Help Me Choose: Hard Drive

The hard drive is where the OS, software applications, files and data are stored on a PC.

Which technology is right for me?5,400 rpm hard disk drive (HDD)7,200 rpm hard disk drive (HDD)mSATA SSD + traditional HDDSolid-state drive (available on selected systems only)
PerformanceBasicPerformanceQuick resume, faster application loadFaster, quieter and more durable than standard hard drives
Capacity320GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB and 2TB (Dual HDD)320GB, 500GB and 750GB32GB, 128GB128GB, 256GB and 512GB
DurabilityStandardStandardStandardHighly shock resistant

Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) have a highly sophisticated head, platter and motor technology. These hard drives have moving parts and 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 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 laptops and Ultrabooks™. Some Ultrabooks™, such as the XPS™ 13, use an mSATA SSD as the primary hard drive. Other systems, such as select XPS™ and Inspiron™ R Special Edition laptops, 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 + 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 Responsiveness Technologies
Wakes fast: The XPS™ 14 Ultrabook™ with an optional solid-state drive and Intel Rapid Start Technology wakes up within seconds, ready to jump right back into everything you were doing when you closed the lid. This enables it to resume in a flash when you’re ready and ultralow power consumption when you close the lid for standby mode.

Thinks fast: Get fast access to your favorites with an added mSATA SSD and Intel Smart Response Technology. It quickly recognizes and caches your most frequently used files and applications, allowing you to access them right away.

Dual hard drives
(two hard drives) are available on select laptops, such as the Inspiron™ 17R Special Edition, and Alienware™ M17x and M18x. 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 is 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 desktop, it's important to:

1. Determine what you want to do today, next week or even in the next few years.

2. Plan today for the activities you want to do tomorrow. (If you don’t have a video camera, do you think you will at some point?)

3. Consider that content keeps growing — new technology will require greater storage capacity.

How Big Should I Go? 

Average File Size 



1000GB* (1TB) 

1500GB* (1.5TB) 

2000GB* (2TB)


4MB per 4-minute song 

Up to 62,000 songsUp to 80,000 songsUp to 125,000 songsUp to 160,000 songs

Up to 187,000 songs 

Up to 250,000 songs 

Up to 375,000 songs

Up to 500,000 songs 

Video [High Definition (HD)]

8.3GB per hour 

Up to 30 hoursUp to 38 hours Up to 60 hoursUp to 75 hours

Up to 90 hours

Up to 120 hours 

Up to 180 hours 

Up to 240 hours 


3.5MB per 6-megapixel image

Up to 71,000 images Up to 91,000 images Up to 142,000 imagesUp to 180,000 images

Up to 213,000 images 

Up to 285,000 images 

Up to 425,000 images

Up to 570,000 images

DVD-Quality Movies 

Number of 1.5-hour movies (DVD quality) 

Up to 66 moviesUp to 94 movies Up to 133 movies Up to 185 movies

Up to 200 movies

Up to 260 movies 

Up to 440 movies 

Up to 560 movies