Upgrading a Hard Drive

What to consider when upgrading a hard drive.

You just came from your 3-day bachelor party in Vegas, a vodka martini in one hand and an HD camcorder in the other.  You start to upload the movies onto your computer, but with all the mp3 music files you *ahem* acquired during the napster days your computer is filled to capacity.

Or, you just got a brand-new digital SLR camera to take pictures of your child’s first solid food, first solid poop, first step (and fall), or the absolute cute-overload of your dog cuddling with your baby.  Yes, you will take thousands of pictures, and these pictures will take up hundreds of GB on your computer.

Or, you found a way to “back up” your DVD and Blu-Ray collection onto your computer so that your 3 year old will not use the disks as ice skates on the kitchen floor.

When the time comes for the need to replace your hard drive, choosing the right drive is not always the easiest task.  Whether it is because your previous drive failed, or your 80 GB drive is no longer sufficient to save your digital photos, music, and videos.

Sure, you can go to any brick-and-mortar store in town, and more often than not they will try to sell you something that will fill their pockets with commission rather than fulfill your needs.

If you’ve been researching online, and you are not as computer-savvy as you would like, chances are your confusion can be limited down to two simple questions.

1.         Do I need 1TB or 2TB?

2.         Do I need a 7200 rpm (performance) drive or a 5900 rpm (green) drive?

The brief answer is that what you need will depend on how you will use these drives.  If the plan is to add this drive to your computer to expand your storage space, then a green drive (5900 rpm) will more than suffice.  If you plan to replace your boot drive, and you do a lot of photo/music/video editing, then I would recommend the 7200 rpm drive.  Then there is the gray area, which falls somewhere in between these two.

Are the newer drives with 64MB Cache better than the drives with 32MB Cache?  Yes, but the advantages do not always apply.  Briefly, cache refers to the amount of data the HD is capable of having ready for fast processing.  The more MB, the better the drive performs..  The cache acts like a temporary rapid-response storage space, which means that the larger the cache, the more it can store these files.

One additional feature is the size of the hard drive also matters.  The larger the drive storage, the more efficient data handling.  Nowadays, larger drives are becoming more and more affordable:  A 2TB drive could have been $180 a year ago, but less than $100 now.

Last, but not least, the one feature that the average consumer will consider when purchasing a drive is the price.  On average, the price increase going from 1TB to 2TB is less than double.  The price increase going from 5900 to 7200 rpm is somewhat variable.  Of course there are exceptions, but I will try not to discuss this in detail.

With this drive, you will have the space and speed to store and edit all your space-consuming HD videos of your dog swimming in the lake or the bachelor party you never should have filmed.

For performance, I recommend the Western Digital Caviar Black 1.5 TB (WD1501FASS).  It is part of the Caviar Black performance drives, with a theoretical 3 Gb/s transfer rate, 7200 RPM, an upgraded 64 MB Cache.  This drive is only available online (to my knowledge) and only OEM.  It does not come in a retail package.  Check my review of this drive here (link).

EcoGreen Low-Power consumption and Huge CapacityFor data storage, I recommend the Samsung Spinpoint F4EG 2TB drive (HD204UI).  Basically, it has high-capacity storage (2TB), it is very quiet, it is one of the cool drives, and price-wise it is very cheap.  Check here for my review (link).


About Ask Conrad
I am a University Professor. A Neuroscientist by trade, and a technophile/geek on the side. My work and research is heavily dependent on computers and state-of-the-art technology. I like Jazz and Bossa Nova. I play the piano, guitar, and ukulele.

2 Responses to Upgrading a Hard Drive

  1. Pingback: Samsung Spinpoint 2TB « Ask Conrad

  2. Pingback: Western Digital Black WD1501FASS « Ask Conrad

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