Internal hard disk buying guide

Find out all you need to know about choosing the right internal hard disk.

14 Dec 2009
Internal hard disk buying guide

Find out all you need to know about choosing the right internal hard disk.

Recommended minimum specifications

Capacity: 500GB

Spindle speed: 7,200rpm

Interface: PATA or SATA

Follow the steps to choose your ideal specs

  1. An internal hard disk with the above specifications should cost around £40. It's fast enough for general use and provides enough storage space for an average user. Make sure you get the interface type that matches your PC. Parallel ATA (PATA) connectors use wide ribbon cables and are generally found in old computers. The new Serial ATA (SATA) interface uses a thinner cable and is slightly quicker. You'll find that all new hard disks will have the SATA interface
  2. PATA hard disks require a standard four-pin Molex power cable. Some SATA disks can also use a Molex power connector, but most require a SATA power connector. If your power supply doesn't have any SATA power leads then you can buy a converter for around £4 including VAT from www.maplin.co.uk.
  3. Buy a hard disk with the capacity you'll need, but aim to leave a little breathing room, as you'll always need more storage. A 1TB disk strikes the best balance between capacity and low cost per gigabyte, but in general you should buy the largest disk you can afford.
  4. If you want more disk space or you want to protect your data, think about buying hard disks to create a RAID array. These use multiple hard disks to create a single, large, logical disk with better performance or protection for your data. RAID arrays need to be built with hard disks of the same size. Technically, these can be from different manufacturers, but try to get identical disks if you can.
  5. A hard disk's spindle speed is very important as it governs how quickly the disk can transfer data. A spindle speed of 7,200rpm is common in desktop drives and fast enough for most purposes. If you do a lot of video editing or you run demanding applications, a 10,000rpm hard disk can be faster, but it will be a lot more expensive. Desktop hard disks with 5,400rpm spindle speeds aren't common and are quite slow, but they generate less heat and noise so could be a good choice if you're building a small, quiet PC.

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