Buying Cheap Hard Drives
The most commonly used hard drives are ATA type and are adequate for most tasks.
ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment), also known as IDE, (Integrated Device Electronics) Most motherboards come equipped to handle ATA as well as SATA (Serial ATA). SATA is a slightly faster serial interface and is a good choice for RAID configuration (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). RAID was originally used to interconnect many drives in a file server. The advantage of access speed, automatic data backup and low cost has led this technology to spill over into the home and small business PC market.
Serial ATA hard drives are only slightly more expensive than ATA and are a good choice for any user type. ATA and SATA both come in 7200 RPM and 10,000 RPM speeds with the 10,000 RPM being faster and more expensive of course.
I thought I would mention the SCSI drive briefly. SCSI drives (pronounced scuzy) are not usually supported by motherboard manufacturers without an add-in interface card. SCSI drives are very fast, but they are also small and expensive. Not a good choice for the average user.
The hardest decision you make might be the size of the drive you need.
If you are confused by Mega this and Giga that, I will try to give you some perspective here.
Shortly after you install Windows XP you will have used about 10GB of drive space. Over the next year Windows XP will fill up another 5GB or more, with stuff it thinks is important. If you install Microsoft Office, a graphics editor, Solitaire Deluxe and scan 50 pictures for your photo album, you will have used up 20GB of drive space. So 20GB is the absolute minimum for Windows XP.
In fact you will find it difficult to find a 20GB hard drive these days. But bigger drives are not that expensive. For the average user I recommend an 80GB drive or bigger. Maxtor and Seagate both have very good warrantees and customer service. Western Digital is making a come back form a period of slacking. WD's customer service has improved substantially through their online customer service and product return policies.
The reason I mention warrantee is because the hard drive is one of the few computer components that has moving parts. Moving parts mean wear from friction. In technical circles it is said, "It is not a question of, If a drive breaks down, it is a question of when a drive breaks down."
Another tech quote is, back it up or lose it. You have been warned.
Tip: A simple and often over looked way to avoid data loss when Windows crashes is to use 2 hard disks or create 2 partitions on 1 large hard drive. You can install the operating system on the first drive or partition and save your files to the other. This way, when Windows crashes and won't reboot your saved files will not be affected. You can format the drive or partition containing the operating system or reinstall Windows if needed and your saved files will be safe.
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