Many are hearing about this new solid state technology and would like to know the difference between solid state drive vs a hard drive.  Most are familiar with the latter, but aren’t so acquainted with the newer drive type.  I’d like to give you the basic rundown on the differences and similarities between the two types of storage devices.

Internal Workings

Magnetic Hard Drive

The major variance of the two is that the older magnetic hard drives have moving parts.  In a quick summary, a magnetic drive has a stack of rotating platters with read/write heads.  These heads move about the platters to access and modify data at sectioned locations.  The easiest way to picture this is an old record player, but with multiple arms and discs.





The newer solid state drives feature no moving parts.  They instead use what is known as non-volatile flash memory.  Data is stored by use of integrated circuits on small chips.  Non-volatile indicates that when the device loses power or is turned off, the data is not erased but remains saved.  I have another article about primary and secondary storage that ties in with volatile data and explains it a bit better.

Solid State Drive

Durability of Solid State vs Hard Drives

Due to the fact that solid state drives have no moving parts, they do not wear down as quickly.  Every time data is accessed on a magnetic drive, the read/write heads have to move to where the information is located.  This movement happens rapidly and continuously as you operate your computer.  All of this puts contributes to the wearing down of the drive.  Therefore, a solid state drive is expected to last longer than the older type.


Many users are opting for solid state drives partly because of their speed.  They are in fact faster than magnetic drives.  The answer of how much faster really just depends on the drives being compared.  Different makes and models offer varying speeds.  A common practice among savvy pc users is installing their operating systems on a SSD (solid state drive).  This provides for better performance and speed of the basic system.  In one comparison, an SSD booted 18 seconds faster than a typical HDD (hard drive disk) and opened files significantly quicker as well.

Physical Size and Connections

One thing these two drive types have in common is their sizes.  Both come in 2.5” and 3.5” sizes and can be installed in the same drive bays. They also can both use SATA cables to connect to the motherboard.

Additional Advantages of Solid State Drives

Some other advantages of SSDs include being absolutely silent and producing less heat.  They also draw less power as well.  This simply goes back to the fact that they have no moving parts.


Magnetic drives are significantly less expensive than solid state.  On a quick search between two drives of nearly same size, I found that the solid state was more expensive by a good $100.  If you are in need of more space, go for a magnetic drive.

Which Do I Need?

That really depends on what you are planning on using the drive for.  In my opinion, I don’t feel that there is an absolute need to upgrade to a solid state.   Magnetic drives have been around for a while and they won’t be becoming obsolete any time soon.  In short, when it comes making a choice in regards to a solid state drive vs a hard drive, you need to weigh out cost, performance and storage capacity.