Types of Hard Drive Connections Every Computer Geek Should Know

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Hard Drive Connections

Technology evolves with the goal toward making our lives much easier. One of the most noteworthy upgrades in tech as it relates to laptops is hard drive connections. We get it, this isn’t a sexy topic. But whether you want to add a new type of hard drive to your PC laptop or upgrade existing ones, it’s important to know their connection types. But before we get into that, let’s get a brief description of what a hard drive is.

What Is a Hard Disk Drive?

Simply, the hard disk drive is a hardware component that’s installed into your laptop, PC, or any other device to store data. This important part of your laptop or computer is essential for your device to run smoothly.

You might think that a hard disk drive is only responsible for storing long-term data. However, it also includes all the information that helps your operating system functions properly.

For instance, the hard disk houses data about the drives that allow you to connect to the internet and send and receive files over Bluetooth, etc.

This is why you should seek professional help if you suspect that there’s something wrong with your hard disk drive. Usually, signs of trouble include a nagging clicking noise coming from the place where your hard disk is installed.

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Basic Hard Disk Drive Components

Hard Drive Connections

Image source: ccm.net

Another piece of information you may want to have some background about is the main components of a hard disk. Despite the physical differences between one disk type and another, all hard disks must have the following components.

1.    Platter

Each hard disk includes a platter, which is a disk that stores and arranges important data in well-ordered patterns.

2.    Spindle

The spindle’s main job is ensuring that the platter is always in the right position. Occasionally, the spindle will rotate the platter when needed.

3.    Read/Write Arm

The read/write arm is responsible for leading the read/write head to specific positions on the platter. This position depends on the data that needs reading or writing.

4.    Actuator

Finally, the actuator takes directions from the circuit board to manage the movement of the read/write arm. Plus, the actuator organizes the process of transferring data from the platter.

As long as these components are in perfect shape, you won’t need to replace your hard drive. Yet, they can still be prone to viruses or other natural causes, which could result in you buying a newer hard disk.

Types of Hard Drive Connections

Now, it’s time that we explore the differences between the four main types of hard drive connections. We’ll discuss their characteristics, data transfer rates, and everything else in between.

Let’s dive in!

1.    PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment)

PATA connections are one of the earliest versions of hard drive tech ever invented. Even though they’re slow when it comes to data transfer speed, they’ve paved the way for more advanced technology.

This type of hard disk connector used to be in the physical form of 40 or 80 wire ribbons. It could transfer data in 16-bit pockets at the same time, hence the “Parallel” in its name.

Of course, PATA drives aren’t included in computers anymore because of their performance limitations: Their maximum data transfer speed is only 133 Mbps.

However, they’ve been replaced with Serial ATA drives, which are much faster and more suitable for modern devices. Let’s find out more about them.

2.    SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)

SATA connections offer a transfer speed between 150 and 600 Mbps. This way, you get better performance to go about your tasks efficiently.

Even better, Serial ATA drives use far less power than PATA drives. So, while a PATA drive requires 5V of power, a SATA drive only uses 250mV.

When it comes to connection and installation, you’ll find that SATA hard drives are easier to attach to your PC. They come with thinner and more flexible cables to make setup easier.

Yet, because SATA drives include moving parts, they might be prone to disconnecting from the computer with movement. So, while Serial ATA drives are still available on the market, there are far better alternatives that come with fewer downsides.

NOTE: Also, SATA and PATA connections only allow two drives per cable, which is another drawback.

3.    SCSI (Small Computer System Interface)

An SCSI connection is a useful type of hard drive cable that you can utilize to connect different sorts of devices. For instance, it works well with hard drives, scanners, printers, CD-drivers, and more.

The SCSI is easily distinguishable by its 50-pin flat ribbon cables, and it was especially popular for about 10 years, from 1986 until 1995. Of course, these hard drive connectors are still used today, although they’ve been updated to Ultra-SCSI.

Ultra-SCSI uses either 68 or 80-pin connectors as well as a pin-less plug, which is quite similar in shape to a USB connection. The best thing about Ultra-SCSI is that you can connect up to 16 devices or drives through these connections.

Plus, SCSI cables can be connected internally or externally.

However, one of this connection’s downsides is that it can only run one communication at a time and only in the order it’s given. So, an SCSI cable doesn’t allow simultaneous transfers, which means it’s slow.

4.    SSD (Solid State Drives)

Last but not least, we get to our personal favorite hard drive and its connection.

SSDs are the most popular type of hard drives that have eliminated connection issues to a great degree. You’ll find these drives in almost every laptop nowadays, with much faster speeds to suit all uses.

SSDs can read speeds of 5 GB per second and write speed of approximately 4.4 GB per second. Of course, with such high performance, a drawback is that Solid-State drives tend to heat up quickly. Yet, this problem is more manageable compared to the trouble that comes with other connections.

The connection for SSDs doesn’t include cables or moving parts, making it less prone to damage caused by movement. That’s because an SSD does its work through a flash memory chip, which provides quick data access and storage.

You can also find SSD technology in smartphones. Plus, they come with general compatibility just like typical flash drives. However, if you wish to connect an SSD to more devices, you may want to invest in an additional wire.


So, that’s it. Our little spiel on hard drive connections. While this wasn’t an exhaustively deep dive into the types of hard drives you might encounter with laptops. We hope it serves as a brief introduction to hard drives and their connection.