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storage guide

The PC Storage Guide for the Masses

  1. Introduction
  2. Internal Drives Connectivity Options
  3. External Drives Connectivity Options
  4. Storage Method: Mechanical Drives
  5. Storage Method: Solid-State Drives
  6. Stuff to check before purchasing storage
  7. View All

All electronic devices need storage. PC storage is essential not just for casual end-users, but also for content makers, gamers, HTPC users and others. Some may not need a lot of storage as long as there’s good enough speed for quick boot and application load. Some need a lot of storage for archiving where speed isn’t really needed. Some need both and beyond. I’ve seen many types of users simply installing the cheapest possible option just to get things running which, unfortunately, does not give them the best speed that allows them to enjoy their system to its fullest potential. To understand which type of storage drives give what kind of advantage will help you to choose the right for yourself.

All storage drives need a way to store and retrieve data that we need. This is referred to as a ‘file system’. The ones that are typically used in PC systems is NTFS (New Technology File System) while many flash drives and memory cards use FAT and exFAT.

In a nutshell, different types of storage devices for particular purposes use a particular type of file systems. This helps the user to access or store data. Some formats enable compatibility with multiple devices while taking advantage of the performance of the storage unit. This guide will cover the hardware aspect since it’s a much larger topic for the PC users.

storage guide

This guide is not limited to internal drives, but it will start from two types of storage type you can get your hands on.

Connectivity Options
External and Internal hard drives have their own respective ways to connect with a system. They are as follows:

Internal External
SATA, mSATA, M.2, PCIe, SATA Express USB, FireWire, eSATA, Thunderbolt, Ethernet

  • SATA

Serial-ATA (short for SATA) the most common interface for internal storage drives- both for mechanical and Solid-State Drives. SATA connectors are made to replace the much older and obsolete IDE or PATA interface which used a much larger connector and ribbon type cable. Thanks to the newer standard implementation at the time, it provided a fixed connector standard and the means to provide larger transfer bandwidth and reduce cable size and cost. SATA interface also provides support for options such as hot-swap, NCQ and AHCI.

The first SATA revision (SATA 1) provided the data transfer bandwidth of up to 150MB/s. SATA II doubled that, providing 300MB/s and the current SATA standard SATA III providing a data transfer capability of up to 600MB/s. Even though these SATA standards are different in data transfer potential, the best part is that these hard drives with this standard are backward compatible and the connectors are standard with a one-sided connector with a right angled-notch.

Before we progress, understand that these numbers are the amount of data in seconds, but the actual performance throughput to take advantage of this bandwidth range depends on the potential of the storage drive and the controller that is responsible for handling SATA.

The emphasis on types of SATA controllers for motherboards is mentioned in the motherboard guide.

SATA Ports

SATA Ports

The explanation of features for SATA are as follows:

Hot Plugging/Hot Swapping is a term used for devices which allows the user to replace the component with another or removing it without shutting down the system or interrupting it (unless a program or data is actively used at the time of removal). Removing USB flash drives is an excellent example. This enables the user to add or remove drives (preferably when not in use) should one require. However, it should be noted that removing the drive with the operating system will interrupt your system. This is useful in cases where you have additional drives where you use it for the purpose of storing data.

Native Command Queuing (NCQ) is a function for SATA that prioritizes read and write instructions on the HDD once it’s done by the user. This works by adjusting its recording head based on where the data is stored or where it needs to be written and reduces the number of rounds it would make by accessing that area of the disk as quick as possible. This reduces the workload on a mechanical drive’s recording head, therefore optimizing it for quicker speed.

NCQ works with SSDs as well. Combined with the natural benefits of an SSD, it helps to provide better performance that one can get from the storage drive especially multi-tasking between storage-intensive tasks.

Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is a function made by Intel. It allows the functions mentioned above- hot swap and NCQ. It’s a present specification that allows hardware component manufacturers to transfer data from a storage drive to the computer’s memory.

