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Difference between SATA and SSD Drives – Learn Here

Here, we take a look at the difference between SATA and SSD drives with the hopes of understanding what they are all about.

Just as a prelude to what’s to come, SATA HDDs make use of magnetism to store data whereas SSDs store data in semiconductor chips. From consumer perspective, SATA HDDs are much much slower as compared to even the slowest SSDs

Saying that data storage in computers has seen a massive shift in the past few decades is not enough to express the evolution.

Where once data was written onto large drums, we now have mass storage devices with millions of times the capacity of some of the older devices and a lot smaller, enough to fit on the palm of your hands.

Even as we celebrate an increase in storage capacity with an almost relative increase in data access speeds, we also see that there are some differences between the drives that are in use today.

Below we will understand what each is about and how they compare to each other.

SATA HDD

SATA is short for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. It is a bus interface used in computers to connect the host devices, in this case, computers to a mass storage device.

Mass storage devices are used to store large quantities of data and in your computer, it is used to store the programs and the files (including the Operating system) that the computer needs to run.

SATA HDDs are mass storage devices that use magnetism to store data onto a spinning metallic disk. The data is written and read off the magnetic disk with the help of an arm that moves across the disk’s surface as it spins.

SATA HDDs have been in use for a long time because they allowed us to shrink storage devices enough for it to be feasible enough to have them in personal computers.

Nowadays, SATA HDDs are the most common mass storage devices and they are found in laptops as well as desktops.

The reason is that they have a large storage capacity, are efficient and reliable and they are quite inexpensive so you can purchase one and install it on your computer easily.

Also Read: 7200 RPM HDD vs SSD

Difference between SATA and SSD Drives
A SATA HDD next to a Kingston SATA SSD. Notice the exposed metallic disk on the HDD. Source: techradar.com

Also Read: 5 Best Motherboards for NAS in 2020

SATA SSD

SATA SSDs are similar to their HDD counterparts in a few ways. For one, both devices use the SATA interface as the medium through which they get connected to the motherboard.

Even though a SATA interface faces some bottlenecks, particularly in the bandwidth department, SATA SSDs have stood out from the rest and have already made a significant impact on computers and their users.

Although both devices connect through the same physical interface, SATA SSDs are much faster than SATA HDDs. This can be attributed to a few factors that we will discuss in the next section.

Regardless, of the different kinds of SSDs, you can get in the market today, SATA SSDs are the most compatible with most motherboards because of their use of the SATA interface.

Besides that, these devices are also quite reliable and have been used, inexpensively, to breathe new life to some very slow computers.

Although they are not as fast as PCIe NVMe SSDs, SATA SSDs are still quite snappy and you will notice the difference when coming from a SATA HDD to a SATA HDD.

Also Read: NVME vs SATA vs mSATA SSD 

Different SSD capacities Available
SSDs are available in varying capacities to meet users’ needs. Source: pluralsight.com

Difference between SATA and SSD Drives

In the battle of the storage devices, SSDs and HDDs, we find that each side has some tools in its arsenal that beats the opposing side.

The technologies used to store data are different but the purpose of the devices remains the same.

Let’s look at some of the differences between these devices.

For starters let us first clear out the fact the SATA interface in use at the moment is the version 3 aka SATA III. This interface has a max transfer speed of 6 Gb/s.

Speed

As previously mentioned, SATA SSDs are significantly faster than SATA HDDs. This has a lot to do with the way these devices store and access data.

SATA hard drives perform differently depending on their RPMs. Here is a simple comparison

  • 5400 RPM – offers speed upto 0.8 Gbps.
  • 7200 RPM – offers speed upto 1.5 Gbps
  • 10,000 ROM – offers upto 1.6 Gbps
  • SATA SSD – offers speed upto 5.5 Gbps

Hence as it can be seen, a SATA SSD is multiple times faster. A SATA SSD in a sense is only limited by the SATA 3 max transfer speed. The faster the SATA speed, the faster would a SATA SSD operate.

With all this movement, the drive spends a lot of time moving from segment to segment looking for data. This, of course, wastes a lot of time, and with many files to check, bottlenecks arise.

An SSD, however, has no moving parts. It uses chips instead so the speed with which the data is read is much higher.

Also Read: Best External Hard Drives for Long Term Storage

Cost

Of course, with a better performance, comes a greater cost. If you take per GB cost, a SATA SSD is much more expensive as compared to a SSD HDD operating at 7200 RPM.

Lifespan

When it comes to the average lifespan, HDDs tend to outlast SSDs. This is because SSDs are more prone to wear and tear with each pass of data reads or writes.

Since they work by driving electrons through gates to change their state. Over time the electronics wear out and the drive fails.

Failure Rates

Because of the moving parts on a SATA HDD, the drive is more prone to failure. This means that anything from mechanical forces like being tossed can cause something to dislodge and the disk ends up not performing optimally.

SSDs are also immune to some magnetism. This can be a problem for HDDs because they rely on magnetism for data storage.

Power Usage

Hard drives need to have motors that spin the disk and also need some magnetic action to move the arm across the disk when reading or writing data.

An SSD, on the other hand, doesn’t require as much energy because it has no moving parts. The result is that with a SATA SSD, you end up using less power, about 2-3 watts to be exact. Power usage for a SATA HDD is about double this value.

Different parts of a hard disk
This image shows some of the common parts of a SATA HDD. Data gets written onto the disk. Source: quora.com

Overall User Experience

While SATA SSDs are costlier than SATA HDDs, they provide some key advantages that make them more user friendly.

Of course, this will boil down to personal preference and the use case, but with the reduced power usage, magnetism safety, and high operating speeds, these drives seem to have an upper hand. Furthermore, they do not make any noise, unlike a spinning HDD.

Also Read: 5 Best MSI Motherboards for Gaming in 2020

Why go for PCIe SSD over SATA SSD

With SSDs we find that some kinds lead the pack in terms of performance and there are those that are more budget-friendly. On this spectrum, we have PCIe SSDs and SATA SSD drives.

They all work very differently from one another and ultimately one is a lot faster and uses a PCIe bus interface instead of the SATA Interface.

With the PCIe SSD, the computer’s storage device has access to the PCIe bus. This means that it’s capable of achieving tremendous transfer speeds, much more than the speed that an SSD using a SATA interface can.

A PCIE NVME SSD can reach speeds upto a whipping 32 Gbps. This about 6 times faster than a conventional SATA SSD.

If there were to be a reason to go for the PCIe SSD over the SATA SSD, it would be the fast transfer speed which will be great for faster booting as well as running some demanding applications.

Unfortunately, PCIe NVME SSD cost a lot more.

Conclusion

With a lot of options when it comes to the choice of which storage device to use, users are bombarded with a wide selection.

However, when you find yourself wondering what the difference between SATA and SSD drives is, then this article should come to your rescue.

SATA SSDs provide a faster means to store and retrieve data on your computer, albeit more expensive. They cost a little more than SATA HDDs, but they are quite essential when you need a more responsive system.

Despite being so different, these drives have one cool thing in common. They are very easily available.

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