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Help Me Choose

Help Me Choose: Hard Drive

The hard drive is where the operating system, software applications, files and data are permanently stored and accessed on your computer.

Because the hard drive is the only long-term storage in your PC, it’s a good idea to buy one with more storage capacity than you think you'll need. There isn’t much you can do to increase the capacity of a hard drive.

When choosing a hard drive, consider how you currently use a computer and how you plan to use it in the future:

• If you frequently use multimedia-intensive applications (such as video-editing software and videogames) or store digital photos and MP3 audio files, you’ll want a solid-state drive.
• If you typically use your computer to browse the internet, check email, work on documents, and do light photo editing, you may be fine with a standard hard drive.

Be sure to plan today for the activities you want to do tomorrow—especially if you plan to use your computer for a couple of years or share it with a family member.

Solid-State Drive (SSD)

  • No moving parts
  • Run quiet and cool
  • Can consume less energy
  • Outperform 10,000 rpm HDDs in read/write speeds

Solid-state drives are similar to the flash-based memory that you find in USB memory devices and have no moving parts, making them more secure and less prone to failure than standard hard drives. Because SSDs have no moving parts, they also don't have speed ratings.This type of drive is great for multimedia that require a lot of space on your drive, as it has a large storage capacity. SDDs also pull your data from the drive faster, meaning you’ll also get faster load times on game maps and other information that’s stored on your hard drive.

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
  • Lightweight and cooler than standard hard drives

SATA or Serial ATA, 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, 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, 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.

Standard hard drive (HDD)
  • Moving mechanical parts
  • Speed measured by rpms

Standard hard drives use mechanical parts to write information on to platters or disks. These drives generate heat through moving parts on the inside and are measured by their speed in revolutions per minute (rpms) or how fast the disk spins. These standard hard drives are also sensitive to shock and vibration. This sensitivity can make the drive susceptible to failure or damage. The general rule for standard hard drives is that the more hard drive your computer has, the more files, pictures and documents it can store, and the higher the rpms, the faster data is read and written on the drive.

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™ 17 and 18. 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.
How big should I go?Average file size*250GB*320GB*500GB*640GB*750GB*1,000GB (1TB)*1,500GB (1.5TB)*2,000GB (2TB)*
Music4MB per 4minute songUp to 62,000 songsUp to 80,000 songsUp to 125,000 songsUp to 160,000 songsUp to 187,000 songsUp to 250,000 songsUp to 375,000 songsUp to 500,000 songs
Video (HD)8.3GB per hourUp to 30 hoursUp to 38 hoursUp to 60 hoursUp to 75 hoursUp to 90 hoursUp to 120 hoursUp to 180 hoursUp to 240 hours
Photos3.5MB per 6MP imageUp to 71,000 imagesUp to 91,000 imagesUp to 142,000 imagesUp to 180,000 imagesUp to 213,000 imagesUp to 285,000 imagesUp to 425,000 imagesUp to 570,000 images
DVD-quality moviesNumber of 1.5hr Movies — DVD QualityUp to 66 moviesUp to 94 moviesUp to 133 moviesUp to 185 moviesUp to 200 moviesUp to 260 moviesUp to 440 moviesUp to 560 movies