SATA has a separate connector for power. Older Hard drives and even optical drives use Molex connectors, but hard drives have implemented SATA power connector standard for easy connectivity and also to make a hot swap easier especially for NAS units. Modern power supply manufacturers have a set of cables with SATA power connectors where you can simply plug it in. While the SATA power cable from the power supply is connected to the drive, while the SATA cable is connected from the drive to the motherboard’s SATA connector.

  • mSATA

Zotac_ID92_Plus_0067

Mini SATA uses SATA specification but with a much smaller sized connector. This was primarily designed for notebooks, netbooks, laptops, mini-PCs and even for desktop motherboards of all sizes.

  • M.2

M.2 Mount

M.2 Mount

M.2 was originally referred to as Next Generation Form Factor standard. This interface specification is made for slimmer profile add-on cards and for storage. Eventually, M.2 standard replaced mSATA due to the versatility of the standard which allows the user to use the connector for more than just storage, should he choose to do so. Due to a slimmer profile, it can be used in ultrabooks, tablets, mini-PCs and desktop motherboard of all sizes. The current specification provides a bandwidth of up to 10 Gb/s.

As far as desktop motherboards are concerned, usually a motherboard has a single mSATA port, but there have been times when motherboard manufacturers have provided two, with one locked for a specific function. Such as Gigabyte X99-UD4.

M.2 has four lengths which allow more NAND chips to be installed and used. The physical compatibility depends more on the motherboard or the device that has the M.2 port. They are of 30mm, 42mm, 60mm, 80mm and 110mm. The width is always of 22mm. There are threaded mounts along with a screw on the motherboard between these standard lengths so that a user can secure the M.2 drives properly.

Furthermore, there are two types of M.2 sockets- B Key and M Key. A B-Key based M.2 drives use up to 2 PCIe lanes while M-Keys can use up to 4 PCIe lanes. Most M.2 drives and sockets available now have B+M sockets which compatible with both key types.

It should be noted that though almost all mid-end motherboards have one (Z170 provides up to three) M.2 port, there are limited amount of PCIe lanes provided by the chipset. Depending on the cards and drives occupying existing slots and SATA connectors, using an M.2 or a PCIe card may disable certain slots or certain SATA ports. Such instructions are always given in the motherboard manual.

  • PCIe

PCIe Slots

PCIe Slots

Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is designed for add-ons such as graphic cards, sound cards, etc. for desktop motherboards. PCIe is a standard that provides high speed. This is useful for storage-specific cards like RAID cards and even PCIe-based SSD. Solid State Drives can be fast enough that it can be limited by the bandwidth provided by SATA, especially in RAID. Since PCIe provides a lot more bandwidth than SATA (determined by the PCIe generation and the slot type x1, x4, x8 or x1) can provide. Some PCIe SSDs are configured in a way that it runs in RAID mode with a dedicated chip on board a device.

The comparison of different PCIe bandwidth with SATA III are as follows:

Throughput Theoretical Maximum Throughput
SATA III 6.0 Gb/s (750 MB/s)
PCI-E 2.0 x2 8 Gb/s (1 GB/s)
PCI-E 2.0 x4 16 Gb/s (2 GB/s)
PCI-E 3.0 x4 32 Gb/s (4 GB/s)

  • SATA Express

SATA-IO-SATA-Express.jpg

This standard is also called as SATA 3.2 specification. This works by using two SATA ports on the motherboard, along with another connector that provides PCIe bandwidth. This way, SATA Express Solid State drives can benefit from a much higher data transfer speeds. Since it uses two SATA ports, the individual ports can be used for SATA-based drives as well.

  • SFF-8643

The SFF-8643 connector is introduced along with NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) which provides low latency, low CPU consumption, improved parallel I/O and high data throughput compared to SATA and even SAS interface.

  • USB

As the name suggests, Universal Serial Bus (USB) is made to allow many types of external devices to be connected for easy plug-and-play functions. This allows many devices such as MP3 players, smartphones, external optical drives, peripherals like keyboard, mouse, scanner, printer, etc. Another function and the most commonly used one is the means to store and transfer data inside an external source.

