Understanding Hard Drive Specifications
It’s possible that the last time you looked at a hard drive listing – with confusing terms such as RPM and MLC all over the page – the only thing that you understood was how many GB’s the drive had as storage. Don’t worry, this is normal. Here are some definitions to help you get a better understanding of hard drive and solid state drive specifications.
Traditional Hard Drives
Capacity – This is how much data you can store on your drive. Sizes usually come in 64, 128, 256, 512 GB all the way up into TB territory.
RPM – Revolutions Per Minute – this is how quickly the data is accessed from the disk. The higher the RPM, the faster the drive will work – a personal drive is usually set to around 7200 RPM, while performance based drives are anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 RPM.
Cache – The cache is like the hard drive’s very own RAM – instant memory that is used to perform quick tasks. A higher capacity cache will make the drive perform better. Cache sizes of 2MB, 8MB and 16MB are currently standard options for 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch internal hard drives, while 1.0-inch products may only be equipped with 128KB.
Interface – For consumer grade hard drives, you are usually only going to see two options: PATA and SATA. SATA has become the new industry standard, so its advisable to seek out drives with a SATA interface, as they have a greater bandwidth and offer better performance than the out-dated PATA drives.
Solid State Drives (SSD)
Capacity – SSD drives are substantially more expensive than regular spindle-based drives, and are only now offering storage that is similar in size.
Interface – solid state drives usually come in SATA II or SATA III type interfaces. Currently, most reasonably priced SSD’s will have a SATA III interface which has a greater bandwidth than the SATA II, so unless we definitely recommend going with the SATA II.
SLC or MLC – Single Layer Cell and Multi-layer Cell storage. This determines how much data is stored in a single cell; MLC stores more data in each cell, therefore wearing out quicker and providing inferior performance to the more expansive SLC. If you have the funds, always go with SLC.
(IT Consulting Denver)