“Gigabytes, Gigahertz? What is this stuff?” (Part 3)

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1 comment   |   Computer General

Let’s talk about

Hard Drive Disk Space

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I cannot tell you how many people confuse hard drive disk space with memory. I can easily see where the misunderstanding would arise. One would normally think, “Memory, yeah–that’s the stuff that your computer remembers!” Memory was discussed last week in the post you can find here. You may also see a picture of memory by clicking here.

What people often think of as memory is actually hard drive disk space. The hard drive disk (abbreviated HDD) is where the computer stores all of the user’s information. Everything from the operating system, to programs, to pictures, documents, music, settings–it is all stored on the HDD. It looks like this.

When shopping for a new computer, the hard drive disk is normally going to be described in this manner: “160 GB 5900 RPM HDD,” or “500 GB 7200 RPM HDD.” The number before “GB” tells you how much data the computer can store. Simply put, larger “GB” means you can store more stuff. The number before “RPM” states how fast the platters on the inside (see below) spin, which is an indication of how quickly your computer can access the data. Faster RPM translates to faster data access with a slight decrease in stability. 5900 RPM means the opposite–a slightly longer amount of time to access the data with a slight increase in stability.

On the inside of the HDD you will find anywhere from two-three “platters” with “heads” that run in-between and above them. It sort looks sort-of like Star Trek meets the phonograph. The internal workings of a HDD can be seen here, here, and here.

Your HDD is unfortunately the single most volatile part of your computer–meaning, it is the most susceptible to damage and often the first thing to stop functioning correctly. The reason is that those individual platters constantly spin anywhere from 5900 to 7200 revolutions per minute with an extremely small amount of space between them and other moving parts. Laptop HDD’s are even more volatile, because people normally treat their laptops with very little care. Moving them around constantly, dropping them occasionally, shoving them in bookbags while they are still on, etc. are all very tough on the HDD.

All of this brings us to one crucial point that everybody knows but never pay attention to–BACK UP YOUR DATA! If you have important information on your computer that you have not backed-up in a long time, you need to stop reading this blog and back up your stuff! You may say, “I don’t know how!” Go to your local electronics shop and ask the salesperson to point you to a USB external hard drive. He will know where to take you. I plan to do a post about data backup in the near future, so if you have not backed-up your data by then, you can tune back in and follow my instructions step-by-step.

I hope this helps! Next week, we are going to talk about optical drives. Stay tuned!

Au revoir,

Scott Davis
Store Manager and Lead Technician
Powell Location

  1. Trish01-20-12

    I feel so much hpapeir now I understand all this. Thanks!

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