Just like the SATA standard, there are USB standards but the universal connectors on the motherboards and systems are backwards compatible. USB 1.0 was the first standard but eventually it was succeeded by USB 1.1 to allow wider adoption of the standard. USB 1.0 had two data transfer rate variants, but eventually USB 2.0 came out provides a much higher bandwidth of 480Mbit/sec. There were few variants of the USB 2.0 connector, such as mini-A and mini-B. Eventually, Micro-USB specification and even device battery charging option for phones and similar devices with batteries allowed charging via USB. After a very long time, USB 3.0 standard (colour coded as light blue) allowed up to a throughput of 5.0 Gbit/s. This connector is the currently widely adopted standard, but the best devices that take advantage of this is the external storage drives, including flash drives. Some manufacturers went further in taking advantage of the throughput by using SATA based controllers for SSDs in flash drives. Along with the standard USB 3.0 connector, this standard also has type-B AND type-A connectors.

The newly available standard as of now is the USB 3.1. Unlike the variants above, this one doubles to up to 10Gbit/s, called as “Superspeed+”. Along with the USB 3.1, the USB type C standard is introduced for allows a slim profile connector which has the same type of connector on both sides of the cable. Type C USB standard is originally designed keeping smartphones and such slim devices in mind, but it also helps to simplify by replacing USB 3.0 Type A and B connectors. Some motherboard makers have started embedding USB Type C connector, typically placed towards the rear I/O.

USB ports are colour coded so that users can identify them according to the specification, feature and bandwidth it provides for data transfer. They are as follows:

White Black Blue Yellow/Red Teal Blue
USB 1.x USB 2.0 USB 3.0 Always On/High power for charging USB 3.1

  • eSATA

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

eSATA uses the same SATA standard. The difference, however, is that the connector is designed to be more suited for external use, along with function to provide longer and magnetically shielded cables and better backward compatibility. This allowed the storage devices to reap the benefits of SATA bandwidth at the time older USB and the now currently unused FireWire interface based external storage used a SATA to USB or FireWire converter within the casing.

eSATA uses the same SATA standard. The difference, however, is that the connector is designed to be more suited for external use, along with function to provide longer and magnetically shielded cables and better backward compatibility. This allowed the storage devices to reap the benefits of SATA bandwidth at the time older USB and the now currently unused FireWire interface based external storage used a SATA to USB or FireWire converter within the casing.
eSATA also did come with a Gb/s support variant, but the organization responsible for maintaining a standard for the interface (SATA-IO) kept referring it to as ‘eSATA’ to prevent any confusion.

The problem that eSATA had was that it wasn’t to attract the user base that was satisfied with the USB standard. There was also a problem that devices uses eSATA required a separate power source, unlike FireWire and USB standard which provides power through the same cable.

Esatap_port

Via Wikipedia

Eventually, SATA-IO presented eSATAp which provides power through the same port. Also, because of the design, it allows the end user to use both USB and eSATA cables. eSATAp didn’t pick up the pace. It is said that one of the reason could be because both the companies who made storage devices and systems with this port kept referring the connector as eSATA. It is also said that the versatility and the common usage of USB just didn’t convince users to jump ship.

  • Thunderbolt

thunderbolt cable

Thunderbolt is an interface standard designed by Intel. Unlike other interface, this external interface used PCIe bandwidth and provided DisplayPort connectivity in a single cable. The standard did pose a serious competition to USB 3.0 standard that was limited to 5.0 G/bit bandwidth back then. It’s another key feature that it had the ability to daisy-chain up to six peripherals within the same cable and used at the same time at the length of 30 metres. The prototype was shown to provide 10Gbit per channel. Thunderbolt’s power to deliver extremely high bandwidth can also be used to use graphics cards. However, just like eSATA, this required external power source.

Eventually, the newer variant was out- Thunderbolt 2 provided enough bandwidth to support DisplayPort 1.2 that was required to stream 4K content on a 4K panel. This was able to deliver up to 20Gb/s per channel.

