Best Bang for your Buck Upgrades: Upgrading your Storage Drive

A Generic Desktop Hard Drive
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My wife uses an Apple Macbook that’s about 5-years old. She loves the thing, but when she started using it for photo editing she quickly became frustrated with the meager storage offered by its 80GB hard drive. Trying to scrimp and save, she poured over the contents of her drive, looking for things to delete. She bought an external terabyte hard drive so she could dump her pictures when she needed to, but every other day she was seeing warning pop-ups about her limited drive space. She was getting really frustrated and it was making it difficult for her to do her job. Then it occurred to me&#8212we could just upgrade her hard drive!

I bought her a 500GB laptop hard drive for about $60 and an external hard drive dock We popped the new drive into the dock, connected the dock to the computer, and then “mirrored” her current drive, making an exact copy of it on the new drive. Once it was done, we just swapped the drives out, and boom! 420GB more storage space! I was amazed by how easy it was.


Upgrading your hard drive is one of the simplest and fastest ways to upgrade your computer, and they offer several benefits. Aside from simply increasing the amount of pictures, videos, etc. that you can hold on your computer, improved storage reduces access times, data transfer rates, and can help keep your system safe from lost-data horror stories.

Storage Speed

You know how sometimes, when you click something on your desktop, your computer locks up and you hear a kind of whirring sound from inside your computer? That’s your hard drive when it’s in seek mode, looking for whatever data you’ve just asked it to access. The time it takes your drive to find that information effects the length of load times, determines how long it will take your computer to boot, and can be the cause of a slow computer.

When shopping for a new hard drive you’ll see the data access rate reflected in the average seek time, usually 9-12 milliseconds. Seek time is determined by the hard drive’s RPM (Rotations per Minute) or how quickly the disk can spin around, the faster the better. The fastest drives however, are not hard drives at all, but Solid State Drives.

Solid State Drives

Mushkin Callisto SSDSolid State Drives (SSDs) are completely digital, with no moving parts, and are miles faster than any physical hard disk access system. These devices have access speeds that are practically instantaneous, so you’ll notice drastically improved load times, darn near zero lag between click and launch, and super fast boot times when you turn your computer on. The biggest (and only) downside to solid state drives is their price; they cost as much as $1-$2 per-gigabyte versus the $.10 per-gigabyte of hard disk drives. Because of this exorbitant cost, it’s become a common practice to have two hard drives—one small solid state drive (64GB or smaller) to use as a “system drive” on which you install your operating system and programs, and a larger (1TB or greater) “storage drive” that’s used to store data like pictures, videos, movies, etc. A setup like this offers the most improvement to system speed at the lowest cost.

SATA III

Another option for faster storage is in the way your drive connects to your computer. The current standard for internal data transfer is called SATA II, which is capable of moving data to and from your drive at a rate of 3Gbps. Released and on the market since last year is the newer SATA III spec, which is capable of roughly twice that speed. While currently only newer, high-end, motherboards support SATA III from the get-go, many PCs can be upgraded with internal cards that will support this newer standard.

RAID

Lastly, hard drives can be used to safeguard your data by using RAID configurations. RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) was initially developed in a time when hard drives were only a few megabytes in size and very expensive (the first gigabyte hard drive cost $40,000), and the files they were saving to the disks were too big to store on one drive. Developers solved this issue by combining several disks together, causing them to act together as one, larger disk.

While we don’t have the same storage issues today, RAID hard drive configurations still have quite a bit to offer. First, combining several disks allows your total aggregate storage to be much higher than it would be with one disk; imagine the movies you could store on 8TB of drive space! Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, RAID can be used to safeguard your data should one of your drives fail. RAID can be used to create a running mirror of any of your hard drives, so that if it should wear-out or fail you won’t have lost anything.

As far as upgrading to RAID, most motherboards support some version of RAID right out of the box. Read your motherboards manual or do some research on Google to find out. If your motherboard doesn’t support RAID, then (just as with SATA II) you can always upgrade using an expansion card through your PCI or PCI-Express ports.

Also you can follow this link to see OutletPC’s lineup of laptop and desktop hard drives.

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