Help me choose: Hard drive

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

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. Some systems use an mSATA SSD as the primary hard drive. Other systems, like 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 Smart Response and Rapid Start Technologies help improve systems responsiveness and typically preconfigured and enabled on Dell Ultrabooks™ and laptops 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 versus 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.

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 laptop, 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
Which technology is right for me? 5,400 rpm hard drive disk (HDD)  7,200 rpm hard drive disk (HDD)Solid-state drive (offered only on select systems only) mSATA SSD + traditional HDD 
Performance Basic  PerformanceFaster, quieter and more durable than standard hard drives  Quick resume, faster application load
Capacity320GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB and 2TB(Dual HDD)  320GB, 500GB and 750GB128GB, 256GB and 512GB  32GB, 128GB
Durability  Standard Standard  Highly shock resistantStandard 

The system you are configuring may or may not include all of the options listed here.

If you need...Choose...
Enough capacity for extremely demanding applications such as financial modeling, graphic design or video editing1TB* 7200 rpm hard drive
Enough storage and performance for demanding applications and large files such as photos, music or videos500GB* or 750GB* 7200 rpm hard drive
Enough storage for typical business applications and files250GB* 7200 rpm hard drive
Data encryption and storage in highly mobile laptop which subjects to a wide range of temperatures, altitudes, vibration or moisture128GB* to 512GB* solid-state drive
Data protection from hardware or software failureDell DataSafe storage options in 250GB* to 1.5TB*

Boot Disk (below)/ Technology (right) Smart Connect Rapid Start Smart Response 
 HDD only Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported
 HDD + SSD Not Supported Supported Not Supported
 HDD + mSATANot Supported Supported  Not Supported
 SSD only Supported  Supported Not Supported (Note: SSD performance achieved without Smart Response) 
 mSATA only SupportedSupported Not Supported (Note: SSD performance achieved without Smart Response) 
Hybrid Drive  Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported (Note: Hybrid Drive is similar in performance to Smart Response)