Thunderbolt 3 controller doubled Thunderbolt 2’s offering, providing bandwidth of up to 40Gb/s, but also reducing the power consumption. Because of the offering, it was to able to stream content to two 4K or 5K monitors in a single cable. It supported HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.3, while providing 100w of power, hence providing a ‘one-cable-does-it-all’ solution. As of now, these are used in Mac Pro and Macbook Pro Retina.

Two of the main reason that Thunderbolt is not widely adopted even within its particular amount of user base is because of the cost of the cable as it also required a circuit on both sides of the connectors to work. A limited number of thunderbolt devices and also the non-feasibility of bundles the cables with it also kept the mass away. Eventually, USB-IF picked up the pace with USB 3.1 and their type-C cable.

  • Ethernet

2x USB 3.0 (Top) 1Gb/s Ethernet (Below)

Rear Connectors

Ethernet ports are used for having a hard-wired connection with a broadband service, but it also is a medium to connect a NAS (Network Attached storage) on the Local Area Network by using devices like routers and switches. This also allowed networked computers, both wired and wireless (NAS depends on the Wireless routers to allow wireless communication with a system) within the LAN network. Commonly used Ethernet port provides 1Gb/s of transfer bandwidth. As it can be connected to devices linked to the internet, you can access the NAS remotely via the internet. The download and upload speed depends on the internet access speed of the user and the one which is used to connect to the NAS. Local data transfer can be quicker compared to online, and even much quicker with a more expensive 10Gb/s bandwidth.

Ethernet ports are used for having a hard-wired connection with a broadband service, but it also is a medium to connect a NAS (Network Attached storage) on the Local Area Network by using devices like routers and switches. This also allowed networked computers, both wired and wireless (NAS depends on the Wireless routers to allow wireless communication with a system) within the LAN network. Commonly used Ethernet port provides 1Gb/s of transfer bandwidth. As it can be connected to devices linked to the internet, you can access the NAS remotely via the internet. The download and upload speed depends on the internet access speed of the user and the one which is used to connect to the NAS. Local data transfer can be quicker compared to online, and even much quicker with a more expensive 10Gb/s bandwidth.

External  HDD Docks

Vantac NexStar HDD Dock

Docks are external hubs which allow you to connect 3.5″ and/or 2.5″ internal drives of your choice which are not connected to your  system. The benefits  is that you don’t  need  to rely on external drive casing or adapters and docks keep  the drives stationary while in use which is required for mechanical drives. These units are powered extra power adapter  to ensure that the unit can power even a large storage drive. These drives also provide hot-swap function, along with compatibility with multiple operating systems just like an external drive. Once the drives are docked, the system detects the drives are external drives. The throughput depends on the drives and on the connectivity type, which is usually USB variants, eSATA. thunderbolt, Ethernet and even WiFi like the unit above.


This is the most long-running storage type of PCs and devices like notebooks. Hard drives have series of storage platters within a tightly packed casing. This is done to protect the platters as they are magnetically sensitive. You could relate these storage platters like a CD or a DVD. However, there are many types of mechanical components within the hard drive.

Before we into the specifics, we need to understand that there are types of two types of HDD form factors- 3.5″ and 2.5″.

3.5″ drives are made for desktop PCs, and 2.5″ are usually made for notebooks, mini-PCs, small form-factor PCs, Intel NUCs, etc. but can also be used even with DIY PCs. Both use standard SATA type connectors for power and data. However, all case manufacturers provide cases with an option to mount both 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives for some time. Usually, the 2.5″ mounts are provided typically for SATA-based SSDs (Solid State Drives) as that’s the only form factor they are used in, but there’s no restriction to prevent using 2.5″ mechanical drive, should you choose to do so. That being said, due to the dimensional difference between a 2.5″ and 3.5″, power consumption, storage space, etc will have certain differences.

