Death of the hard drive

The death of the hard drive. Graphic by Alex Morgan.

An end to an era in computing may be on the doorstep of thousands of people. Hard drives, which have been a vital part of data storage for computers, may be on their way out and their exit from the scene of computing may be soon. As hard drive sizes have continued to grow, they have also become in many ways an antiquated means of storing data.

The end of the hard drive might’ve been marked with something as simple as flash memory being introduced as a means of storing digital pictures. While initially this was not the sign of the end for the hard drive, flash memory began being used in larger scales as it rapidly grew cheaper and cheaper. This can be seen with the prices of pen drives in the past few years and their rapid decrease in price as the makers have become more sophisticated in the development and use of flash memory.

In the past year or so, flash memory drives for computers have become more common. Flash memory drives have some major advantages over hard drives. First off, flash memory drives are much more stable than the hard drive. Those horrible crashes people have come to expect from their computers, while not a memory of the past, will certainly happen less frequently. Flash memory drives have a much faster data recall rate. This means programs will load up and start up much faster than they currently do on hard drives. Flash memory drives use less energy and are much more energy efficient. This can be seen by Apple’s decision to use solid state drives (SSD) which is a type of flash memory drive in their MacBook Air. The reasoning for this is that SSDs would extend the battery life of the computer as well as lessen the likelihood of the computer overheating.

Apple’s decision started a trend as netbooks also began to incorporate SSDs as their main means of data storage. The pros outweighed the cons and for SSDs the only real cons currently are the price and the sizes which the hard drives come in. SSDs for the most part are much smaller as far as the amount of data they hold. Though the main reason for this price is to create a drive on par with the standard hard drive today, it would be extremely expensive.

It’s only a matter of time before larger SSD drives are able to be produced for cheaper prices. The benefits they provide to computing are great and soon the average person will be able to enjoy those benefits. Imagine a world where laptop batteries lasted significantly longer than they currently do and the only change in technology is the type of data drive in the computer. There would be programs popping with the touch of a button and no need for a load time or the feared color wheel of death. All of this will soon be possible in a SSD world.