Flash Memory vs. Hard Drive (A Technical Kind of Storage Wars)

GigabyteKingdom is audience-supported. When you purchase through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Flash Memory vs Hard Drive

When it comes to any decision you need to make revolving laptop technology, the choices are absolutely staggering. This is no different when it comes to storage considerations, for instance: flash memory vs. hard drive? Which would be the best solution? The answer to this paradox depends on factors, such as how much space you need. Your concerns about data loss. And monumentally, how much you’re willing to spend. In what follows, we’ll go over both types of storage and even delve into maintenance for each type to help you arrive at the best storage solution for your usage situation.

Types of Data Storage

Data storage is something every laptop user has to think about. There are several differences between flash memory and a hard drive that makes one option more appealing over another for the specific user and purpose.

Flash memory is a type of storage device without any moving parts. It’s a type of SSD or solid-state drive with functionality that’s based on electric programming.

Flash USB drives are a type of portable storage device that’s pretty popular for offering the benefits of high-speed storage along with the advantage of a small, portable form factor. However, you must erase flash memory cells before rewriting new data.

A hard drive, hard disk drive, or typically an MHD (mechanical hard drive) is the traditional storage unit located within portable computers. It’s made of a spinning magnetic disk and a mechanical read and write head to store data. As a result of these moving parts, over time, performance will diminish.

Affordability is one reason why MHDs have been in laptops longer than alternative types of storage. They’re also easier to replace. It’s the storage type of choice when you have a lot of files to store.

Pros and Cons of Flash Memory

Flash memory offers unique advantages for your laptop.

  • USB drives are compact and can be moved around to use data at multiple locations.
  • Flash memory uses less power than on-board hard drives.
  • Reading and writing data is faster using flash memory. Most flash drives can read and write data at a speed of 500 MB/s.
  • A USB drive is prone to fewer unexpected failures compared to MHDs.
  • Flash drives are more durable due to the lack of moving parts.

However, flash memory also has a few limitations.

  • The smaller capacity of flash drives makes them more limiting when you’re dealing with large amounts of data.
  • Depending on your needs, flash drives can be more expensive than built-in hard drives due to the technology involved.
  • Flash memory drives are subject to faster and more deterioration from being written and re-written (happened to us in College).

Pros and Cons of MHD

Hard drives are suitable for lots of users for several reasons.

  • The technology of MHD is tried and trusted.
  • The storage capacity of hard drives is usually bigger than that of flash drives.
  • Hard drives are more affordable.

Nevertheless, the disadvantages of MHD make them less desirable.

  • Hard drives use more power than flash drives (again because of those moving parts).
  • The average speed of reading and writing data is 120 MB/s, making hard drives considerably slower than flash memory drives.
  • Due to the mechanical nature of the MHD, hard drives have a probability of more failures.
  • Fragmentation of hard drives is a severe issue, so you might need to defragment regularly to boost hard drive performance.

Different Types of Flash Memory

Flash memory drives come in several flavors that work well for diverse activities.

  • Server-Flash Memory refers to cached storage and gives you access to fast speed at an albeit lower capacity. It can be used, however, where high IOPS or Input/Output operations per second is needed.
  • All-Flash Array provides a greater capacity with consistent storage. This type of flash memory is becoming extremely popular.
  • Traditional Flash Storage is affordable, but it’s not as reliable as the other types.
  • Hybrid Array Flash Memory Drives combine the function of an SDD with the mechanical components of MHD. It provides faster access to data with electrical interfaces that are compatible with MHD bays.

Different Types of Hard Drives

There are multiple types of hard drives worth considering for storing data.

  • PATA or Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment was the first type of hard drive.
  • SATA or Serial Advanced Technology Attachment replaced PATA because they deliver better and faster performance. They also use less power, and the cables are more flexible.
  • SCSI or Small Computer System Interface allows for the internal and external connection of several devices like hard drives, CD-Drives, scanners, and printers.