When the system turns, the platters within the drive turns around at a particular speed. These are referred to as rotational speeds Companies like WD and Seagate have variable rotational speed which varies depending on the load and the requirement to get data from the drive. This also helps to provide minimum power consumption when idle or putting system on sleep mode, but also it takes time to spin up the drive for the system to access the data from idle/ low spin mode or to wake up. The low-cost drives usually spins at 5400 RPM. The mainstream ones typically run at 7200 RPM and the higher end ones are usually at least 10,000 RPM.

Because of multiple moving components within a drive, a system would take certain amount of time to do a certain task- from booting a system, to running a software or games, running movies and a lot more. This is called areal density. The more the areal density of the platter on the drive, the more data it allows you to put per platter.

Typically, in a 3.5″ drive you find up to platters that manufacturers can put in, but a lot of research and development is done in all aspects. Because of the 2.5″ form factor that typically for notebooks, network and even mini PCs, the amount of platters can be seller. There are size variants (thickness/Z Axis) in 2.5″ form factor, starting from 5mm for slimmer devices like ultrabooks and even slim form factor external storage drives, 7mm for standard size notebooks, mini PCs and much more, to a former standard 12.5mm but with the ability to provide more platter counts and also more space, followed by 15mm for Enterprise/industry specific use.

The benefit (for now) is that depending on the capacity of the drive you chose, hard drives can storage a lot more data per platter in comparison to NAND based storage per chip/per side of the PCB with a reasonable cost.

They are as follows:

  • Consumer Hard Drives

These are standard drives for internal desktop use. Nothing out of the ordinary, but they have multiple variants and series which are differentiated from each other based on HDD platter’s internal rotational speed, Cache Size and storage capacity.

  • Notebook drives

 

These are in 2.5″ form factors only, with a variable thickness which is referred to as the Z-axis. It was originally made for notebooks which eventually was used in prebuilt HTPCs and mini PCs. These are typically between 5200 RPM, 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM as of now. If you plan on upgrading your system with a new 2.5″ drive, typically they would cost more compared to 3.5″ drive depending on the total capacity and performance series they fall under.

  • Enterprise HDDs

These are made for industry-specific uses and cost a lot more than standard hard drives because of added functionalities. These are made for 24/7 usage environment where multiple users access, read and write data. They’re usually used for hosting websites, databases and even in a medium-to-large database networks. These typically run at 10,000 RPM to up to 15,000 RPM. Enterprise drive use Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and even fiber channel, which provides much higher transfer rate than the typical SATA form factor.

  • NAS HDDs

For a home and office use, hard drive makers have made units which have best of both worlds- consumer with few functions typically found in Enterprise drive, but fine-tuned for NAS. They are usually designed with certain power options that are used in Network-attach storage, and even certain functions that reduce vibration typically needed for more than single-drive based NAS units. Units are known to operate even at low temperatures and higher reliability required for 24×7 usage. Depending on the brands, there are proprietary features that provides a lot of functions including expansion compatibility with a variety of NAS units of any brands.

While these are more expensive than standard consumer drives, they have a good use. These also carry a much longer warranty period (5-years as of now) and even telephone support depending on the country you’re living in.

  • Surveillance Drives

wd_purple_6TB

As self-explanatory they made sound, Surveillance HDDs are made specifically for Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and Network Video Recorder (NVR) that’s used to record images and video from a series of surveillance cameras.These are made to be used for 24×7 environment, but the different is that it’s specific to this usage. They are made to reduce any errors of pixelation and even interruptions that would happen at the time of recording them from the cameras and CCTVs in real-time. They are also made to ensure that all this is done with up to a certain amount of CCTVs (usually up to 32 cameras), always-on high definition recording, provided the CCTVs supports that resolution. These are made primarily to be write-intensive and also for streaming. Though these are made for low-power consumption, due to the form factor most surveillance purpose recording units have, they can become hot pretty easily, but these are recommended for high-temperature environments too. These are also made to withstand variable temperatures and vibration in surveillance equipments that are usually much smaller and cramped units. These are also made sure to provide hassle-free compatibility with multiple types of chassis for surveillance purposes and also with chipsets made for surveillance recorders.

