Page 4: Hard Drive
The next consideration is likely the hard drive. Again, there are a few characteristics to consider.
In general, the hard drive is the last remaining mechanical component of the computer and is the slowest. A slow hard drive will greatly increase boot times, and can easily make a computer appear sluggish.
The first consideration therefore is spindle speed. Laptop hard drives are physically smaller than their desktop counterparts and also typically rotate slower. Most laptop hard drives spin at 5400RPM or 5900RPM, compared to desktop hard drives which usually spin at 7200RPM (although, 5900RPM drives are becoming more common). It is certainly possible, however, to find 7200RPM laptop hard drives, however, one must pay somewhat of a premium for them. A 7200RPM drive will likely make a noticeable difference in speed, however, for the typical user, is not worth the extra cost.
Secondly, there is the capacity. How much data do you have to store? Does it all have to be on the machine you are using, or can it be stored on external hard drives, etc? Once you have some idea of your requirements you need to look at what is available. Most laptops come with 320-640GB of storage (the range typically extends from 200GB to 1TB at the moment). This should be ample storage for all the documents, pictures, and music one is likely to ever encounter, however, if you have a collection of videos on your hard drive, this will soon be filled.
There is one other consideration – the type of storage medium. Instead of a hard drive, one can opt for a solid state disk (SSD). This is a flash based form of storage with no moving parts. It currently boasts read and write speeds considerably better than most hard drives, runs silently, and takes less power than hard drives. Unfortunately, it costs about 20x more per GB than hard drives. There have been some problems with performance drops noted in SSDs, however, most manufacturers appear to have fixed these bugs. While this option will definitely result in a noticeable performance increase (and should also improve battery life and decrease heat output), it is currently not a cost effective option. Hopefully, it will become competitive with hard drive prices in the next 12 to 18 months.
Conclusion: pretty much any current drive should do, unless you have specific (‘atypical’) needs.