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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives ]

Hard Disk Performance, Quality and Reliability

When considering the actual "real world" daily use of hard disks, and contemplating a hard disk purchase, PC users often ask three key questions:

  • Is this hard disk fast?
  • Is this hard disk well manufactured?
  • Is this hard disk going to last?

These questions are answered by considering carefully the three words that appear in the title of this page. Hard disk performance is important because hard disks are one of the slowest internal PC components, and therefore often limit the performance of the system as a whole. Quality and reliability are critical with hard disks, because they are where your data resides! No other PC component can lead so readily to disaster if it fails.

This section is quite large, and it has to be. Why? Because these matters are so crucial, and unfortunately, few of the "big players" in the industry do a good enough job of educating hard disk users about their products. Here I am talking especially about those who make hard disks, whole PCs and operating systems. Hard disks continue to be sold by flashing appetizing numbers on boxes, placed there to entice consumers who can't easily understand where they fit into the big picture of overall performance. Benchmarks are tossed around the Internet with little knowledge and even less scientific control. And hard disk quality and reliability remain mysteries to many users, who buy whatever seems fast and cheap, and simply hope for the best.

It's my hope that after reading this section you will be in a much better position to evaluate the numbers and claims made by hard disk manufacturers and others. There are three major subsections contained here. The first takes a very detailed look at hard disk performance, discussing different ways that performance can be assessed, common performance specifications, ways of measuring performance, and also describing the various factors inside and outside the hard disk that affect its speed. The second looks at hard disk quality and reliability issues in detail, including a look at warranty issues and features being put into hard disks to improve their reliability. The third major subsection is devoted to the discussion of Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks, or RAID. The use of disk arrays is increasing dramatically as the PC world seeks to improve performance, expand storage capacity, and improve the reliability of the storage subsystem.

Next: Hard Disk Performance

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