  • Hybrid Drives

Hybrid drives are known to provide the ‘best of both worlds’ and usually made by mechanical storage makers. There are two variants of Hybrid drives- one which uses a small NAND on a mechanical drive for a much better read/write cache. While this might not be as quick as SSD variants, it provides a better loading time compared to a typical mechanical drive. Seagate Momentus XT series is one good example and found in both 2.5″ and 3.5″ variants.

The second variant has a PCB with enough NAND storage and a dedicated controller good enough for a primary drive to install your operating system and some of your programs on. The second part within the unit is a mechanical drive. Once the operating system is installed and booted to the main screen, the user needs to use a provided software to format the mechanical component of the unit. Once it’s done and formatted, the user can use the mechanical drive for mass storage. Though this can be used even in desktop systems, this is considered as a good option for notebook and ultrabook users that have a single drive cage. This way, a user can have a good enough SSD space for an operating system and certain applications while having an internal mechanical storage for keeping data. WD Black² is a good example of such drives.

  • External Drives

Many manufacturers have different models, sizes, capacity and connectivity to provide portable storage. Just like internal drives, the external drives have HDDs either with 2.5″ or 3.5″ form factor. Such units usually have a sealed unit which voids the warranty of the drive should the casing be removed or damaged. Usually, these drives have a direct USB 3.0 or any other  external interface and not SATA-based. There is a threaded mount along with the screw on the motherboard between these standard lengths so that a user can secure the M.2 drives properly.

Solid State Drives are to have significant benefits over traditional hard drives to a point that it reinvigorated the PC experience. SSD technology has been improved a long way since the first consumer class variants came out. In general, SSDs have no moving parts and uses a series of NAND chips on the PCB for storing data, while mechanical drives rely on a series of moving parts- platters for writing/accessing data, actuator, spindle motor and actuator arm.

Because of the versatility of NAND, Solid State drives offer much higher speed that any mechanical drive users will begin to appreciate. Since SSDs do not need a series of internal mechanical components to store or retrieve data, the boot-up time is much quicker, higher file transfers with low application loading times. Another advantage is that SSDs consume lesser power compared to its mechanical alternatives.

Because of a slimmer, newer and lighter form factors, these are not just ideal for PC desktop users, but also for notebook, ultrabooks and beyond.

SanDisk_Extreme_II_240GB_0015.jpg

The NAND chips’ lifespan is usually measured using the unit “program/erase per cell”. NANDs can wear out based on the number of data its written on the SSD. Higher the number, the more worn out it can become eventually. The lifespan of the NAND chip has improved a lot, but many types of users do heavy write-and-erase specific tasks. This means that such users could wear out their SSDs much quicker than standard users, gamers and many other types of users. This depends more on the user and the type of NAND chips SSDs are using. There are three types of NAND which works differently and is known to have different amount of wear levels. Like mechanical drives, there are variants. We will start with two types of NAND memory chips used in SSDs- SLC, MLC and TLC.

There are three types of NAND which works differently and is known to have a different amount of wear levels. Like mechanical drives, there are variants. We will start with two types of NAND memory chips used in SSDs- SLC, MLC and TLC.

  • SLC (Single Level Cell)

These type of NAND storage stores one bit of data per NAND flash (one storage block within a NAND chip). This is primarily done to have a much higher cell endurance during write, a lower power consumption and even higher read/write speeds. SSDs with such NANDs are ideal for many industrial purpose systems and for critical applications. These NANDs are well known to have the highest P/E cycles of 90,000- 100,000 P/E cycles per cell.

  • MLC (Multi-Level Cell)

These can store more than two bits of data per NAND block. By doing so, manufacturers are able to have a lower manufacturing cost. These are aimed towards mainstream users, but due to improvements and easier on the budget for many user types, they are pitched towards gamers and hardware enthusiasts as well. The wear leveling has improved over the years. These have a wear level of 10,000 P/E cycles per cell.

