At its recent launch event in San Jose, Apple announced that its new iMacs would come with the option of a ‘Fusion Drive.’ What’s a Fusion Drive you might ask? Well, essentially, it’s a way of making your computer faster by combining two different types of storage technologies.

Generally, one of the main bottlenecks with desktop and laptop computers is how quickly information can be stored, and retrieved, from the hard disk drive. As most traditional hard disks are made of moving parts including a spinning platter of discs, there’s always a bit of time needed to seek out the right place on a disk to read or write information. In computer terms, this small delay can really add up, and can considerably limit performance.

The alternative is to use a completely electronic solution, with no moving parts, and just ‘Flash’ memory. This type of memory can be overwritten millions of times, and it takes a fraction of the time to seek out information compared to a traditional hard disk. Hard drives made of only Flash memory are often called Solid State Drives, or SSDs. The problem with SSDs is that they cost a lot more than traditional hard drives – often three or even four times the price for the same amount of storage space.

Fusion Drive puts the stuff you use most often in faster Flash storage, and less used items on the slower hard disk drive (HDD)

Now, what Apple has done is combine the two technologies into one device. Essentially, a Fusion Drive includes some Flash memory along with a traditional spinning-disk hard drive. Apple has also included some specials software which figures out how to seek and store the information efficiently.

Fusion Drive can give you near-SSD speeds without the hefty cost.

Apple’s Fusion Drive combines 128GB of Flash with a traditional 1TB or 3TB hard drive to create a single storage volume. The unit intelligently manages files and can adapt to the way you use your iMac and automatically moves the files and apps you use most often to Flash storage to enable faster performance and quicker access.

Look for Fusion Drive in your next iMac.

While ‘Hybrid’ drives like this have existed for a while and were previously used on other computers, it’s good to see that Apple is promoting its own Fusion Drive technology to give people more bang for their buck without needing to shell out on really expensive SSD drives.

Fusion Drives will be available as an option on all new iMacs.