Hard Disk Drives

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Image of a hard disk driveA.K.A.

  • Fixed Disk
  • Hard Disk Drive
  • Internal Storage Device


What Is a Hard Drive?

A Hard Disk Drive is basically a small device (see images below) that sits inside of a computer.

It’s used to permanently store information such as, valuable data files, family pictures, videos and the software programs you use with those documents. A hard disk drive can hold massive amounts of information.

Image of the top and bottom of a hard drive

Image of the Top and Bottom of a Hard Drive


What Does a Hard Drive D0?

Hard drives are used to store your software programs and information created from them.  Imagine it being kind of like a giant filing cabinet inside of your computer, holding all your information. Because the hard drive permanently stores all of your information, it is arguably the most important part of a computer system.

The following data and programs are usually stored on a hard drive:

  • Data files (such as: Important Documents, Family Pictures and Videos)
  • Software programs (such as: Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint)
  • Computer Operating System (OS)
  • Virus Software

Years ago when software programs and files were relatively small, hard drives were not needed. You could just save everything to a few floppy disks.  But today, software programs and files take up so much space that you would need hundred’s maybe even thousand’s of floppy disks to hold a single program.  Hard drives can store vast amounts of data, are exceptionally fast and have become cheaper as technology improves. On average, the cost of buying a hard drive is less than $150.


How Does a Hard Drives Work?

Hard drives contain a spindle, platters and what’s called a Read/Write head (and a few other moving parts). These three parts work together electronically and magnetically to store your data files as a series of ones and zeros (1/0), as binary digits (bits).

Your hard drive is based on the same technology that other magnetic storage devices such as audio  or video cassette tapes were made of.  Did you notice I said “were made of”, in essence, the technology has not changed in years.  But, the recent invention of the solid state drive represents a big leap forward for hard drive technology.

Solid State Drives (SSD) are the latest available technology that replaces the old conventional drives. This solid state drive is based on a micro chip flash memory which is similar to the memory storage that is used in digital cameras.  The basic advantages of solid state hard disk drives are the fact that they are less fragile and much quieter since they have no moving parts.


What are the Most Common Hard Drive Types and Interfaces?

All Hard drives connected to a hard disk controller on the motherboard using a cable (or ribbon).  How they connect is what’s called it’s interface. There is also another cable that is connected to the power supply on your computer.

The two most common interfaces are shown below:

  • Enhanced Small Disk Interface (ESDI) – Many of the older IDE-PATA (Integrated Drive Electronics – Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) drives were based on this interface.
  • Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) – All of the newer drives including Solid State Drives (SSD) are based on this newer interface. As of 2009, SATA has replaced parallel ATA in most shipping consumer desktop and laptop computers

Note: All modern motherboards have SATA connectors, some have both SATA and IDE.  The last board I purchased had only SATA, which is the current standard.

That’s about as simple as I can explain it, if you want to learn more, check out some of the links and articles at the bottom of this page.

Who Makes Hard Drives?

Listed below, are some well known drive manufacturers:


Learn More About Hard Drives!

(Also see Alternative Storage Solutions)