To most people, the terms “HDD” and “SSD” are just three-letter acronyms, itself an initialism (TLA) that you can use like jargon. But what do these terms really mean for you, and which one delivers better results?

If you’ve ever looked for a computer, you’ve probably seen a few acronyms, initialisms, and names, brands and words that don’t really make much sense. In fact, so many of them exist that at times, it feels like you need a degree to make sense of them.

Two of these are being highlighted quite regularly, though, and that’s because we’re at an interesting crossroads where one technology starts to make tracks over the other, as solid-state drives starts to take over conventional hard disk drives in terms of use inside computers.

So what’s the difference?

SSD on the left, HDD on the right

SSD on the left, HDD on the right

Above we have two drives made by the same company, with a Samsung 2.5 inch hard disk drive and a Samsung 2.5 inch solid state drive.

You’ve probably heard those terms before, but if you haven’t or you need a refresher, essentially what you’re seeing is old versus new technology.

The old technology is the hard disk drive or “HDD”, a storage device that you can easily recognise thanks to the metal rotation platter usually found on the bottom of the drive which works in conjunction with a disk head to read and write information to the drive.

This is old school technology, and is generally the less expensive of the storage technologies out there. They’ve been in laptops and desktops for ages, and are the most common type of drive found in an external storage solution, such as a desktop or notebook drive, or even a network attach storage device (NAS) used for backing up your files.

But while their age might be a problem to some, it’s really the weight, the speed, and the power consumption that makes this older technology less desirable for our technologically friendly future.

hdd-hard-disk-ssd-solid-state-primer-02

Instead, solid-state drives will become that replacement solution, and when you see the term “SSD” in a spec sheet, the computer manufacturer is relying on a faster hard drive technology that offers less weight, speedier guts, no moving parts, and better battery life.

Those four points are the primary reasons to consider solid-state over conventional hard drives, because without moving parts, a solid-state drive is lighter, is less power hungry, and is generally much, much faster to run files from.

These drives obviously don’t rely on the same technologies as regular drives, and instead have appears like memory inside them, small bits of silicon that store files when communicated and powered through a storage controller in a fashion not so dissimilar from a thumb drive or a memory card.

Another technology that has a lot in common with solid-state is flash memory technology, which is essentially what is inside a solid-state drive.