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ALL ABOUT HARD DRIVES

January 2nd, 2008 2 comments

An important part of photography technology these days is the media on which you store and access your images. Although some photographers are diehard DVD burners, I primarily archive my images on hard drives. I only use DVD’s for delivery; everything else is on hard drives in triplicate. I do get a lot of questions about hard drives, so I’ll answer them in this thorough post on hard drive technologies.

Solid-State drives are definitely the future. On a Solid-State drive Flash memory is used instead of, or in addition to a spinning disc. There are some hybrid 2.5” notebook drives coming on the market that have built-in flash memory. There are also notebooks being developed that run off of flash memory instead of a spinning hard drive. Vista has a feature called Ready Drive that allows the use of flash memory to speed up the system. The windows OS caches lots of data on the flash memory and accesses it from there instead of from a slower spinning drive. This also saves some battery life. I’m testing an Express 54 Card reader with a compact flash card set up with Ready Drive on my M-Tech laptop.

SIZE
Hard drive technology seems to be out pacing file size. Moore’s Law so far appears to still be in effect for drives, but not file size. I don’t fill up a new drive as fast as I used to. I’m more likely to be replacing them for faster drives before they fill up.

SPEED
Drive speed hasn’t dramatically increased in the way other components have. An old IDE ATA 100 drive from 1995 isn’t really that much slower than today’s top drives and a 1995 SCSI drive isn’t that much slower than today’s top Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives. There have been plenty of great improvements but amazingly speed just hasn’t been that huge. It may not be physically feasible to have rpm speeds faster than 15k and still be reliable enough to work for at least 3-4 years. This is where solid state flash drives may have an advantage in the future.

PRICE
Storage space doesn’t cost what it used to, so we need to change the way we think about purchasing it. Traditionally it was wise to only purchase as much space as you needed for a short time. I don’t see it that way when it’s only $0.20 per gigabyte. It’s best to buy more than enough space to last 3-4 years. The time it takes to migrate your data to a bigger drive is more valuable than the cost of the drive as this can be time consuming and stressful. You do want to replace those drives after 4-5 years of use because they wear out over time.

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