Laptop hard drive technology continues to improve. Faster hard drives with more capacity are arriving every year, and it can be difficult to know the difference between different standards. Here is a rundown of the different laptop hard drive technologies used today.
While most desktop hard drives are in the standard 3.5” form factor, nearly all laptop hard drives use the 2.5” form factor. While other standards are sometimes used in the smallest laptops, the vast majority of laptops use the 2.5” hard drive standard.
There a few factors related to the speed of laptop hard drives. The first is the spin speed of the platters in the hard drive which store the data. The most common speed for laptop hard drives is 5400 rpm (revolutions per minute), but 4200 rpm and 7200 rpm drives are also common. Generally, the faster the rotation speed, the faster the access time for the hard drive, but a drive with a faster rotational speed will consume more power and will be noisier during operation. These are reasons why many laptops have 5400 rpm drives instead of the faster 7200 rpm drives. The actual speed of the drive is usually measured in “access time” or data transfer rate. These ratings give buyers a comparison for which drive may perform better.
Most modern hard drives connect through either SATA or PATA (IDE) connections. PATA uses a large ribbon cable for connecting to the motherboard, and was the most common drive connection technology for many years. SATA, or Serial ATA, is a faster connection method, which also uses a smaller port and cable than PATA, making it ideal for the tight spaces of a laptop. SATA offers better access speeds than most other technologies.
A new laptop hard drive technology is emerging, called solid state, which uses flash memory instead of platters. The lack of moving parts results in lower power usage and often faster access times, but the cost of solid state drives is very expensive. As prices come down in the future, it is likely that solid state drives will become the most common technology for laptop hard drives.