Computer hard-disk drives are in use in almost every desktop computer and server in today’s technological field. A desktop computer most commonly uses one hard-disk drive while servers, mainframes, and supercomputers use hundreds of them at one time to deliver the expected results of their users. Yet, in all of these systems, the hard-disk drive does one function. Hard-disk drives store changing digital information in a semi permanent state and give computers the ability to remember data even when power is not supplied to the computer, such as occurs with a power outage. Without the hard-disk drive, a computer would be incapable of remembering the sequence of data that is required to do the simplest of operations, including booting up for use.
A hard-disk drive is a little easier to understand once it is dismantled and its system of organizing the gigabytes of information held within its files. The ability to “see” the computer’s hard-disk drive work often eliminates the fear of the unknown, or what you can do to the computer before it won’t recognize its own information, thus causing a fatal crash to occur. By the way, even if you do fatally crash your computer’s hard-disk drive, it isn’t the end of the world. A blown hard-disk drive can be repaired by replacing any non-working parts and rebooting an operating system in the case that the operating system files necessary for operation of the computer have been damaged or deleted.
Originally created in the 1950s as fixed disks, hard-disk drives could be up to 20 inches in diameter and held mere megabytes of information through the use of magnetism. The name hard-disk drive came later to distinguish between floppy drives and the hard-drives. Working on the same principle as a cassette tape with a few alterations in method, the hard-disk was able to store information magnetically, but was also well suited for easy erasing and rewriting of information for the convenience of change since the core of information has always changed rapidly in the field of computers.
This, of course, does not indicate that cassette tapes and hard-disk drives are interchangeable. There are several key differences between the two that make hard-disk drives unique. The method of transferring information or data to a cassette tape is but one of these differences. Data recorded to a cassette tape is coated onto a thin plastic strip wherein a hard-disk drive magnetically records data onto high-precision aluminum or glass disks and then polishes the data to mirror smoothness. The speed of rewinding and fast-forwarding also differ as hard-disk drives can do this instantaneously. Data to a hard-disk drive never actually touches the surface of the glass or aluminum disks that it is recorded onto since the information is read and written in head “files” over the disk. Cassettes require actual contact to use the same magnetic principles for recording data. Because of these basic adaptations used in the recording of data to a hard-disk drive, the capacity of the hard-disk drive is immense and extremely fast to access when needed by the user.
Now that you know the basics of recording onto a hard-disk drive, the likelihood of becoming intimidated by the inner workings of your hard-disk drive should be eliminated. Thinking of it as a very sophisticated cassette tape also gives a better visual into how a disk drive works and the ability that the disk drive provides a user. In following articles, more interesting and easy to follow functions of the hard-disk drive will be explored in order to create a more user-friendly relationship between a computer’s hard-disk drive and its user.