4th in our series, we’ll look at the Hard Disk today.
The objective of the “About The Computer” series to provide a simplistic layman-style explanation on the various computer components that makes up a computer – whether it is a Desktop unit or Laptop / Notebook unit.
With the understanding of the components, readers will have better knowledge as to what should they pay attention when it comes to buying a computer.
What Is The Hard Disk?
Put it simple – the part of your computer that stores permanent data. Permanent, as in “it stays there until you remove it”.
As usual, I’m not going to dwell into technical details or history lessons. Basically just know that if you’re buying a computer – the hard disk will be usable on the available components of today. If you’re buying a hard disk to use it on an OLDER system, please take note of the available connector types.
It’s advisable to find out the make of your computer, or the model of the motherboard. These information are critical if you’re uncertain whether the hard disk is usable on your machine – at least a knowledgeable person can help you out. 😀
Hard disks today use Serial ATA (a.k.a SATA) connectors.
How Does It Work?
To understand this better – think of your hard disk as a warehouse that stores all the needed items for your projects and the RAM as a room where you work on your projects. (Same analogy I used in the previous article)
So each time you run an application, it is like a NEW PROJECT. So the computer will refer to the contents stored on the hard disk and have everything need placed in your “virtual project room” which is your RAM.
Hard Disk and Performance
A few things to note about the hard disk, let’s go based on the specifications below.
Normally when people talk about hard disk performance, it’s all about how fast the read and write. “Read”, as in how fast could the data be read and “Write”, as in how far the data could be written on the hard disk.
The PERFORMANCE section on the image above shows you just how the hard disk performs. Note : The units are in mili-seconds! For the average user, you can’t tell the hard disks apart just by using. Even for us experience users, it’s something we can’t exactly FEEL. No one could use a computer and guess what the hard disk’s RPM is.
For the average user, only size matters. For those who want things to be fast, they look at the figures such as the spindle speed (eg 7200 RPM), the cache and the read/write speed. Truth be told, most of us just get the one which we feel good at. So far I’ve not come by any soul that actually bought a hard disk and does a benchmark to show it off.
Those who are really keen on speed would’ve run a RAID setup. (No, I will not go into that one here. I admit that the complexity is beyond my capability to explain either.)
What Hard Disk Size For You?
Size here refers to the storage capacity. So what size for you? If you’re just using it for E-mail, surfing, office productivity – even a 20GB hard disk is more than sufficient. The thing is that even at this time, 20GB hard disks are non-existent. The smallest size hard disk you can find are the 160GB variants, a size that’s more than enough for the average person.
For those playing games, mass downloading (usually videos), image and graphic storage, then certainly you could use the additional space. Games these days take up quite a huge chunk of disk space but nothing a 160GB can’t handle unless you intend to have more than 10 games residing in your computer. Do bear in mind that some applications (such as Adobe Photoshop) make use of hard disk space for their “scratch disk”, dedicated for only temporary storage and often used when RAM is insufficient.
If you’re clueless – just go with the smallest size available. It does less damage to your bank. The funny thing about hard disk is that the higher it goes, the better the value for money in terms of $$$ per GB.
For example, 160GB hard disk at RM 135 averages to about 84 Sen per GB. 800GB hard disks at RM 230 averages to 28 Sen per GB. Wahlauyeh!!! SO MUCH DIFFERENCE?!?!?! Might as well get 800GB hard disk, right?
Not necessarily so. It’s a feel good thing. It feels good to know you’re spending only 28 sen per GB instead of 84 sen per GB but here’s the thing – are you going to use all of it? If your usage barely takes up hard disk space, then 160GB or 800GB makes no difference, other than being RM 100 less in the bank.
Another funny thing about disk space is that if you’re good at filling up the available space – no hard disk in this world is enough for you, it’s just a matter of time before you run out of space. Many friends of mind are excessive downloaders, they fill up a few GB space on daily basis. 🙂
Vice versa, if your “space filling” is really slow then it’s likely you wouldn’t even run out of disk space. The hard disk would probably break down before you even get to that point. 🙂
To give you a better idea, imagine you have 150GB space out of the 160GB space (10GB allocated for Operating System). Now assuming you accumulate even 10 megabytes of data on a daily basis, that amounts to only 300 megabytes a month which is about 3.6 GB per year………. only 2% of total disk space used per year.
Anyway, here’s my 3 years worth of photos.
🙂 I’m running out of disk space myself. 😀
External Hard Disks
They’re great for storage but certainly not something you’d use for games and all. The USB connection is far from being the speed of a Serial-ATA connection. It’s great for backup but not for frequent loading of stuff.
Alternatively there’s the E-SATA connection, basically it allows externally connectivity for the SATA-based hard disks. E-SATA would have a transfer rate that’s much faster than USB 2.0
Concluding the Article
In the past, the rule of thumb on getting a hard disk was to take the size you have in mind, double it and get the next biggest size.
With the insane amount of hard disk space, the rule doesn’t seem all that nice anymore.
😀 “Space, the final frontier” is not what it seems when it comes to computers.