How to Maintain Your Flash Drive

It’s important to maintain your flash drive to guarantee protection of your data and so it won’t fail when you need it the most. A flash drive can hold your data for up to 10 years. But maintaining it will ensure that it functions properly throughout all those years. Here are the best tips to keep your flash drive in peak performance.

  • Avoid exposing your flash drive to extreme temperatures. Extreme heat or cold can accidentally delete stored data. Exposing your flash drive to water obviously should be avoided. Although you stand a good chance of retrieving some or all the data once it’s dry.
  • Slamming or knocking your flash drive can also lead to damage. Keep your flash drive in a pouch or case, especially if you’re moving around, to protect it from impact. You can also attach it to a lanyard to wear around your neck instead of keeping it in your pocket where it can be crushed.
  • Keep the cap on when the flash drive is not in use to protect it from dust and debris accumulation.
  • When you plug in your flash drive, make sure that there are no sparks. These sparks can damage the drive, not to mention your laptop’s hardware.
  • Think carefully before plugging your flash drive into any device. Malware and viruses can corrupt the data on your flash drive then transfer it into your laptop when you plug the flash drive into the USB port.
  • Reduce the amount of time your flash drive is plugged into your laptop. This will decrease the usage rate and exposure to heat, which eventually causes the flash drive to fail. One way to do this is if you need to edit any file on your drive. Copy it to your laptop and edit it there, then copy it back to the flash drive.
  • Another reason you don’t want to leave the flash drive connected to your laptop is that it will cause the system to continuously write on the drive, which makes it wear faster.
  • Avoid defragmenting your flash drive. This process can cause the flash drive to lag and eventually crash.
  • Regularly back up your data. Although your flash drive can last up to 10 years. It’s still subject to premature damage. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep another copy of your data in case your flash drive fails.

How to Maintain Your Hard Drive

If you’re looking for a cost-efficient and reliable form of storage, hard drives are the way to go. A hard drive will last between 3 and 5 years. You can ensure it sees every bit of that 3 to 5 years with proper maintenance. Here are some of the best tips for the longevity of your hard drive.

  • Save only the most essential data to your hard drive to prevent over-usage, which eventually leads to failure. Other data can be stored on a flash drive to be used when needed. This will free up space on your hard drive and boost its performance.
  • Make sure that your hard drive is protected by setting up firewalls and installing the latest antivirus and malware software to protect your system from suspicious downloads.
  • Be careful as you surf the Web and check the source before downloading any software. This will help you avoid downloading a harmful program that’ll wreak havoc to your hard drive.
  • Always keep your operating system and other applications updated. The updated version of applications and software programs use less data and will put less strain on your hard drive.
  • Defragment your hard drive regularly. This process eliminates the spaces that scatter data when you delete files, thus keeping all your data properly organized. It also frees up space thereby helping the hard drive function properly.
  • Make sure you’re computer’s internal fan is powerful enough to cool down the system, and the vents aren’t blocked by debris. If the system can’t seem to get cool, you can install a water-based cooling system to control the temperature. Occasional overheating can prevent access to data. But your hard drive will function properly once the temperature decreases.
  • Clean the dust inside your PC to leave room for the air to circulate and cool off the hard drive. Being exposed to high temperatures regularly will cause permanent damage to your hard drive.
  • Use the Sleep Mode and Power Save modes when you’re not using your laptop computer. This will protect the hard drive when you don’t need access to data.
  • We can’t stress this enough, make sure that you’re backing up your data regularly. In case your hard drive fails, you’ll still have access to all your important data.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to storage, flash can be a good option. But there are situations that make a hard drive a relevant choice. MHDs are prevalent especially among budget-focused laptops. One great thing about them is that they’re easy to replace as they get old and stop working properly. But they’re not the best if you need to retrieve data quickly. And disk fragmentation is a process that requires patience. Flash drives make moving data from one computer to another super quick and easy. But as ever, the limited capacity is something to keep in mind. And you have to be careful that the machine you’re plugging it into won’t turn it into a Trojan Horse that’ll carry nasty viruses into your laptop.