Help Me Choose: Hard Drive

Traditional hard drives (HDDs) have a highly sophisticated head, platter and motor technology. These hard drives have moving parts, and revolutions per minute (rpm) measures the speed of the hard drive. The faster the rpm, the higher the performance of the hard drive.

These traditional hard drives are also sensitive to shock and vibration. This can make the drive susceptible to failure or damage from bumps and drops that can occur. Solid-state drives (SSDs), another type of hard drive, have no moving parts, which reduces the potential for damage or failure, providing you peace of mind that your data is protected. For people on the go, the potential benefits are significant.

  • Improved performance — faster boot times, faster application launches and faster access to all your documents
  • Durability — helps protect your important files from potential drops
  • Longer battery life — lower power consumption by SSDs leads to longer battery life
  • Quieter than standard hard drives
  • Light weight and cooler than standard hard drives
SATA, or Serial Attached Technology Attachment, is a serial link — a single cable that creates a point-to-point connection between two devices. The advantage of a SATA connection is that it allows a fast connection to an solid-state drive (SSD) for hard drive storage, preserving the boot drive for basic operations.

mSata, or mini-SATA, is a recent innovation that enables smaller form factor SSDs without compromising storage capacity, which in turn allows for smaller, thinner systems. Some systems use an mSata SSD as the primary hard drive. Other systems will offer an optional mSata SSD paired with a traditional hard drive. These systems use the mSata SSD as a cache and "see" the mSata + HDD as one contiguous drive. Systems with the mSata SSD + hard disk drive (HDD) get the benefits and performance boost of an SSD combined with the larger storage capacity of an HDD. Systems with an optional mSata SSD also typically support Intel® Rapid Start and Smart Response technologies.

Intel Smart Response and Rapid Start Technologies help improve system responsiveness and typically pre-configured and enabled on many Dell systems that feature an optional mSata SSD + HDD. Intel Rapid Start and Smart Response technologies enable quick resume and faster access to favorite applications. Intel Smart Response dynamically monitors file, data and application use, and stores frequently used content on a special partition on the mSata SSD device for faster access. It provides SSD-like read/write performance for the files used most frequently, while providing lower overall storage cost by sorting and storing less frequently accessed content on the larger-sized traditional HDD. Intel Rapid Start is a feature that provides power savings similar to Windows hibernate state, while improving resume time vs. hibernate. Rapid Start may be combined with Smart Response on some systems to enhance overall system performance while also reducing power consumption when not in use.

Dual Hard Drives (two hard drives) are available on select systems. If you work with large product files, such as high resolution photography or video, you’ll appreciate the extra storage room.

RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is a storage technology that enables data to be divided and replicated across multiple physical drives. The benefit of RAID is that the drives operating in tandem are able to work much faster than a single drive, which can occasionally become a bottleneck for data.

Caching is a system function by which certain data are stored in order to facilitate faster recall when needed. When a CPU or web browser attempts to access a given piece of data such as a file or a website, the cache client first checks the cache. If the cache contains the requested data, the client pulls the data from the cache (this is known as a cache hit). The greater the number of requests that can be retrieved from the cache, the more quickly you will be able to access the data you want. Because the cache continually accumulates data over time, it is advisable to clear it periodically in order to manage your overall system performance.

When choosing storage for your new Dell system, you should keep a few things in mind:
  • What do I want today, next week or even years from now?
  • Plan today for the data and media you will store in the future.
  • Content keeps growing. New technology will require greater storage capacity.