SSDs won’t replace hard drives anytime soon

“Solid state drives are one of the hot technologies of the day. However, ‘hotness’ and ‘the cloud’ aside, look for hard drives to maintain their importance for months to come. No, make that years to come,” Dennis Sellers reports for MacNews.

“Maximum areal densities in hard disk drives (HDD) are expected to more than double during the five-year period from 2011 to 2016, spurring continued growth for HDDs in storage-intensive applications such as video and audio systems, according to the iHS iSuppli research group,” Sellers reports. “HDD areal densities measuring data-storage capacities are projected to climb to a maximum 1,800 Gigabits (Gb) per square inch per platter by 2016, up from 744 Gb per square inch in 2011.”

Sellers reports, “HAMR technology is likely to lead the way in creating next-generation HDDs, even though satisfactory costs via HAMR comparable to those of PMR have yet to be seen. In theory, however, advanced technologies like HAMR could extend HDD areal density to a range spanning 5-10 Tb per square inch. The highest capacity for 3.5-inch HDDs could then reach 30TB to 60 TB, while the smaller and thinner 2.5- inch HDDs used in increasingly popular thinner notebooks could reach 10 to 20 TB. Now that’s some serious storage. And it makes solid state drives, despite their advantages, less desirable considering their high price and low storage capability.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once you experience the speed and silence of SSDs, you’ll never want to spin up a hard drive again. Like our MacBook Airs, our iMacs use SSDs for the system and apps for the soundless speed only SSDs can deliver. The 2TB hard drives are used only for media storage and Time Machine.

Related article:
Don’t buy a new Mac without an SSD or you’ll regret it – April 9, 2012


  1. I see a mix of the two being the perfect solution.

    SSD for your OS and primary apps/files and a big frakkin’ spinning platter for storing all your big files.

  2. Sorry, MDN, but despite all the advantages of SSDs, storage space is king (do I sound like a broken record yet?) Until SSDs can compete in terms of sheer number of GBs, I will keep my spinning platters, thank you very much.

    1. My next iMac (in a few months) will start out with hard drive only, but will eventually have an SSD + HD. The SSD will run the OS and apps, and the HD will store my data (and there will be an external HD to back it up with Time Machine).

      And that’s what MDN’s Take says…

      1. Okay, I missed that part. I just remember, last I checked on the Apple Store, you could get either an HDD or an SSD, but not both. I chose the former. But if you can get both, all the better. 🙂

        1. If you look at the current iMac (both the 21.5 and 27 inch models) at the online Apple Store, there is an option to configure it with both a hard drive and SSD. But they are rather expensive options.

          I’m buying it with just a hard drive (and use it that way for a while), then sometime down the road, use OWC’s kit to add the SSD. But I’ll wait until the next iMac refresh is released (and after Mountain Lion is released).

          1. Yeah, I remember that on the iMacs. I just checked the MacBook Pro (which is what I use now) and it’s still an either or with them. Although maybe with the refresh, they’ll make it possible to have both.

      2. Why hobble yourself. by putting your data on a platter drive you are canceling out the whole point of a SSD.

        a platter drive is only good for backing up in any scenario with a SSD.

        1. Nope. For most people, data storage on a hard drive (such as for the iTunes Media folder or iPhoto library) is absolutely fine. You won’t even notice the difference in speed when you access a typical data file. It’s NOT like the difference between local storage and network storage. SATA hard drives with large cache are pretty fast.

          A 256GB (or smaller) SSD will fill up really fast, and anything larger than that is too expensive. It’s a waste to store a data file (such as an MP3 or Pages doc), that you may seldom access on the ultra fast media. Most of your user data gets stored and then sits there for an extended period before being accessed again. If you have a choice, use that limited ultra-fast ultra-expensive storage for things that actually take advantage of the speed. What really makes a big difference in performance is running the OS and apps off the SSD. OS and app files are constantly being accessed; that’s why it makes a difference.

          Obviously, there are situations where ultra-fast user data access is important. But that’s not my situation, and it’s not the situation for most users.

  3. before i bought my wife a MBP i played with it and a MBA at best buy. bought the MBP without a second thought

    the SSD didn’t seem faster and the MBA screen looks like crappola compared to the MBA

    1. well, you didn’t try much because even a monkey would have noticed the incredible difference. I have a MBAir and I check my email in 13sec after having pressed the Switch On button, 13 sec! A collegue of mine with a MBPro i7 model and twice the RAM (8GB) waits for about a minute…..I will never ever go back to HDD, even if they give it away for free

    2. I have an iMac iCore 7 with SSD, and a new MBA SSD.

      My iMac is the fastest computer I ever used. Just incredible. 10 seconds boot-ups, instant on apps, etc.

