Hard Drives are the storage area of your system, where all programs and applications are stored and written to and they are not lost when the Computer is switched off.
With programs and especially games needing more space and the PC being used for so much, it is reccomened that you always opt for the largest capacity you can afford or to meet your current needs. This can save the need for portable drives or running out of space.
Solid State or SSD Drives are the default drive in new systems and laptops, the capacity (number of GBs) maybe lower than the larger 1TB-2GB SATA drives but the speed and connection they use, gives them a number of benefits.
A low to mid range system might come with 256GB or 512GB that is faster space, less power and lighter than its older hard drive cousins. If you use Cloud backups and maybe backup to a portable drive, for everyday and even fairly heavy use and lower gaming that space might do you fine.
If you are heavily into videos, photos, or gaming with large games, updates or have large amounts of music, data or files you may what more, especially if your system is a laptop and your only option would be USB Drives or USB SSD based drives (keep the speed).
Or have your main drive SSD if you like for your operating system and daily files, and then additional drives via USB, NAS, or direct if you have a desktop for everything else especially if not used constantly.
If you intend to do any graphic or video editing you will need plenty of space to allow for the raw files, perhaps your working copy and any backups! You always need space or temp space to allow the programs to operate smoothly and for the video files to be stored for editing and space to allow the PC to convert or encode any files.
The hard drive works in parallel with the memory (RAM) and the motherboard to read and write data through the system.
Operating systems and applications including games requirements for disk space has increased vastly in recent times. An example of this is a typical Windows 10 install uses approx 15GB of space and could be 25-40GB in extreme loaded systems with plenty of swap.
A PC Game typical size can vary, Fortnite Battle Royale is 17GB on the PC, GTA5 says keep 72GB free. Again this isn't a problem if your a gamer and upgraded or buying a setup you will have this small expense covered, usually a zippy latest version SSD with some decent space, and then one or more drives for extra storage or even mirror'd for just incase modes.
Disk space is pretty cheap and the large sizes you can get now are bonkers, but for most users having more than a couple of TB is overkill. You need to think about just in case something happens, have you got a quick way to sync and backup any larger files, a USB or SD card will not cut it :) .
With your office applications, any music you might want to keep on the device locally, yes you can play direct and not stream if you like. Any digital picture librarys and the odd game you can easily start using serveral GBs of space, on top of your Windows/System install. This is fine, however you should ensure your drives are regularly backedup or partitioned so you can backup to another location or seperate drive. With a program or a script so you are sync'd.
In recent years the hard drive market has benefited from technology advances which allows for larger capacity drives with falling prices. This benefits the users and allows for additional drives to be used either as a main disk or many choosing to add a disk purely for backup purposes.
It is still possible to buy smaller hard drives... but for small size or use would a USB stick or SD card work? Install or use a larger hard drive or small SSD instead for a instant speed boost. 1TB SATA drives are around £40 at time of writing, SSD 1TB would be £90+ depending on brand and spec. So you could have a large drive and small SSD for the same as one larger SSD. Or a smaller SSD with a portable or other drive for only a little more, and if you like reuse or repurpose any SSD or other drives, or consolidate.
We would suggest a drive of around 256GB+ for most users as this will allow for plenty of capacity for everyday use and for disk hungry tasks. You can of course divide or partition the drive this allows for backups to be copied from one partition to the other and allows for easier maintenance and organisation of files. If you are into your videos or photos a larger 1-2TB external USB drive for backups, would be cheaper than having a large main SSD drive.
IDE has long been the standard to allow ATA devices to work together in PCs. There have been several different versions of ATA since it was first introduced in the mid 1980's. The most common that we will mention are ATA 33, ATA 66, ATA 100, and ATA 133.
External devices are ever popular you have kinda small hard drives with SD Cards or USB Sticks. You have portable hard drive SSD or SATA 2.5" with capacity of several TB's. And of course with phones, internet and cloud storage some backups are built-in. Computer hard drives usually reply on USB nowadays the USB 3.0 or USB C/Thunderbolt for faster connecting to devices.USB gone are the days of Firewire FireWire older connection type.
The IDE/ATA standard is the most common interface also known as PATA. There have been several different versions of ATA since it was first introduced in the mid 1980's. They all focus on the theoretical transfer rate via the interface between the drive and the motherboard.
The connectors are a bank of pins which are at risk to damage. Also the configuration in older systems had to be setup via Jumpers or Bridges. Later systems could detect via the BIOS using the cable select feature.
Serial ATA (SATA) as mentioned already PATA has been around for many years and as a result of other areas of PC architecture evolving so to have a bottleneck for transferring data quicker between the systems buses and the hard drives. SATA with its first standard supports transfer rates measured at 150 in relation to the previous standards.
This standard will allow for faster rates to emerge in coming years.
SATA does away with large ribbon cables and instead uses a thin cable with a small connector which can easily be clipped on to the connector. Bridges have been removed as the drive is automatically detected by the system or separate SCSI card.
For the majority of users this type of thing does not matter, the main point are that you are aware of the different options and can relate the information to the indicators on the hard drive casing or the motherboard manual.
Older motherboards supported ATA33/66 then ATA100/133, this basically means the rate of peak data transmission per clock cycle (burst rate). So if your hard drive was ATA100 it has a theoretical burst rate of 100MB/s transfer. This bottle neck and limitation was improved with faster drives but the arrival of SSD becoming more affordable. Lets these magnetic and spinning platter drives begin to wind down, after over 50 years of computing history.
Another value which is referred to is the speed of the actual drive. Older drives were typically 5400RPM newer versions were introduced and the default standard for SATA 3.5" was 7200RPM, this means the amount of revolutions per minute. Laptop drives being smaller 2.5" would be 5400 RPM, until SSD drives have now taken the speed candle higher.
Other hard drive speeds were possible before using specific hardware or SCSI but this were pricey and reserved more for specific business cases. SSD is the current King. Another older consideration when comparing drives was to look for the seek and access times, these are measured in milliseconds. They tell you how fast they can access or write data to or from the drive.
If you have used older systems and seen when systems come out of standby or a short pause from power on this is the slower seek/access and of cause remeber these were mechanical drives with movable parts which needed to be woken up and moved over the spinning platters of the drives.
A drive buffer is an amount of memory (RAM) or faster memory built-in to the drive, often called cache, which is used to store data that is accessed frequently. The larger the buffer the more data that can be stored, which reduces the operations which take longer to be read and then wrote from the drive. The default buffer size began low, under a 1MB and increased as the years and models progressed, to 8MB although many makers have increased this to 16MB and higher. No doubt this will increase as the drive market continues to increase in capacity and performance.