Author: Geek Computer
Tuesday, January 24, 2023

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

A reliable and high-performance hard drive is essential. How? It acts as storage for your documents, videos, mus, ic, and more. Not only that. It also allows you to run your operating system, games, and other applications, fast.

What you need to know is that not all hard drives have a similar purpose. For example, server-grade hard drives are best for heavier usage while desktop hard drives s for average usage.

Want to know how mechanical hard drives (HDDs) and SSDs work?

In this post, we discuss how mechanical hard drives and SSDs work.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

How Mechanical Hard Drives Work

IBM shipped the first hard disk drive in 1956. Named the IBM 350 disk storage unit, the hard drive was in the Ramac 305 system. Unlike modern HDDs, this drive used fifty 24-inch platters. They were capable of storing 5 MB of data.

The hard drive took up more room took more room than the two refrigerators. When it came to cost, it was $50,000 (1956 dollars).

Since then, companies such as Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital have miniaturized hard drives. Instead of large refrigerator-like hard drives, you have 2.5-inch drives with 500 GB or more as storage. These drives go for less than $100.

Even with the advancement in technology, the mechanics of an HDD are still the same even today.

Before learning how a hard drive works, it's important to know a few basic parts. A mechanical hard drive has thousands of parts like any other electronic component. These parts work together to ensure the hard drive stores and read your data.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

Basic Parts of a Hard Disk Drive

Here are the basic parts of a mechanical hard drive:

  • Magnetic platter – this is a disk that stores data in binary form
  • Central spindle – enables the magnetic platter to rotate at a high speed
  • Read-write arm – reads and writes data on the magnetic platter by swinging
  • Read-write head – refers to a tiny magnet on the end of the read-write arm
  • Actuator – helps to move the read-write arm
  • Plug connections – connects your hard drive to your computer motherboard
  • Circuit board – facilitates communications between the magnetic platter and other components
  • Small spindle – enables the read-write arm to swing on the magnetic platter
  • Flexible connector – allows data to flow from the read-write head to the circuit board

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

Hard Disk Drive Reading and Writing Modes

In a hard drive, data gets stored in binary form – 0s, and 1s. This is normally done by the read-write arm. The magnetic platter is either made of aluminum or ceramicists and then coated with a thin layer of metal to allow magnetization and demagnetization.

A small hard drive has one platter but each side has a magnetic coating. Bigger drives have a series of platters. They are stacked on a central spindle with a small gap between them. These platters have a high rpm – up to 10,000 rpm.

The magnetic platter has tracks. These tracks are further divided into sectors electric current will pass through the read-write head to write data on the platter. This current modifies the surface of the electric field. As such, the head inscribes 0s and 1s.

In reading mode, the electric field transmits current to the read-write head. This signal is then translated into a digital signal. It (signal) flows through the circuit board anis d displayed on the screen as data – image, video, or document.

What you need to know is that data is normally read and written in an orderly manner. As said earlier, the magnetic platter has tracks. These tracks are concentric circular paths divided into sectors.

When your computer wants to write new information on your hard drive, it looks for new sectors. The hard drive instructs the read-write head to move to the right location on the platter to read or store data.

Your HDD read and write speed ranges between 50 to 100 Mbps, access time is 10 ms and power consumption is 6 W.

Want to know which component manipulates all the basic parts of the HDD? Well, it's called a controller. Located on the circuit board, it controls the actuator, read-write, and heads. It also converts streams of data to and from the computer.

The magnetic surface of the platter is very sensitive. Even a speck of dust can cause the disk to crash. That is why experts recommend that you back up your data.

HDDs have lots of advantages. For starters, they are cost-effective, faster than optical dis, and easy to replace. When it comes to drawbacks, HDDs rely on moving parts. As such, the magnetized surface can suffer damage leading to data loss and disk failure.

HDDs also use more power, are noisy, and have slower read and write speeds compared to SSDs.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

How Solid State Drives (SSDs) Work

Solid-state drive technology is the latest in hard drive technology. Unlike HDDs that have magnetic platters, SSDs have an array of chips. These semiconductor chips are on a circuit board and allow your device to read and write data.

What you ought to know is that the semiconductor chips on SSDs are non-volatile unlike those on RAM. As non-volatile chips, they can store data permanently even after switching off your device.

You can remove and replace your SSD drive without affecting other essential hardware components. SSDs are common in laptops, PCsand, smartphones. They do not rely on spinning technology but flash memory technology.

As such, you will not find any read-write arm or magnetic platters. You have two types of memory:

  • NOR
  • NAND

These technologies contain transistors in a grid. What differs is the wiring between the cells. For NOR flash memory, cells are in parallel while in NAND, they are in series. As such, NOR cells have more wires.

They are also complex and bigger. NAND cells need fewer wires. They have compact space making them ideal for storage. NAND is commonly used in SSDs.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

How SSDs Save Data

SSDs have a similar appearance to HDDs on the outside. For instance, they are available in industry-standard form factors – 2.5 and 3.5 inches. They are also rectangular and protected by brushed metal covers.

Beneath the brush metal shell is an array of flash memory on a circuit board. No magnetic platter or read-write arm. NAND has transistors in a grid. If a series of transistors conduct current, they will have a value of 1.

If they don't conduct current, they will have a value of 0. All transistors are set at 1. When you save data to the SSD, some transistors get blocked. This turns them into 0. What you need to know is that two transistors form a cell.

In this case, one transistor becomes the control gate while the other is a floating gate. Normally, current flows through the transistors. On reaching the control gate, electrons flow to the floating gate.

This creates a positive charge interrupting current flow. As such, if unique voltages get applied to these transistors, what you have is a unique pattern of 0s and 1s.

Compared to HDDs, SSDs are fast. They have a current bandwidth of 6 Gbps. When using SSDs, they detect what you access most often. As such, they copy the data to flash storage chips. This means, the more you use your device, the faster it runs. SSDs also save on battery life.

They have a few drawbacks too. First, they cost more than HDDs. Some SSDs run about $0.30 to $0.40 per gigabyte. Also, they are more complicated and have a bigger risk of failure.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

Whereas M.2 SSDs?

This is a form factor for SSDs. Also known as the Next Generation Form Factor, it looks like a stick of gum. As a replacement for the mSATA standard, M.2 SSDs are popular with makers of small gadgets and super-compact laptops.

The M.2 is an evolutionary technology. Poised to replace the aging Serial ATA format, the M.2 interfaces with SATA 3.0, PCI Express 3,.0, and USB 3.0. It can transfer data 50% to 650% faster than the standard Serial ATA.

What you ought to know is that this depends on the motherboard. Today, the M.2 interfaces with super-fast SSDs on desktops and laptops. Other laptops use the M.2 as their means of wireless connection.

The M.2 can have a storage capacity of up to 2 TB. To use the M.2, your motherboard needs to have slots for the M.2. If your motherboard has more than two M.2 slots, you can run two or more SSDs in RAID.

How Do Computer Hard Drive Works - HDD, SSD, M.2

Wrapping Up

Today, you can upgrade your desktop computer to have both SSD and HDDs. By doing so, you improve your computer's performance and get more storage space. You need to know that such a configuration only works if your motherboard supports SSDs. To protect your hard drives, handle your desktops, laptops, and other devices with care.

Install a strong antivirus solution to prevent malware and other attacks. Also, update or upgrade your operating system and applications. In case of damage to your hard drives, have a professional perform repairs and data recovery.

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