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9 Things You Should Know In Choosing The Best Hard Drive

Finding the right hard drive is a hard task to someone who doesn’t have any idea about the drive itself. The first thing to do is to know what you really need that meets your demands to make it easier for you choose. Hopefully, this may help you to solve some of your problems.

There are few things we need to be learned first to be smart in choosing the right one for you. Of course, you can’t have everything in a single drive but, having a basic knowledge will definitely put you on the right track. This guide will help you to determine what to look for the next hard drive for your newly built computer or simply if an upgrade is apparently needed.

Here are the 10 things you need to consider in choosing the right hard drive.

1. Capacity

The capacity would be our main concern in finding the best hard drive. Obviously all drives have their own capacity, but the question is, is this enough to handle all my files including the future data’s? Everyone knows his own needs when it comes to data storage. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the better. But, that does not always be the case. There are few things need to be considered first. An older motherboard doesn’t support drives with more than 2TB.

Most hard drives are available in Gigabyte and the bigger one is in Terabyte values. 1 Gigabyte is equivalent to 1 billion bytes or 1,073,741,824 bytes and 1 Terabyte is 1,000 Gigabytes. If a 1 TB hard drive uses 4 platters that mean each platter contains a 250GB capacity.

All data’s are physically written into these platters. Each platter contains the read/write head on each side. Therefore, a 4 platter disk drive has a total of 8 read/write heads.

If you have a newer board it will be wiser for you to buy a bigger disk space in terms of Terabytes for your future upgrade.

2. Rotational Speed

The rotational speed of the disk is the number of turns per minute in rpm. This would be the biggest factor that affects the drive performance. The higher the speed the faster it can read and write data’s on the disk.

There are also drawbacks in a high speed rotational drive. First is the heat, we all know that it will drastically reduces its system performance. Proper ventilation is needed to minimize the heat level. Second is noise, it can create distractions to anyone including the computer user. Of course, no one wants to hear that annoying sound.

3. Latency

Latency in a hard drive is the amount of time it takes to retrieve data from the disk. It includes the time of request from the processor to the time the data has retrieved. This often referred to as the disk access time.

The bad thing is, we can never eliminate the latency but it can be lower because hard drives are made of mechanical. The introduction of the SSD is by far out performs any of these mechanical drives by using a solid state technology. But the price of that for now is somewhat too high but having a low capacity.

Some factors may lessen the latency time such as having a faster rotational speed for faster positioning of the heads. Another is a smaller disk size like a 2.5 inch will shorten the travel distance of the heads for faster data retrieval. Lower time latency for a hard drive is better, typically less than 10ms.

4. Power Consumption

Power consumption is not much a big deal if you’re using a single drive only because a typical hard drive consumes less power, about less than 10 watts. Typically a lower speed hard drive consumes less power than a high speed drive. But, if you’re using a multiple drive it can be felt by adding all of them. A single or dual hard drive is ideal to keep your low power consumption if you want to save energy.

5. Buffer Size (Cache Memory)

Buffer size is the amount of RAM on the drive that is used to store data’s which is most frequently accessed by the user to speed up the access time. The RAM is definite faster than the speed of the drive read/write operation. Data’s stored in RAM is available immediately, as well as minimizing the drive operations. Available buffer sizes today are between 8MB to 64MB, the bigger the size the better.

6. Noise And Heat Level

When the drive operates, we can never neglect the noise and heat it produces, these two are always present. Noise produces a very annoying sound, at some point it affects your system operations due to its interference being created.

Faster drives produces higher noise level compare to slower drives. But, some manufacturers are trying to minimize it. The noise level are measured in decibel (dB), the higher dB value the greater the drive noise.

We all know that heat is the number one enemy in any electronics products. Excessive heat can greatly affects the lifespan of the drives. Again, a faster drive creates more heat against the slower one. Of course, everybody wants a faster PC and a fast hard drive is a big factor but, heat would be a big problem. A hotter environment can further increase the heat level of the drive, in this case, a proper ventilation is required to maintain an ideal temperature level.

7. Warranty

Most drives are back up with 3 years warranty and others are 5 years. These warranties let us secure our purchase and manufacturers are making us to have our peace of mind while using their products. Generally speaking, if there’s a greater year of warranty available go for it, if the brand name and performance would not be a big factor.

8. Price

The price will always be the most sensible in choosing a perfect hard drive for budget conscious user. To give you some idea to be smart in choosing the best price is, choose a hard drive that has the cheapest dollar per GB. For example, if you have to choose between the 1.5 TB, 2TB and 3TB, with all specs are the same. The 1.5TB is available at $62, the 2TB is at $79 and the 3TB at $169. The 2TB would be your best choice, even a two 2TB would cost you less for a total of 4TB.

9. Interface

Interface cable is the one that you connect from the motherboard to your hard drive. Older motherboard incorporates SATA I and SATA II however, recently released motherboards have full utilization of SATA III interface therefore, you don’t have any compatibility problem anymore.

Though, for the sake of those who still using the older one here are questions arises.

Is SATA I compatible with SATA II?

There are many confusions arises about the SATA compatibility. Basically all SATA cables use the same standard and it will definitely fit to any one of these. All of them use the same 7 pin data cable and 15 pin power cables.

Vintage motherboards requires to set the hard drive jumpers in order to become compatible with the drive. For example, if your board supports only the SATA 1.5 Gb/s and the hard drive you’re using is SATA 3Gb/s, the hard drive jumper needs to be set at 1.5Gb/s. You can barely see the instructions at the top of the drive for proper jumper settings. However, it will degrade your system performance.

But, newer hard drive doesn’t have this kind of jumper as well as newer motherboard mostly supports both the SATA 3Gb/s and SATA 6b/s.

How about the SATA II and SATA III?

Yes, they are also compatible with each other. In this case, you don’t need to set the factory default jumper because SATA 6Gb/s is backward compatible with SATA 3Gb/s.

Can I use SATA II hard drive on a SATA III controller? The answer is also Yes, as well as SATA III hard drive can be plug into SATA II controller. But again, it will degrade your system performance.

If your motherboard supports the SATA III 6Gb/s it would be wiser to choose the same speed of hard drive if you want the best out of it. If the price difference between these two is minimal, go for the SATA III for your future upgrade purposes.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, I hope you’ve learn some cool ideas on how to be smart in choosing the best hard drive. By applying these 9 little things you can now have a clearer vision of what to look for the best drive that suits you.

Of course, everybody has its own unique applications. It depends on what’s you’re planning to build or to add on your system. If you’re application is for business office PC or HTPC, a 5,400rpm is appropriate to meet your needs. Some hard drives manufacturers are offering a green version for this type, to get a low noise, low power and low heat dissipation and has a greater storage capacity. These drives are available at lower cost.

What would be the best hard drive for hungry for speed enthusiast and gamers? In layman’s term, the best drive would be a fast and has a high capacity, but heat and noise would be the biggest problem here. As I said earlier you can’t have it all in a single drive. But, if you’re in a cool place or there’s enough ventilation, this is fine.

If not, I suggest you should use two different drives. Use an SSD for your OS for fast access and the green drive for large storage. Feel free to find out more of the best hard drive reviews here.