Sunday, August 1

What is a computer hard drive and how does it work? | Digital Trends Spanish

Despite the fact that you listen to it constantly, you may still not be 100 percent clear about what a computer’s hard drive is, and what the function of this component consists of. There are even people who confuse it with RAM. We can clarify this with a simple analogy: a hard drive is like a filing cabinet in which you store books (hundreds or thousands). RAM, for its part, is the desktop where you work with a certain number of books simultaneously (10, 20 or a little more). Keep reading and know everything about it.

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The purpose of the hard drive

The hard drive is where your computer stores long-term data, which is not erased when you turn it off, (unlike RAM). A hard drive not only stores your personal or work files, but all the code required for your operating system, the browsers used to connect to the internet, the drivers for your accessories, and everything else. When people talk about computer storage, they mean the hard drive (HDD or SSD, see more information below).

Each hard drive has a specific amount of space, part of which is automatically consumed by the operating system and backup installations, but you can fill the rest with the data you download and save, be it from a new application, music or photos. of your vacations.

Hard drive space is no longer as important (or as expensive!) As it once was. This is because today you can run software and store data in the cloud, so local storage is not required, thus freeing up precious space on your computer.

This cloud-based dependency – which relies on remote servers and their hard drives in data centers – is what originally powered Google’s Chrome OS platform. Chromebooks have very little “physical” storage space due to their reliance on streaming and cloud solutions. That’s changing to some degree thanks to the growing support for Android apps from Google Play.

Birth of the hard disk.

A little history.

Have you ever wondered why the main storage unit is always assigned the letter “C:”? This is because the first commercial personal computers did not have a hard drive due to their high cost. At that time, it was common to work with two “floppy disks”.

8, 5.25 and 3.5-inch floppy disk in black, orange and blue respectively
George Chernilevsky

They were called flexible because they were made of an X-ray-like type of plastic, and inside semi-rigid plastic packaging, the first units were 5.25 inches. They were later discontinued by the high-density 3.5-inch drives (the former had a capacity of 360 and 720 Kb and the latter of 1.44 MB).

The first floppy disk contained the disk operating system (TWO, for its acronym in English) and the program with which you would work. On the second disk you kept all your work. The first drive was assigned (“mapped”) by the operating system as drive A, the second drive was assigned drive B, that way, when the hard drives arrived, they were assigned drive C and the CD drives they were assigned (you guessed it!) unit D, and so on consecutively and alphabetically.

Reynold B. Johnson developed the first real hard drive at IBM in 1956. Johnson’s team originally experimented with other methods of storing data on things like magnetic tape. However, his team discovered ways to store information (in the form of bytes) on metallic magnetic disks, which could be overwritten with new information as desired. This led to the development of an automated record that read similar to a record player, except that it was much larger. The first commercially available version, RAMAC, had a hard drive about the size of a kitchen pantry.

Later, IBM set out to develop floppy disks in the late 1960s to easily load code onto its mainframes. These disks initially measured eight inches in diameter with read-only data. The first commercially available read / write drive did not appear until 1972 when team leader Alan Shugart immigrated to Memorex.

In general, these two parts, the smaller, more transferable “floppy disk” and automated magnetic disk, became the backbone of the initial hard disk. For many years, the method of storing data remained the same, while great improvements were made in the way the hard drive could store, read, and eventually write data.

Two types of units

Hard drives are internal or external. Internal it means they are located inside your desktop or laptop and have a direct connection to the main board. External means that they reside outside of the computer and are usually connected via a USB or Thunderbolt cable. The External hard drive is usually slower than the internal one due to the type of connection, but they can also be disconnected from the computer without any problem.

Samsung T5 SSD drive in blue color on a keyboard

You may or may not be able to update an internal drive. For desktop computers, you can easily remove the side cover, disconnect the current drive, and plug in a new drive. On laptops, the update process may not be that simple.

Previously they had a special access for the hard disk and memory in the lower part that gave you access for an almost immediate change, currently most laptops, to save on manufacturing processes, they eliminated that access and now it is necessary to open the bottom cover completely to change the hard disk or memory

Some laptops from various manufacturers do not have removable storage. They have direct storage on the main card, and although it is not impossible to change it, it is necessary that an expert do it, if possible. Read the specifications on the manufacturer’s websites for how to properly change your laptop drive.

Usually when we refer to a hard drive, it is the hard drive or HDD, (Hard disk drive). But there is another version: solid state drives or SSD (Solid State Drive). There is a big difference between the two that we explained in a separate article, SSD vs HDD. However, here we summarize it:

HDD: Hard drives use a rotating magnetic disk that contains information written in very small tracks, kind of like a record player. This requires moving parts, specifically heads to read and write data to the disk, as needed, in addition to the propulsion necessary to spin the disk. It is a simple method, which makes purchasing hard drives very inexpensive, especially when creating very large storage configurations.

SSD– There are no moving parts on solid state drives. Instead, these units use semiconductors that store information by changing the electrical state of very small capacitors. They are much faster than HDD hard drives and can store information more easily without worrying about wear and tear on parts. SSD drives are the reason modern computers start up so fast.

Important qualities of the hard disk

A person working at a wooden table with a laptop and to one side on a book an external storage unit connected to the laptop

Space– Check out the specifications available for computers today and you’ll see storage options in multiple terabytes. SSDs are particularly important for HDD storage because they store data in a much smaller, multi-layered space. This is why we have phones that can store all of our favorite music, videos, and pictures.

Velocity– The speed of a hard disk depends on how fast the data can be read or written. That includes your connection to the computer, which can hamper data flow and ultimately your performance (see below). For mechanical hard drives, speed is important too – 7,200 RPM drives tend to be faster than 5,400 RPM drives. However, both are much slower than SSDs.

Physical securityPhysical security is generally about durability, whether your hard drive is hidden inside a computer or an external version that you can carry. It needs to withstand shocks and pressure, as well as heat and other environmental problems. More advanced hard drives may also have features that help prevent piracy or discourage theft.

Connections– A hard drive can be connected using SATA, PCIexpress, USB, or Thunderbolt connectors. Connection type affects speed, so if you connect an external SSD to a USB-A 2.0 port, the maximum data throughput is 60MB per second, no matter if your SSD can read or write at 1,800MB per second. Connections also determine compatibility and upgradeability, so always check before purchasing or upgrading.

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