I recently heard that, all else being equal, larger hard drives are faster than smaller. It has to do with more bits passing under the read head as the drive spins - since a large drive packs the bits more tightly, the same amount of spin/time presents more data to the read head.

I had not heard this before, and was previously inclined to believe the the read heads expected bits at a specific rate and would instead stagger data, so that the two drives would be the same speed.

I now find myself looking at purchasing one of two computer models for the school where I work. One model has an 80GB drive, the other a 400GB (for ~$13 more). The size of the drive is immaterial, since users will keep their files on a file server where they can be backed up. But if the 400GB drive will really deliver a performance boost to the hard drive, the extra money is probably worth it.


  • Since the space is inconsequential, I'd be concerned about the number of platters in each drive. Drives with more platters generally fail faster due to a few factors like increased heat and stress on the spindle. Apr 29 '10 at 15:26

"It depends." All other things being equal, platter density does directly correlate to an increased sequential transfer rate.

However, you need to know what the platter density is. If that 400 GB drive has 2 x 200 GB platters and the 80 GB drive uses 1 short stroked 200 GB platter, then the 80 GB drive would be faster overall (because the average seek time will be smaller).

The extra drive space may end up being useful in some other way over the life of the system though. Unless you're looking at buying thousands of systems were $13/ea is a budget breaker, I'd opt for the larger hard drive immediately. Otherwise if you end up wanting or needing a larger drive, you're looking at not just the expenses of the drives themselves, but of your time spent swapping the drives and imaging the contents.

Personally, I wouldn't install such a small drive in a new system unless there were other considerations coming into play. (e.g. It's an SSD, budget sensitivity, etc.)

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