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Does Speed Matter with Your Hard Drive

How Important Is Hard Drive Speed in Modern Computing?

With the rapidly increasing size of today's video, image and text files, hard drive speed is more important than ever. It takes a fast hard drive to process these large files quickly and efficiently. In addition, operating systems have features which require a speedy drive to keep things moving.

Areal Density - What Is It?

In the past, hard drive speed was solely measured in terms of revolutions per minute (RPM). This number describes how many revolutions every 60 seconds the hard drive platter completes. In the current computing environment, hard drive manufacturers also measure the areal density, the density of the data bits contained on the hard drive platter.

Hard drive speed and performance is measured by both the revolutions per minute of the platter and how dense the information is packed onto that platter. If two different hard drives had the same information density, then revolutions per minute become the deciding factor as to which is faster. A hard drive platter spinning at 7200 RPM is approximately 1/3 faster than the same platter traveling at 5400 RPM.

Surprisingly, there is no single industry standard to measure hard drive performance. Other factors that come into play when examining standard hard drive performance include:

  • Platter size
  • Write speed
  • Storage Size
  • Latency
  • Cache
  • Read Speed

However, revolutions per minute and areal density remain the main considerations.

Solid State Hybrid Drive

In recent years, another technology has emerged that is even faster than standard hard drives. Instead of a rotating platter, solid-state hybrid drives (SSHD) utilize the flash portion of the drive to store data. This type of drive is designed to store the most frequently used information, only accessing a fixed drive for data that is not in the flash memory. These drives are much faster than a standard hard drive, and eliminate the need to consider revolutions per minute when determining hard drive speed.

Whether a computer user utilizes a standard hard drive or a solid-state hybrid drive, the performance and speed of the machine is important in processing and delivering data as quickly as possible. Computer operating systems and software programs continue to grow in size and functionality year after year. In addition, computer files such as documents, images and video continue to grow as technology makes it easier to produce this media. For that reason, take time to find the right hard drive that offers the best balance of speed and economic value.

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