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How to choose a Hard Drive?

A Brief Guide

The Hard Drive is the warehouse of your computer.All the information that needs to be saved is stored and kept there even when the computer is turned off. The two main aspects about Hard Drive that you need to know are capacity and speed. The capacity is how much storage space you have and speed is how fast your Hard Drive can access the files stored inside it. The bigger your storage space, the more information you can save and the faster your Hard Drive, the faster you can load, edit, and access the files in your Hard Drive. Hard Drive space is measured in terms of GB (Gigabytes) and its speed is measured in terms of RPM (revolutions per minute). hd












GooGoo Explains

The different connections are ATA, SATA, or SCSI. We will concentrate on SATA connection in this guide as it is gradually making other connections obsolete, and give the best performance for their price. For the past decade, the ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) format has been the ubiquitous interface (or connection). With the introduction of SATA (Serial ATA), ATA became known as PATA (Parallel ATA). The Hard Drive interface is the channel by which the Hard Drive communicates with your Mainboard. The SATA format has a much faster transfer rate which let you move more data without getting disruptions. This format has become the new industry standard for Hard Drives.

Picking a Hard Drive

1.) Interface (Connection)

Unless you already have a Mainboard that supports only the ATA connection, there is no reason to buy an ATA Hard Drive for the above-mentioned reasons. Even SATA Hard Drives are not that common now as the latest upgrade, SATA2, is backward compatible and is slowly phasing out the original SATA. At the time of writing, most Mainboards have SATA2 connection incorporated into them. A SATA2 connection can transfer data at a rate three times as fast as an ATA connection although current Hard Drive transfer rate has yet to catch and take advantage of the technology.

2.) Capacity 

One of the most important factors of a Hard Drive is obviously its storage space. The more storage space you have, the better it is for you. Instead of being measured in terms of per square metre, Hard Drive space is measured in terms of bytes. 1 Kilobyte = 1000 bytes 1 Megabyte = 1000 Kilobytes 1 Gigabyte = 1000 Megabytes Sizes for Hard Drives range from 80 Gigabytes to 750 Gigabytes. What is the required size for your Hard Drive? This will depend on your needs and budget. If you use the PC just for word processing, surfing, and emailing, an 80GB Hard Drive is more than enough for your usage. But if you intend on building a personal video and audio library, try to go for a Hard Drive with the largest storage space that is within your budget. To put things in perspective, a 3 minute mp3 file takes up, on the average, 3 – 5MB worth of storage space.

3.) Price

The increase in Hard Drive space is not directly proportional to its price. You may find that a 160 GB Hard Drive costs only slightly more than an 80 GB Hard Drive. To find value in choosing Hard Drive, you can take the PRICE / TOTAL Hard Drive capacity. This will give you the price per gigabyte. To get the best value for money, choose the Hard Drive with the lowest ratio per gigabyte from your short listed Hard Drives.

4.) Speed or Revolution per Minute (RPM)

The rotational speed of the disks in the Hard Drive is the singularly most important factor that affects its performance. The faster the rotational speed of the disks, the more data the drive can read and write from itself in a given time. Most home computer Hard Drives rotate at 7200 RPM while some higher speed server drives run at 10 000 RPM or higher.

5.) Buffer, Cache, or Memory

Like your CPU, your Hard Drive uses buffer, cache or Memory to speed up data retrieval. Most drives come with either 8 MB or 16 MB of cache memory. 8 MB should be fine for handling standard PC applications but if you work with huge spreadsheets, or massive image and video files, you might like the performance increase of a 16 MB Hard Disk Cache.

6.) Areal Density

Areal density refers to the amount of data that can be squeezed into a square inch of a Hard Disk’s magnetic platter surface. Measured in terms of gigabits per square inch, higher densities usually mean faster Hard Disk drives.   

GooGoo Recommends

Most users want speed and capacity for their Hard Disk. Remember that most Main Boards can support 4 or more Hard Drives so you can always add more Hard Drives in future when your storage space runs out but it is not possible to increase the speed of your Hard Disk. If you are on a budget, sacrifice storage space over speed. Don’t forget that there is always the option of using external Hard Drives via USB or Firewire ports to store data that you don’t use often.  
10 000 RPM is a great speed but a bit of a luxury if you are on a budget. Also, users have to consider two issues when choosing a Hard Drive with high rotational speed, namely: heat and noise. Heat affects the performance of the Hard Drive’s surrounding hardware especially if there is poor ventilation. Noise can cause distractions to people around the computer. We recommend most home PC users to go for 7200 RPM Hard Drive for its lower noise decibels, lower cost, and convenience in configuration.      
Most importantly, as Hard Drive is one of the core components alongside CPU, RAM and Mainboard, make sure you choose a well-established brand. The best manufacturers offer up to a 5 year warranty on their Hard Drives. Make sure you enquire about the warranty of the Hard Drive when you purchase a computer. You do not want to compromise on the quality of your Hard Drive and have your Hard Drive failing with all your important data within 2 years of buying your computer.


The above guide is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. All information is written as objectively and accurately as possible. GooGoo Custom Computers are not responsible for any undesirable computer assembly outcomes resulted from reading our hardware guide.

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