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What is a Hybrid Hard Drive? – SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive) Explained

Hard disk drives (HDD) have been around since 1954, but it wasn’t until 1956 that IBM introduced the HDD to the world. They continued to improve in speed, storage and price.

Furthermore, as the physical size of these drives started to shrink, the HDD would go from secondary to primary storage.

Then solid-state drives (SSD) hit the market. Fast and efficient, these drives can load an operating system in seconds. But there were a lot of limitations. Users are accustomed to 1TB – 4TB HDDs, but SSDs were introducing with 128GB – 512GB capacity.

For a hardcore gamer or computer user, this is not enough space. And SSDs are expensive, so we’re seeing the SSD go through the same issues that the HDD went through when it was first introduced.

Prices are coming down and sizes have increased, but now there’s another option: hybrid hard drives.

What is a Hybrid Hard Drive

What is a Hybrid Hard Drive?

Hybrid hard drives are a combination of both a standard HHD and an SSD. Technically, an HHD is a mechanical drive. When combined, you have a hybrid drive that’s larger than an SSD, but the drive is also much faster than an HDD.

Hybrid drives may be called SSHDs, so if you see someone mentioning an SSHD, they’re really talking about hybrid drives.

But what is so special about these drives?

The main reason a person opts for an SSD over an HHD is speed.

Since an SDD doesn’t have moving parts, it’s a lot faster than a standard mechanical drive.

When you use an SSHD, the drive will have a non-mechanical portion that is designated as the SSD.

Files that you use most often are placed in the solid-state portion of the drive in a cache.

When you load these files, they will load faster. You also have the benefit of more storage space thanks to the remaining portion of the drive being mechanical.

When you choose an SSHD, it will be more costly than a standard HHD, but it will also more affordable than an SSD with more capacity for your files.

Price Differences: Are SSDs Really That Expensive?

SSD drives are coming down in price, but they’re still expensive when compared to a traditional HDD.

When you’re on a budget, you’ll find that the price difference can be significant. But you’re really sacrificing speed when you don’t choose a solid-state drive.

Gamers or extensive computer users will notice this speed loss the most as we saw in our SSD vs HDD comparison.

Two years ago, you would pay $0.58/GB for an SSD, and now Samsung is selling a 1TB for just over $100, or about $0.11/GB.

HDD prices have fallen drastically, with Seagate offering a 2TB drive for $60 and a 4TB drive for $85.

The price for the HDD comes to $0.02/GB.

So, SSDs are still five times the cost of an HDD. In comparison, you can purchase a 2TB SSHD from Seagate for around $0.045/GB.

As you can see, the price difference can be significant.

  • $0.11/GB for SSD
  • $0.045/GB for SSHD
  • $0.02/GB for HDD

If you don’t have the budget for an SSD but you want something a little faster than an HDD, the SSHD will do the trick.

A lot of gamers opt for an SSD and HDD, but with the hybrid, you can cut out the additional HDD. You also have the option of choosing a slower HDD, which has higher capacity, for backups because they’re very cheap.

Hybrid Drives are Magnetic and Solid-State

When you store files, pictures and media are often put on an HDD because you’re not going to access these files often. You would want your operating system files on the SSD portion of the drive because the SSD’s ability to read files is far more efficient than an HDD.

The result?

Your computer will load up within seconds.

Hybrid drives are primarily mechanical, but there is a small portion of the drive that is solid-state.

You cannot choose which files go into the solid-state drive. Firmware takes care of file management, and the solid-state portion acts as a cache.

A cache is a portion of the drive where files that are accessed often go. The firmware may determine that drivers are accessed often, so these files will go into the cache, or SSD portion of the hybrid drive.

Unlike RAM, a cache will persist when the computer is rebooted.

This means that the firmware should cache all of your startup files and remember that these files need to be cached on startup. Your computer will load faster as a result.

Note: Operating systems will view the hybrid drive as a single drive.

You never have to worry about which files are important or not. Operating system files will be put into the cache along with files for programs and applications that you use often.

But, and there’s always a catch, your hybrid drive will have 1TB of mechanical space and a very small amount of SSD space, often 8GB.

This is more than enough space for important system files, but it’s not enough space for even low-end games.

Apple does it right with their “Fusion Drive.” These drives will have 128GB of SSD space with large mechanical portions that are 1TB – 3TB in space.

Why Choose a Hybrid Drive?

Hybrid drives attempt to offer the speed of an SSD with the affordability of an HDD. You’ll pay less for the SSHD than you would for a solid-state and hard disk drive, but you get the best of both worlds.

There’s also the advantage of the hybrid drive being seen as a single drive.

If you have a laptop or only one drive bay left on your computer, you can have an SSD and HDD with the SSHD combination.

Solid-state drives are superior in every way to an HDD, and if prices and capacity were the same, we would see the HDD become obsolete.

But until prices are the same and capacity catches up, the hybrid drive offers the better price, with firmware handling all of your drive’s storage.

Related posts:

RAM for gaming – how much will you need?

When to buy computer parts?

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Richard Bolden

David has been interested in computers for over 25 years. From playing games on his parents computer as a kid in the early 90s, to building his first PC in 2003 (and many more since then). He has a passion for everything related to computing and this site is dedicated to helping others find the info they need.