. The faster it reads and writes data, the faster it will perform inside a PC.
Hard Disk Drives
HDDs are the oldest type of storage device out there; they have been used in computers for a long time and have proved their reliability and efficacy over time. HDDs use electromagnetism to store data.
A HDD has a magnetic head that reads and writes data on a fast spinning platter (disc) that has different blocks or sectors present in it to store data within it.
Due to this many times, older HDDs suffer a problem known as fragmentation. Fragmentation occurs when data from a single file is stored in an unorderly fashion. Meaning data from a file instead of being stored in adjacent blocks are stored in different blocks that are scattered; this causes a delay whenever that file is opened.
Normally when buying a HDD you should look at whether they are specifically designed for the intended purpose. Modern HDDs are tailored for different uses e.g. a specific type of HDD made for CCTV cameras which would have read/write speeds specifically designed to store video files quickly. When buying an HDD make sure, you keep this in mind.
It is difficult to measure the read/write speeds of HDDs but looking at the RPM of the disc can be used to estimate the read/write speeds.
Older HDDs spin at 5400 RPM but newer HDDs spin at 7200 RPM and can offer 150 Mb/s of read/write speeds.
HDDs will usually have something called cache in their specifications; this cache is like a temporary storage that the drive uses to store relevant data for files being opened or files that are regularly accessed. In simple terms the larger this cache is, the better your hard drive will be. Though it may not result in large performance gains, it is still better to have more of it. Most modern HDDs have 256 MB of cache.
Hard drives, despite their long history of reliability and decent speeds, do have their limitations. Not only are they not the fastest and most reliable option on the market now, but they are prone to physical damage as the fast-moving parts inside can get damaged because of jolting or a shock and they can also get damaged internally by a power surge.
That is when SSDs (Solid-state drives) come in. Instead of using big moving physical parts, they use electronic circuits to store data with zero moving parts. SSDs have chips inside them known as flash memory chips (just like a platter in an HDD minus the spinning) and a flash controller that reads the data stored in those chips ( this acts as the magnetic arm in the case of SSDs). If you strip an SSD of all of its housing you will just see a big chip with blocks on it similar to an SD card but bigger.
Having no moving parts means that you do not have to depend on the physics of the device by plane electronic pulses. This makes SSDs faster than even the fastest HDDs by a long shot.
Types of SSDs and their Features
SATA 2.5” SSD
Most SSDs used today are the standard type that looks similar to Hard Drives but are smaller and have a 2.5" form factor. The read-write speeds on these SSDs can vary between 500-550 Mb/s, which is much faster than Hard Drives.
You can easily see the Read/write speeds for SSDs under the specifications or on the box itself.
Recently newer form factors of SSDs have come out such as the mSATA type SSD.
The mSATA SSDs are smaller and thinner than the standard SSDs but are faster and lighter. They can be plugged into the standard SATA ports and very rarely may need an adapter if your motherboard is too old. Some newer mSATA SSDs plug into the PCIe port, so you should have one available on your motherboard for them to work. They can also be slightly more expensive than the standard SSDs and in terms of performance they are quite similar to the standard 2.5” SATA.
The smallest SSDs are the M.2 type SSDs that use SATA and NVME (Non-volatile memory express) data transfer protocols.
It is important to note that M.2 is the form factor and two types of SSDs fall under this form factor:
- The standard M.2 SSD which is just as fast as the SATA SSD and would only save you some space connecting to your motherboard’s PCIe port.
- The NVME SSD which is the current cutting-edge storage option manufacturers are offering for the average consumer. The NVME SSDs are very thin (almost as thin as two pennies stacked on top of each other). Most high-end PCs would be using these and even the next-gen gaming consoles come equipped with these due to their whooping read/write speeds of 3.5 GB/s. The NVME SSD is by far the fastest storage option that you can get. Starting from 3 GBs/s their read/write speeds can go up to 7GBs/s.
That being said, the M.2 form factor alone isn’t a bad option, it can save you space. Improve your airflow and just make your PC look cleaner overall, after all you have on less cable to worry about now.
Apart from that, there is also another type of SSD on the market called U.2 . They are mostly similar to M.2 SSDs in terms of performance but they are specifically made for servers.
Cache & DRAM
All SSDs have cache storage, it's basically RAM but for the SSD. The onboard cache in the case of SSDs is stored on a DRAM (Dynamic random access memory). The cache stores information like memory addresses and other data for frequently accessed files for faster loading times. Though this has a small effect on overall speeds, you can look these specs up if you're really into technicalities.
A lesser-known type of storage option is SSHDs, (Solid-state hybrid drives) like the name suggests, they are a cross between SSDs and HDDs offering the best of both. They have the speeds of SSDs at the price of Hard Drives. Though the idea sounds really good, there is a catch. SSHDs use both SSD chips and HDD platters; they store the more frequently used data and operating system on the SSD part and the larger volumes of data on the HDD part.
SSHDs could have been a great middle ground but due to some shortcomings they are ignored, people either stick to the reliable HDDs or just jump straight to SSDs.
SSHDs ship with their own firmware and the firmware using its logic chooses which data to save on the SSD part for you. This can be quite disappointing for many users. Also due to the OS being stored on the SSDs, there is very little space left for other files on the SSD part and this is a huge problem for people who want to game and have huge games to store on their SSDs for quick loading times.
Additionally, more often than not the SSD chips used are low-end to save cost and the overall speeds amount to what a good Hard Drive would provide so it's not necessarily an upgrade for the most part.
HDD or SSD? Which one Should you Buy?
Though both SSDs and HDDs have their benefits, there’s no doubt that SSDs are better but they are also expensive and can easily push your spending through the roof.
The best option that has the perfect balance of performance and value to money is using both an SSD and a HDD, you can buy a lesser storage SSD and a larger HDD. This way you can store important files or games you need to access quickly on the SSD, while bigger files that you can stand being accessed a bit slow can be stored on the HDD.
This way is the most cost-efficient as you can save money on the HDD and buy a good SSD like an NVME type. The Samsung 980 500 GB NVME SSD is a good option and is available on the Senxios store. If you have an older motherboard then a standard SSD like the ASENNO 2.5" SSD will also be substantially faster than a HDD, you can easily find it on the Senxios store. This setup will provide you with a faster OS and save quite a lot of money.
For the HDD that will hold most of your data the sky's the limit in terms of storage but a 4TB Seagate Barracuda HDD is enough to cater to your storage needs for years to come, conveniently available at Senxios.
To Sum it All Up
Storage is very important, it needs to be reliable; that’s why you should not try to cheap out here, as a storage device from an unreliable manufacturer can corrupt your data very easily.
Storage is something where it is very easy to overdo things, for example getting a 1TB SSD and then realizing that after a few years, it’s only half-full and it would’ve been better if you redirected that money to some other component in your PC that would have had a larger impact on its performance. Therefore, before buying storage you should always think of the future and whether you have enough storage or less/more is needed.
For example if you love to play games that are usually smaller in size then there is no need to invest in massive amounts of storage when you know that you won’t be able to use all of it anytime soon.
Lastly, when you decide on one storage device, make sure your motherboard has the required ports. You are good for the most part when standard HDDs and SATA SSDs are concerned. In case of M.2 and mSATA drives, make sure your motherboard supports data transfers through its PCIe port and for NVME SSDs even if your motherboard supports the M.2 form factors it may not necessarily support the NVME protocol.
Best of luck with finding the right storage device for you!
If you have any questions feel free to contact me, you can use the comments section below or a contact form.
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