  • TLC (Three-Level Cell)

TLC NAND based SSDs are the cheapest of the bunch, but have the least amount of endurance of 3,000- 5,000 P/E per cell. These NANDs can store up to 3 bits of data per cell. For lower-end users (mostly casual users) would be tempted to buy SSDs for a much lower price tag.

Life expectancy of a Solid State Drive was a concern at one point, but drives now have a much higher endurance enough to keep users happy for many years. Casual users and even gamers may not have as much as heavy load compared to content makers, those who very regularly benchmark or stress test their storage and certain power users. In any cases, most drives have a non-usable space to provide performance and stability by providing redundancy.

Newer SSDs in 2.5″ drive are also compatible with previous generation SATA interface (SATA I and SATA II which provides bandwidth up to 1.5Gb/s and 3.0 Gb/s). Many manufacturers believe that SATA III bottlenecked SSD performance, which is why manufacturers including chipmakers like Intel have been making alternate standards. M.2 is one of them which is widely provided a low-profile installation and also much higher interface speeds via PCIe lanes. The newer generation chipsets made for LGA 1151 socket processors ‘Skylake’ is known to provide a much higher PCIe lanes keeping such storage in minds. Because of this, a fully utilized Intel Z170 chipset based motherboards can allow a user to user up to 3 M.2 SSDs and even make a RAID setup.

There are other interfaces that are made primarily for SSDs, such as using PCIe slots and a newer SATA Express. Though many PCIe based SSDs are around, SATA Express haven’t really picked up.


While we obviously know if we want to buy external or internal storage and our budget, we often reach at a crossroads when it comes to performance, capacity, types and even warranty.  Sometimes spending a lot of money is not really needed, sometimes buying a better unit for a bit higher price is the best investment for long term. But here are some questionnaires you can ask yourself:

  • For which device you are purchasing?

Whether it’s for notebook, netbook, desktop systems, NAS or any other device, this is the first question you should have the answer to. Knowing the Form factor and interface type you need are important to know for certain devices.

  • Upgrade or Replacement?

Some people replace an existing storage device. Some are simply adding storage. This way you can set a priority where you need a fast storage, or a large storage drive.

  • What’s your requirement?

Is it speed? Is it space? Two basic questions you need to ask yourself whether you are buying an external or internal drive. Because at the end of the day, if you choose a quick enough drive, you may have to compromise on space especially if you’re on a budget. If you need large amount of space and don’t really care about speed, then it should be easier for you to choose?

The second set of question is more specific: Is it for your operating system and a set of applications? Is it for your network storage? Is it for your Surveillance Units? Is it for quick data transfer? Is it for real-time or scheduled backup? There are many specific-purpose storage drives, including external HDMI recorders for DSLRs which records from the camera’s HDMI port to a dock with a solid state drive for having uncompressed video recording. Every device has a purpose. Buying the wrong one would be a waste.

Third set: Do you simply need a barebone storage or do you need utility, software, accessories, kits, etc with it? Some manufacturers sell SSD in a basic packaging. Some provide an upgrade kit which comes with a bundled software and accessories required to clone your existing operating system to your new SSD so that you can swap them while having the same set of data. Be sure to check that at the least you have the same amount of used space in your new drive as you have with the old drive.

  • Compatibility

For some people, they will be swapping their storage from one system to another. While storage drives are usually either NTFS or exFAT, it’s still best to check the seemingly obvious before purchasing anything. Knowing the drive’s compatibility with interfaces is also useful. This wouldn’t be a problem for SATA or USB since they have backward compatibility.

But also it should be compatible with your existing systems, especially for internal usage when using a power supply. While for most who use a good enough power supplies won’t be bothered much, it would for those who have a minimum power output based power supply or a bad one with the risk of potentially damaging your hardware.

  • Warranty

Warranty is important, not just warranty period but also terms and conditions. Many people don’t know that manufacturers will only replace the defective unit, but are not responsible to retrieve data.  Experience with warranty differs a lot depending on where you live.

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