What are the functions of hard drives?

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What are the functions of hard drives?
The hard drive is a physical component of a computer. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The function of the hard drive is storage. It stores the operating system, software applications, such as text, video and design programs. The hard drive is also the location where your files are saved. So, whenever you create a new text document or a design file and save it, it is written onto the hard disk. The hard drive is a physical component and shouldn't be confused with the "C drive" -- a logical drive mapped onto space on the physical disk.

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Composition

A typical hard drive is composed of a series of small disks called platters. Made from either aluminium alloy or a glass and ceramic composite, these disks have a special coating that allows digital data to be written onto them. When something is saved to the hard disk, a small head moves over the spinning platter to write the data onto it. The head also removes data from the hard drive when applications or files are deleted.

Size

Hard drives are measured by the storage capacity they offer. This is measured in gigabytes GB and range from around 120GB up to 1 terabyte. You will usually see the abbreviations for gigabytes and terabytes rather than their full name, these are GB and TB respectively.

Speed

Besides size, hard drives are defined by their speed. The speed of a hard drive refers to how quickly the platters revolve each minute. The faster the speed, the quicker booting up is. Hard drive speeds generally range from 5400 to 12000 RPM. RPM stands for revolutions per minute.

Types

A standard hard drive is known as HDD, which means "hard disk drive." In the late 2000s a slightly different type of hard drive,known as a "solid-state drive" began to come onto the market. SSD units have similar storage capacities to HDD devices. These drives perform the same functions within the computer, but rather than a series of circular platters, the data is saved onto flash memory chips. These chips can be integrated into the internal mechanisms of the computer or on an external drive. SSD drives run quicker than regular hard drives, but are also more expensive.

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