Hard Drives

Written by Nicole Madison
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Invented in the 1950s, hard drives are vitally important components of modern computer systems. Hard drives are primary storage devices, which store everything from computer applications to images to downloaded Internet files. Hard drives allow you to access your vital data and programs with a simple click of a mouse button. While other computer components affect speed and performance, the hard drive is the component that allows you to store all the programs and applications you need to operate and use your computer.

Understanding Hard Drives

Think of your computer system as your home. Obviously you don't want to dump your valuables in the middle of the floor, so you need a safe place to store them. You want to store them close by, where you can access what you need quickly and easily, without needing to rummage through chaotic piles. You use closets, drawers, boxes, and bins to store your valuables in a logical and orderly fashion. In this way, your computer hard drive is equivalent to the storage system you have devised in your home. Simply put, your hard drive is where you store your valuable data and programs.

The most common type of hard drive is the internal hard drive. Desktop and notebook computers are sold with internal hard drives already installed. Internal hard drives are installed in the computer terminal and usually cannot be seen from the outside. Many personal computers allow for the easy installation of an additional hard drive to increase storage capacity. Alternatively, most hard drives can be replaced with a larger capacity drive.

Another type of hard drive, the external drive, performs in the same way as internal hard drives, but connects to the computer from the outside via a port. External hard drives can generally be connected to any desktop or notebook computer. External hard drives make a great place to store large files like your image, music, and video files. Storing such typically large files on external hard drives allows for more space on your internal hard drive that can be used for running programs and applications.

One important factor in choosing a hard drive is the capacity. Hard drive capacity is the number of bytes the hard drive can hold, usually expressed in gigabytes. Hard drives are used to store your files, consisting of programs, applications, text, images, video, games, and anything else you can think of. These files are made up of bytes. A gigabyte is equally to roughly one billion bytes. The more gigabytes your hard drive can hold, the more space you will have to store valuable files, data, and programs.

The average desktop computer will generally have a hard drive with a capacity of 40 to 80 gigabytes. You will generally need a minimal amount of hard drive capacity if you use your computer primarily for tasks such as word processing and surfing the Internet. For more complex tasks, such as heavy gaming, graphics editing, and digital video, you will likely want a higher capacity hard drive. However, the best rule of thumb is simply to buy as much gigabyte capacity as you can afford.

Replacing and Upgrading Hard Drives

Like most computer parts, hard drives sometimes need to be replaced. Often, computer users find they want or need more hard drive space and decide to upgrade. While, installing hard drives may sound quite intimidating, it is actually a surprisingly simple task. There are ample resources, which can be found on the Internet, in bookstores, and libraries, to guide you on your way to successfully replacing your hard drive or adding an additional hard drive to your computer system.

If you use your computer on a regular basis, you most likely have tons of valuable information stored on it. If, like many users, you don't back up your files regularly, you risk the chance of losing all of your valuable data due to something as severe as physical hard drive damage or as simple as accidental deletion of an important file. To save yourself from hours of hair-pulling, nail-biting frustration, it pays to learn in advance ways to recover your valuable data if you ever experience a damaged or otherwise compromised hard drive.

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