Understand PC Mass Storage - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Because all your files — programs, documents, pictures, music, embarrassing videos — are kept on the mass storage system, maintaining and troubleshooting your PC’s storage devices are a high priority. Four different types of storage are found on a PC, though similarities and overlaps exist between them.

  • Hard drive

  • Solid state drive, or SSD

  • Optical drive

  • Removable media

The typical PC comes with hard drive and optical drive storage, which is a form of removable media. The hard drive isn’t considered removable storage.

In a few years, the solid state drive, or SSD, will overtake the hard drive as the PC’s main storage device. An SSD is superfast and is free of many of the reliability issues that the spinning hard drive bears. Until the SSD price comes down, however, the hard drive remains the mass storage king.

Removable media includes digital media cards and thumb drives but also other types of storage, including external hard drives, oddball drives (magneto-optical and tape drives, for example), and antique floppy drives.

  • The disk is the media on which information is recorded. Some people prefer using the term storage media rather than disk because computers are now bridging the gap between spinning disk storage and solid-state storage. Solid-state storage doesn’t spin, unless you accidentally leave a thumb drive in your pants and put it through the wash.

  • The drive is the part of the mass storage unit that reads the disk. A hard drive contains a hard disk; you insert an optical disc into a CD or DVD drive; a media card is placed into a media drive or media card reader or is connected directly to a USB port.

  • The PC’s hard drive cannot be removed. It’s fixed in place, which is why you may see a hard drive referred to as a fixed drive in obscure manuals.