Mechanical hard drives are the most common and largest capacity storage drives but they are also the slowest. They commonly come in two variants, 5400RPM or 7200RPM. 7200RPM means the read write head is capable of 7,200 rotations per minute so it’s going to be faster than a 5400RPM drives. The slower drives are the standard speed for laptop hard drives, most desktop drives are 7200RPM. Hard drives are best for mass storage for infrequently accessed files, you should keep your operating system, programs and games on an SSD for faster loading times.
So what is an SSD? SSD stands for solid state drive, there’s no rotating head, instead these drives use flash memory so they are about 5 times faster than hard drives. This means you can load your operating system and your programs and games much faster. The main disadvantage is that SSDs are very expensive in comparison to hard drives, in terms of price to performance it’s best to choose a small SSD and a large hard drive, for example a 250GB SSD for your operating system and programs and a 1TB hard drive for your photos and videos.
There are different types of SSD, the most common, cheapest and easiest to install is a SATA SSD. You can also get M.2 SATA variants, these are slightly more complicated to install as they have to be attached directly to the motherboard but are advantageous if you have no more 2.5 inch drive bays free. non volatile memory express or NVMe SSDs are faster than SATA SSDs but they’re also significantly more expensive. These are not worth it for the average user because you won’t feel real world a difference in load times because the SSD is not the bottleneck, the area where NVMe SSDs really shine is sequential write speeds, so large file transfers, therefore they’re only advisable for people who transfer large amounts of files such as serious video editors.
Finally, what are hybrid drives? They are mechanical drives which contain a small section of flash memory which is used to store frequently accessed files. The problem is that the SSD part of the drive is usually only 8GB in size so it won’t actually help speed things up much because only small, regularly accessed files can be stored in the flash memory. In a PC you are better off using a combination of an SSD and a hard drive in a laptop where you have only one drive bay you can use a hybrid drive for a slight increase in performance over a normal drive while retaining high capacities but look out for drives like the WD black squared hybrid drive because it has 120GB of SSD space instead of the typical 8GB.