Modern computer users try to get the best performance out of their machines as is possible. This makes sense, especially if you paid hundreds of dollars for your motherboard. They’ll upgrade a computer with the latest RAM memory, graphics cards, sound cards, and even explore other techniques like overclocking to get a computer to run faster.
Some computer users wonder if the speed of a hard drive might also affect computer performance. After all, hard drives are sold at different RPMs and seek speeds. Here’s a look at how the speed of your hard drive can affect the speed of your computer.
Hard Drive Construction – First of all, it’s helpful to know a little bit of information about how hard drives work, exactly. Hard drives consist of spinning platters that contain your data as a series of negative and positive magnetic charges. These platters spin directly below read and write heads, which read and, you guessed it, write those charges. The heads also move, jumping back and forth across the surface of the platters to find the specific bits of information that a computer uses to operate, pull open files, etc. Any time a computer is on, the hard drive is being read from and usually written to, although modern advancements may enable the hard drive to store some information in the form of a flash-memory cache that the computer uses until it’s time to open a file.
RPM – The faster the platters spin, the less time the hard drive will take to pull open a certain bit of data. This can affect your computer’s overall speed, since the computer’s pretty much just waiting on data while those platters spin, regardless of the speed of the computer’s processor or other components. Hard drive platter speed is rated in RPM, or rotations per minute. The bigger the number, the faster they’re spinning. Since bits of data are picked up from all over the hard drive’s surface, this can potentially make a big speed difference when you compare something like a 4800 RPM and a 7200RPM hard drive.
Seek Speed – Another important variable is seek speed. This is the amount of time it takes the hard drive to locate a specific bit of data. The platter speed and the hard drive heads are your important components, so you want a low number for a seek speed. The seek speed and the RPM are taken into account in a third number, the hard drive’s latency. You want this to be low, too.
How It Affects Your Computer’s Performance – Modern computers need to run hard drives with low latency and seek speeds and an RPM of at least 7200RPM. Slower drives will result in a slower computer. Past the 7200RPM barrier, you might not notice significant speed gains, but over the life of the computer, the latency of the hard drive will become more of a factor as more files are added to the hard drive.
If you want a fast computer, it’s a good idea to try to find a hard drive with a very low latency. Buying a fast hard drive will lead to a faster computer, and less frustrated computing for you.
Do you have any other questions about how hard drive speed affects computer performance? Post in our comments section below.