Hybrid Drive

A hybrid hard drive (HHD) is an electromechanical storage device that incorporates some amount of the NAND flash memory. In other words, a hybrid drive is a hard disk drive that has a built-in flash memory cache. The NAND flash or the flash memory acts as a non-volatile cache, enabling faster access to data.

Hybrid drives are made with the combined features of both the traditional hard drive and the solid state drives. It contains the storage capacity of a hard disk and the performance and speed of a solid state drive. This is achieved by engaging the rotating platters of the hard drives and a small portion of a high speed flash memory in a single drive.

In some hybrid drives, the DRAM (Dynamic RAM) cache is made larger so that the writes can be sent to the DRAM cache first and then to the disk. This is because writing to a DRAM cache is much faster than writing to disk or to flash memory. However, some hybrid drives may also use static RAM (SRAM), which is even faster than dynamic RAM (DRAM).

Features of Hybrid hard drives

  • It monitors the data that is being accessed from the hard drive
  • Uses 128 MB or more of the high-speed flash memory to cache the most frequently accessed bits
  • Its cache's storage capacity is only about one or two percent of the total disk
  • Both the read and write activities are will be handled completely by drive controller and the OS, as these drives hide the cache volume details from the operating system and the user

When a computer boots, the operating system first loads all of the data from the high-speed flash memory, this speeds up the boot time and saves power consumption. Since the data stored on the flash memory changes, the frequently accessed bits of data will be saved and then data will be loaded from the flash memory. This results in better performance. These types of drives are mainly useful in laptops, notebook computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs). This is because; in these drives the disk platters are used very rarely, which saves the power.  

Advantages of Hybrid hard drives

  • Provides faster data storage and retrieval for the applications like word processors
  • Reduces  the system boot time
  • Consumes less power and offers prolonged battery life, especially useful for notebooks and PDAs
  • Generates less heat and less operating noise
  • Offers Extended hard drive life

Limitations of Hybrid Hard Drives

Inspite of all these advantages, hybrid drives do have some disadvantages, as listed below:

  • Needs longer seek time for data stored on the hard drive
  • Exhibits more frequent hard-drive spin-up and spin-down
  • If the flash memory modules fail in any reason, the data cannot be recovered at all
  • Overall hardware cost for the system is higher

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