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What is a Hard Drive

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms
 
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Q:
Someone was telling me that they just bought a bigger hard drive. I am almost embarrassed to ask this, but what’s a hard drive?

A:
Don’t be embarrassed; it’s an awesome question!

I don’t know about your computer, but my computer has an enormous amount of “stuff’ on it. Pictures, videos, software, downloads, documents of all kinds…when it goes down I go into a panic attack. Well, you know all of that “stuff” you have on your computer? You know it’s on your computer somewhere, and that somewhere is your hard drive!

The hard drive – which is short for hard disk drive (HDD) – is what stores all that “stuff” I was talking about. You may be thinking, “But what about a floppy disk? What about my CDs? They all hold my data, too”, and you would be right. The hard drive, however, is the most permanent of your computer’s storage methods. When your computer is turned off, all of your data is there, safe on your hard drive.

Without getting too technical (and believe me, I am not going to get technical; hardware makes my brain go numb), the “disk” part of hard disk drive refers to the actual disks inside the hard drive. The disks inside are actually what holds the media. They are located on a spindle, which is rotated by an electric motor, which causes the disks to spin. The faster the motor, the faster they spin; the faster they spin, the faster the data is retrieved. Thus a hard drive and its quality is very important to your computer. Below is cutaway of a hard drive.

image

So how much does a hard drive really influence your computer? Let’s take a look.

1.Performance.
The hard drive is very important when it comes to overall system performance, especially when it comes to working with large amounts of data, graphics, video editing, multitasking, etc. How fast your computer boots is directly related to hard disk speed.

2.Storage Capacity.
The bigger the hard drive, the more “stuff’ it can hold. Enough said.

3.Newer software support.
With all of the new (bigger, better, more) software coming out today, your hard drive has to be able to handle it; thus the critical quality component I was referring to earlier.

4.Reliability.
There is absolutely without a doubt nothing worse than a hard drive failing and losing all of your “stuff”. You can replace hardware, but losing everything on your computer has got to make this part of a hard drive’s use the most important of it all.

So there you have it – a very brief summary of what a hard drive is and its importance. I did not go into all of the millions of details of how it is assembled and what goes where because frankly, I am just one of those people who care about the very basics of a computer, and when talking about hard drives and how they are made my eyes glaze over because the only thing I really care about is where my “stuff” is at.

~Lori

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