To extend the life of your notebook, and even to increase its performance is possible with a small upgrade. Why change a laptop which you bought years ago, when it has enough RAM, a good monitor, and a comfortable keyboard? Sometimes it is enough to replace the drive with a faster and larger one. Our experts tell you what criteria you need to choose a hard drive for your laptop.
Top criteria for choosing a hard drive for your laptop computer
- Types of drive for your laptop;
- Connection interface;
- Hard drive dimensions for your notebook computer;
- Hard drive and cache capacity;
Types of Drives
There are three main types of drives for use in portable computers.
HDD (Hard Disk Drive). Mechanical hard drive. The information in the dish is kept on continuously rotating plates coated with a layer of ferromagnetic material. Movable magnetic head is used for recording and reading. The rotation of the plates and the movement of the head is ensured by an electric drive.
id Drive). As the name implies this is a hybrid device which combines both technologies. Uses regular HDD for information storage. Small SSD, usually sized at 8GB, gives you quick access to your most frequently accessed data.
The most common connection interface for hard drives is Serial ATA. Modern laptops use the second and third generation SATA specifications, which differ in their data transfer rates. It is 3 Gbit/sec for SATA II and 6 Gbit/sec for SATA III. It is used in all kinds of drives, so you can connect it as a regular HDD, SSD, SSHD. The interfaces are compatible with each other, but if you connect a SATA III drive to a second-generation connector, the speed will be the maximum for the lowest specification, which is 3 Gbit/sec.
For SSDs produced in the M.2 In addition to SATA, a PCI Express slot can also be used. They don’t have a protective enclosure, and therefore are small in size.
Many recent laptops use the M.2 is present for the installation of expansion modules, which allows you not just change the drive, and add a second. You will get a workstation with two hard drives.
For mechanical HDD’s, speed is determined by the number of revolutions per minute (rpm) of the magnetic storage device. The standard notebook drive size is 5400 rpm. SSDs have low noise level and consume low power. Drives are faster and faster at 7200 rpm. The other side of the speed increase is increased heat dissipation and noise level. Supports an average system-to-drive transfer rate of 140MB/sec.
SSHDs operate in a similar way. The main volume of information they store on magnetic plates and the speed also depends on the number of revolutions. Increased performance results from flash memory. These drives support transfer rates of up to 210MB/sec for an equivalent RPM.
SSDs have no moving parts, consume little power, and are not prone to heat, even with heavy use. They are based on data transfer rate only, with read and write speeds being calculated separately. The average transfer rate for a SATA interface is around 520-550MB/s. SSD type M.2 on PSIe (NVMe) slot has record read/write speed of 3200-3500MB/s.
Standard notebook drive size is a 2.5-inch form factor. All three drive types are available. The second important factor, after form factor, is the thickness of the chassis:
12.5mm. Rarely encountered and used primarily for so-called “mobile workstations”;
9.5 mm. The most common, and often deemed “standard” drives. Suitable for most laptops;
7 mm. Thin, may be optionally marked as Thin or S
- m. Suitable for both mainstream and mid-range laptops;
5 mm. Ultra-thin. Mostly used in ultrabooks belonging to the high price segment.
For the right choice of a new hard drive the thickness plays an important role. A 9.5mm drive cannot be installed in place of a 7mm or 5mm drive.
Separate sizes are defined for bare-metal SSDs. According to the specification, module width and length in millimeters are required, as well as the key type. The most widespread are M.2-2280, M.2-2260. To a somewhat lesser extent M.2-2242. In this label, the first group of digits (22) indicates the width, the second group of digits (80, 60 or 42) the length. The key is the pin assignment of the connector. SSDs use “B” and “M” drives, and the difference between the two is shown in the diagram below. Some modules come with both types of keys, making them easy to connect.
The size of the drive and cache
An important factor that determines a laptop’s usage strategy is the size of the drive. Conventionally, we can distinguish three groups:
128-256GB, small capacity. SSDs are more suitable for office work and active use of cloud storage;
512-1024 GB, medium capacity. Universal size allows you to use your laptop for local storage. In conjunction with cloud storage can be an ideal solution for most users;
2048 GB and more, a large volume of. For those who are used to keeping everything at hand and are not too fond of using network resources.
Buffer capacity or cache is important only for HDD. It provides storage of temporary data and quick access to it. When working with files of relatively small size, it allows you to access the main storage for re-reading less often. With hybrid drives this role is flash memory, and SSDs are already very fast. There is only one rule for the cache. The bigger the page, the better. When choosing between the HDD’s of equal characteristics, you should pay more attention to the one with the bigger cache. Standard capacities are 16, 32, 64, 128 and 256 MB.
Despite the worldwide trend of SSD price decrease, the prices of SSDs in Russia are still quite high. The cost of a 512GB SSD is about twice as much as a similar HDD or SSHD. Hybrid hard drives are about the same price as regular hard drives, but give 30-50% better performance. Thus, if we rely on the criterion of price as the main, we can distinguish three groups:
3000-5000€- You can pick up a good hybrid drive or SSD up to 512GB;
5000-10000€ – quite enough for a roomy HDD with a capacity of 2TB or more, or a high-performance SSD up to 1TB in the 2.5-inch form factor;
10000-20000€ – for this amount of money you can buy a SATA III SSD with 2TB or M.2 in 1TB.
The upgrade is a serious business and you should pay attention not only to the price. In any case the purchase of a hard drive is cheaper than buying a new laptop. And considering the performance difference it’s better to splurge a bit and buy an SSD.
I must say, nothing is more enduring than the myths floating around the internet about the intricacies of SSDs. Our experts have taken a short tour of major “scare stories” to dispel some common misconceptions.
SSDs have a short lifespan and limited rewrite cycle. For SSDs there is such a parameter as MTFB – MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure), measured in hours. Even the not-so-expensive models have 1 million hours of it. That’s about 114 years of round-the-clock operation. To paraphrase a classic, it’s rare that a user will live to see such a drive fail. The story with the short drive life has real roots. OCZ’s 2/3rds of the Vertex line failed within a year. Turns out the culprit was a write controller malfunction. OCZ went on to have success in the SSD market and was later bought out by Toshiba.
Windows performs “badly” on SSDs and exhausts its life on defragmentation. Microsoft has been fully supporting SSDs since Windows 7. Earlier versions of operating system, such as XP and Vista, were originally designed to work only with regular HDD. You really had to manually turn on such an important function like
The only compelling argument against using SSDs so far is price. But it also goes down every year by 20-25%.
Finally, on choosing a hard drive for your laptop
Our expert consensus is clear. The era of traditional hard disks is coming to an end, for all their availability. Technology continues to evolve and new developments are steadily improving the quality of SSDs. SSDs are the foreseeable future.