This Year’s Hard Drive Buying Guide


Are you building a computer for business or personal use? Does your old hard drive need replacing? Do you need extra memory because you’re running low? There are quite a few reasons to purchase an additional or replacement hard drive. Just as there are many reasons to buy a new hard drive, there are many different hard drives to choose from. This guide should help you work out what type of drive to buy, how much space you need, and which features will keep you safe and functioning at full capability.

Word to the wise: Are you absolutely sure you need a hard drive (external or internal)? If you’re just looking for a safe way to transport files, your best bet is an encrypted USB, such as what’s available at flash drives have capacities from 16GB to 64GB and offer transfer rates up to 4.8Gbps, and they’re incredibly secure.

HDD (Hard Drive Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive)

Your first decision should be to choose between HDD and SSD.SSDs are better than HDDs; however, they’re more expensive and they can’t hold as much data. That being said, SSDs last longer, read and write data faster, use less power, are quieter, and have longer battery life and longer lifespans.

So, when should you buy an HDD? HDDs cost considerably less than SSDs. If money is an issue or if you’re looking for a backup drive, then you want an HDD. If you’re looking to run the hard drive on an OS, you want an SSD because it performs better and will last longer.

Choosing a Hard Drive Interface for an Internal Drive

If you require an external hard drive, you can skip this section. Connectors, or hard drive interfaces, are needed for internal hard drives and they’re not created equal.

  • IDE or EIDE: The first of its kind, IDE used to only support hard drives with 540 MB of memory. The EIDE is capable of managing faster drives, including ones that are over 50GB.
  • SATA: Commonly used in laptops, the 2.5-inch SATA drives are encased in metal. The larger SATAs, the ones used as an SSD, feature larger and thicker cases.
  • SCSI: Stands for small computer system interface, SCSI is vital to RAID and other protected environments with multiple hard drives.
  • PCIe: Although expensive, a PCIe really fast (up to 24 Gbps).

Storage Capacity and Performance Speed

If you’re looking for an external hard drive, capacity is what really matters.Storage is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). To put gigabytes in perspective, a single one can hold 200 iTunes digital songs or 500 iPhone photos. A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes. In general, what you choose is based on need. If you simply want an external hard drive to hold photos and documents, a 500GB external hard drive should suffice. If you need an external for gaming or larger capacity needs, consider a 2TB hard drive.

Your performance is important, too, and for internal hard drives, it’s defined by the interface. As mentioned above, EIDE is the basic interface and PCIe is the fastest. RAID systems have incredible performance, but the traditional SATA maxes out at 6Gbps transfers.

Now that you know everything there is to know about shopping for a new hard drive, here’s a final thought: No matter what hard drive you choose, it’s important to have a second hard drive for backups. Nothing is perfect, and hard drives (no matter their cost or capabilities) can fail. If you want to ensure your data is never lost, you have to regularly backup your main hard drive.