computer slowing down? could be the hard drive


What are the factors that most affect the performance of a hard disk?

The performance of a hard disk is most affected by its interface and its spindle speed. The spindle speed decides how fast data can be read from and written to the hard disk platters. Therefore, the higher the drive’s rotations per minute (rpm), the faster its data transfer speed. Understandably, a drive with more rpm is more expensive compared to one with a lower spindle speed. Recently, the advent of solid state drives, commonly called SSDs have threatened the existence of traditional hard drives. SSDs have a significant advantage as they do not have moving parts since they are flash-based memory.

Why do my applications slow down over time?

Every time you work with an application, the operating system creates numerous temporary files that are required by active applications. These files tend to be scattered all over the hard disk. Also, when you add or delete programs and files, it creates unused clusters of small empty spaces scattered all over the hard disk. Later when files and applications are stored on the drive, they take up these spaces and are therefore scattered throughout the drive’s storage area. Now, when an application or data needs to be read from the drive, it has to search for its related files all over the hard disk, which slows down the applications. Regular defragmentation of the drive will solve this problem to a large degree. Modern operating systems and file systems have tried to address this problem, with the user having to do nearly nothing on their part.

What are the various types of external storage devices and which applications are they suited to?

Until recently, the most popular external storage device used to be the DVD-RW (or CD-RW on older machines) and Blu-Ray Drives (on newer machines). This optical device offer an inexpensive method to copy data onto cheap and portable media such as DVD-R and DVD-RW disks. These disks can be read on virtually every computer that has a DVD-ROM drive and so they are suited to general-purpose applications where interoperability is most important. In the past, devices like ZIP-Drive from Iomega with up to 750 MB capacity were popular for use in print and imaging applications. Today, the most popular ones are the USB Hard Drives that have built-in power. Currently available up to 6 TB in capacity, these ultra portable storage devices are sturdy, cheap and are used for almost any purpose. For smaller form factors of external storage, there are flash-based devices that are about the size of your thumb! Hence the name thumb drive.

What do SAN and NAS mean?

SAN (Storage Area Network) is an implementation of enterprise storage. It allows large and fast storage devices to be networked together using high-speed interfaces, so as to provide a unified pool of storage to a large number of users. The configuration of a SAN can be changed on-the-fly, where storage elements can be added or removed while it is in operation, making it ideal for large enterprises where downtime is unacceptable.
A NAS (Network Attached Storage), on the other hand, refers to a class of devices that contain a high-speed storage device (like a hard disk drive) and a network component, all in a unified package. This entire unit can then be attached directly to a port on the network and the configuration is generally set via a browser. Once configured, it shows up as a shared storage device on the network and can be accessed by all nodes on the network.

What is the difference between a quick scan and a thorough scan on my hard disk drive?

These two methods of scanning a hard disk drive for errors refer to the level of detail with which the scan is done. When a quick scan is done, only the File Allocation Table, the file and directory structure of the hard disk is verified for integrity. This type of scan can locate and repair lost clusters, orphaned files, incorrect directory names and formats. In a thorough scan, all these parameters are checked in addition to checking the integrity of the surface of the hard disk where information is actually stored. Understandably, the latter takes a longer time to run.

What is the use of the hard disk’s buffer and how does it affect its performance?

A hard disk’s buffer is a small amount of high-speed memory that is used to temporarily hold data that is written to and read from the hard disk drive platters. The size of this buffer dictates the amount of information that can be concurrently written to and read from the hard disk. Applications where a larger buffer will lead to noticeable performance increases include audio/video editing, file servers and other applications where a lot of data transfer occurs over the hard disk over
extended periods of time.

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