Welcome to a guide and list of the different types of computer drives – Floppy drives, hard drives, optical drives, flash drives, and network drives. Computer storage media and technology have evolved a lot over the years, and there are a ton of different gadgets for storing data these days. Just how many are there, and which is which? Read on to find out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Useful Bits & Links
In the dark ages of computing, floppy drives used to be the mainstream external storage device. For you guys who have never seen a floppy disk before, it is basically a piece of “magnetic paper” wrapped in plastic.
1) FLOPPY DRIVES
Popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, floppy drives were pretty much the industry standard. It comes in 3 different standard sizes – The 8″ floppy drive, the 5.25″ floppy drive, and the 3.25″ floppy drive. But of course, these are relics of the past now and kept by some collectors as a part of a museum display.
2) BERNOULLI DRIVE
Popular in the 1980s, the Bernoulli Drive (otherwise also known as the Bernoulli Box) is invented by Iomega. It is the “god-level” storage device in cyber ancient times, with each Bernoulli disk holding up to 10 times or more than a standard floppy disk.
3) ZIP DRIVE
Following up with a hunger for more storage space, Iomega came up with the Zip Drive in 1994, replacing the Bernoulli Drive. The Zip Drive became pretty popular but was soon taken over by writable compact discs (CDR).
4) SUPERDISK DRIVE
A contender to the Zip Drive, but sadly not very popular. Took over by CDR and SuperDisk drives ceased production in 2003.
Hard disk drives are what we usually have in the computer for permanent data storage, and they are the longest surviving devices in the history of computer storage.
5) MECHANICAL HARD DISK DRIVES (HDD)
Hard disks basically work by storing data in spinning magnetic platters and using read/write heads to access it. This is why we call it a mechanical hard disk, as it involves the movement of several parts.
Even though the connectors and technologies of the hard disks have changed over the years, the standard sizes of 3.5″ and 2.5″ remained the same; We can even buy “hard disk enclosures” and turn the hard disks into external drives these days.
6) SOLID-STATE DRIVES (SSD)
The solid-state drive is also a hard drive, but it is a different technology. Traditional hard disks work by spinning data platters, but SSDs are straight-up “one solid piece of circuit board”. No motors, no read/write heads.
This has proven to be a popular design for mobile devices, as it is much lighter (without the mechanical parts), totally shockproof, and the read/write speed is also a lot faster than the traditional hard disks.
7) M.2 SSD
The M.2 SSD is still a solid-state drive, just smaller in footprint. Yep, the race for even smaller and thinner devices goes on. A typical M.2 drive is about the size of a stick of gum.
Floppy drives and hard drives work by using magnetic technologies to store data. Optical drives, on the other hand, uses light to store data.
8) OPTICAL DISK DRIVE
Wildly popular in the 1990s and 2000s, optical disk drives come in many “versions”.
- Compact Disc (CD) – The early version of the optical discs.
- Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) – The later “improved version”.
- Blue-Ray Disc (BD) – The current “common Joe” optical discs.
But as of the start of 2010, the rise of the Internet, mobile devices, flash drives, and memory have overshadowed the use of optical discs.
Welcome to the information age, and a few options for network storage rose along with the wireless technology boom.
9) NETWORK-ATTACHED STORAGE DRIVE (NAS)
Once upon a time, sharing a file requires a lot of complicated network and permission settings on the computer. So much so that it is more convenient to just copy the files into an external disk. Today, we have something called a “NAS drive”.
It is very simply a “hard drive enclosure with network capabilities”. After a one-time setup, the NAS drive will become available for everyone who connects to it. Magic.
P.S. NAS drive enclosures come in different flavors – There are “advanced NAS enclosures” that can take multiple hard disks and act more like a storage server.
10) CLOUD DRIVES
A cloud drive is not a physical device per se. It is actually storage space that you get on the Internet, and here are some free options.
Finally, these are drives that don’t quite fit into any of the above categories.
11) FLASH DRIVES
You should have seen these everywhere. These convenient little gadgets are otherwise known as pen drives or thumb drives.
12) TAPE DRIVES
Tape drives use magnetic tapes to store data. Although slow, tape drives can store a lot of data, which makes them perfect for server backups.
13) VIRTUAL DRIVES
In the world of computing, there is something called “permanent storage” and “temporary storage”.
- Permanent storage – Slower read/write speeds, but the data will still be there when we power off the computer.
- Temporary storage – Blazing fast read/write speeds, but the data is gone when we power off the computer.
As you may have already guessed, all the storage devices so far are permanent storage. A virtual drive is a “volatile hard disk” that we create out of temporary memory. It is extremely fast, but of course, the data will perish once we shut down or restart the computer.
USEFUL BITS & LINKS
That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.
STANDARD DRIVE BAYS
When it comes to internal drives, there are 3 standard sizes.
- 5.25″ – Gotten a lot less popular with the “everything small” mobile technology.
- 3.5″ – The standard size for hard disks.
- 2.5″ – The standard size for laptop/tablet hard disks.
But these “standard bays” are also disappearing in this age in favor of “even small and thinner” form factors.
As with the many types of drives, the interface that connects the drives to the computer has changed over the years. These are the few common ones that you should be aware of.
- Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA) – The once-upon-a-time de facto standard when it comes to internal drives. Now obsolete and taken over by SATA.
- Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) – Another once-upon-a-time common standard used for hard drives in servers.
- Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) – The modern-day standard connector when it comes to hard disks.
- Universal Serial Bus (USB) – You should know this one, the modern-day common Joe when it comes to all sorts of plug-and-play devices.
LINKS & REFERENCES
- Computer Drives – Computer Hope
- Types of Computer Hard Disk Drives – TurboFuture
- Hard Disk Drive – Wikipedia
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand computer drives, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy computing. May the cyber force be with you.