Hard Disk Drive

What Does Hard Disk Drive Mean?

A hard disk drive (HDD) is a non-volatile computer storage device containing magnetic disks or platters rotating at high speeds. It is a secondary storage device used to store data permanently, random access memory (RAM) being the primary memory device. Non-volatile means data is retained when the computer is turned off.


A hard disk drive is also known as a hard drive.

Techopedia Explains Hard Disk Drive

A hard drive fits inside a computer case and is firmly attached with the use of braces and screws to prevent it from being jarred as it spins. Typically it spins at 5,400 to 15,000 RPM. The disk moves at an accelerated rate, allowing data to be accessed immediately. Most hard drives operate on high speed interfaces using serial ATA (SATA) or serial attached technology. When the platters rotate, an arm with a read/write head extends across the platters. The arm writes new data to the platters and reads new data from them. Most hard drives use enhanced integrated drive electronics (EIDE) including cables and connectors to the motherboard. All data is stored magnetically, allowing information to be saved when power is shut off.

Hard drives need a read only memory (ROM) controller board to instruct the read/write heads how, when and where to move across the platters. Hard drives have disks stacked together and spin in unison. The read/write heads are controlled by an actuator, which magnetically reads from and writes to the platters. The read/write heads float on a film of air above the platters. Both sides of the platters are used to store data. Each side or surface of one disk is called a head, with each one divided into sectors and tracks. All tracks are the same distance from the center of the disk. Collectively they comprise one cylinder. Data is written to a disk starting at the furthest track. The read/write heads move inward to the next cylinder once the first cylinder is filled.

A hard drive is divided into one of more partitions, which can be further divided into logical drives or volumes. Usually a master boot record (MBR) is found at the beginning of the hard drive and contains a table of partition information. Each logical drive contains a boot record, a file allocation table (FAT) and a root directory for the FAT file system.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…