      My MBA is no slouch either, but not as fast as my iMac. All the heavy lifting goes on my iMac (Extreme heavy lifting would require a Mac Tower, which I don’t need).

      Apple hit a home run with these computers. All SSD, except my iMac has a supplemental internal 2 TB HD, which is stone age comparing it to the SSD. There just is NO comparison.

      Weel worth the investment.

  4. How about a hard drive that’s not so fragile? Over the years I’ve had a half dozen of them fail for about as many different reasons. If I don’t have the data backed up in at least three places, it makes me nervous.

  5. Don’t forget, the all the designers of the Macs also use their products every day!

    Wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see a MacBook Pro with SSD in for main boot partition and then part of the reclaimed space from the DVD bay being removed then used for a spinning HD.

    Maybe it would only be in the 15″ model.

    1. That could happen, especially with the 17 -inch model, and maybe the 15-inch model.

      If you look at the current design, the main limitation on “thinness” is the need to stack the optical drive and keyboard. With the optical drive gone, the MacBook Pro can be much thinner.

      Fortunately, a 2.5-inch hard drive is small enough so that it does not need to go below the keyboard area. It can fit entirely below the palm rest area (as long it is not a “tapered” design). Having an SSD and HD would certainly fit the “pro” mentality. Apple can configure it to have the OS and apps on the SSD with the user home folder on the HD. The graphics hardware and ability to have a hard drive could be what distinguishes the MacBook Air (which should just be called “MacBook” going forward) from the MacBook Pro.

      1. no.. the pro mentality is to go full SSD. HDs are only for people with tight purse strings. or as a backup (solely) solution.

        but even then- a real pro mentality at this point is to get an SSD array via thunderbolt.

        1. No, the pro mentality is to recognize that pro apps require copious amounts of internal storage space to work, and that SSDs don’t currently provide that storage space. If you buy a MacBook Pro today, the largest SSD you can get is 512GB, and that’s over $1,000 more than if you get a 750GB HDD. The dual disk option would work, but going full SSD isn’t viable yet, which is exactly the point of this article.

            1. You’re welcome, Ken. Seems I need to keep reintroducing this dose of reality every single time this discussion comes up where SSD zealots want to argue that continuing to argue for HDDs based on the greater number of GBs they offer is somehow keeping computing in the stone age.

  6. Increasing storage to 20TB on a 2.5″ is nice.

    Keeping capacities similar to today, but on a micro-HDD even smaller than say the 1.8″ drives in iPod classics, would be better. It’ll never be as small as an SSD, (probably some minimum thickness and width for even a single platter, plus head mechanisms, casing, etc) but there’s certainly a potential market for a hard drive almost the size of a USB flash drive.

  7. The iPod mini used a 1-inch hard drive. It was the same size as a compact flash card (Type II), with the same connector. I think a modern version of that hard drive, with MUCH higher storage and better performance (at a reasonable cost) would be very useful.

  8. Only double during the five-year period?!?!?
    That doesn’t sound promising, especially when our needs will likely quadruple in less time than that. Have you been paying attention to what’s going on in the camera industry? And that’s just for still photography!

    The best solution for current MacBook Pro users (I’m not talking about the Air crowd) is to dump the DVD/CD drive and use the room for rule SSD/Hard Drives.
    SSD for the System, Apps, and small data needs like text. Use the hard drive to store photos, videos, not often used applications and other space hogs that need to be easily accessible

  9. It’s not all about density…there are several use cases where density is secondary, and for different reasons:
    1. big data: queries can be done several orders of magnitude faster…this horse race has absolutely nothing to do with density; a query of big data with discs can take a week versus 10 minutes…case closed on this one
    2. laptops: Mac Air is a superior form factor since solid state drives consume much less power and make it closed.

    these two represent a big part of the market.

  10. The article deals extensively with the future of the hd, but not a whit about the future of ssd. Does the article really mean to imply that hd capacity will double in four years while ssd capacities remain stagnet? Not even any of the posts by some very smart-sounding Mac users addressed this glaring omission. Fours years is a very long time in tech terms and I find it unimaginable that ssd won’t be considerably higher capacity, faster still and less expensive/gb.

    I’d like to have the author rewrite the article with side-by-side research included for ssd over the same period of time.

    1. It just might. It probably will. It is possible that SSD capacity will one day overtake HDD capacity. But that is down the line. Until then, and especially since HDDs are still increasing in capacity, those of us with the need for copious amounts of storage still need them.

  11. The quest for speed by the youth of today. At the current rate of HD advancement you will soon be at your desired destination before you leave, and have no idea of why you left in the first place since the mind fart that started the whole process hasn’t happened yet. Instant gratification carried to far.

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