Why You Need to Change the 5400RPM Hard Drive In Your Laptop

Published on August 18th, 2013 | by Peter Paul

Have you ever wondered why your laptop starts to slow down after a few days or weeks of using it? How come your laptop is still slow despite that it is powered by an Intel Core i5 or even a Core i7 processor? How come it is still slow despite upgrading your laptop’s memory to 8GB or even 16GB? The answer lies in your laptop’s hard drive.

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hgst 5400rpm 500gb hdd

Most of the laptops and notebooks sold today are shipped with a 5400RPM hard drive. No matter what capacity or brand it is, as long as it is a 5400RPM hard drive, it will slow down or cause a bottleneck in your laptop. Lucky for those Ultrabooks or gaming laptops that is built with a solid state drive, by default, they won’t suffer from this.

For your laptop to run smoothly and as fast as possible, the internal hardware under your laptop’s hood should be in the same level. A fast processor should be paired with a fast/large memory size, and a fast storage drive. If one of these components is a weakling, then it will cause a bottleneck and you won’t be able to enjoy your laptop’s fullest potential. Soon you will find yourself shouting at your laptop or pounding it until more parts incurs physical damage.

The solution to this problem is simple, change and upgrade your laptop’s 5400 RPM hard drive to a faster one. Get a 7200RPM hard drive, or better yet get a Solid State Drive. Why? I’ll show you the performance difference between these three drives below.

5400 RPM vs 7200 RPM vs SSD

I have an Asus VivoBook S550CM with a third gen Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM, with discrete GeForce GT 635M and a 500GB 5400RPM HGST Z5K500-500 hard drive. It’s not much, but I use it regularly for work.

The hard drive of this laptop resulted in an average of 100MB/s read write speed using CrystalDiskMark, ATTO Disk Benchmark and HD Tune Pro Benchmark. Below are their respective screenshots.

hgst 500gb 5400rpm hdd atto benchmark hgst 500gb 5400rpm hdd crystaldiskmark hgst 500gb 5400rpm hdd tune pro

With that kind of figures (read/write speeds) I often times encounter lags and slowdowns specially when browsing multiple windows in Firefox (by the hundreds), compressing and decompressing (specially multiple zip files simultaneously), slow loading time in games, rendering large-sized high definition photos in Photoshop and Lightroom, and anything that has something to do with reading/writing in the hard drive.

7200 RPM Hard Drives

wd scorpio black 750gb 7200rpm

I do not have a 2.5-inch 7200 RPM hard drive with me right now, (since I’m planning to save the money and get another SSD). But a 7200RPM hard drive like the WD WD5000BPKX Black is (slightly) faster than a 5400RPM drive. According to some benchmarks that I saw, the WD Scorpio Black is capable of achieving up to 128MB/s read speed, and around 120MB/s write speed. That is definitely faster than the 5400RPM hard drive that my laptop has. But that’s not a significant gap when compared to a solid state drive. Before I’ll show you the benchmark of an SSD, let’s check out a Hybrid Drive first.

UPDATE: HGST has a 2.5-inch 1TB 7200RPM hard drive SATA6GB/s with 32MB Cache. It’s available here.

Solid State Hybrid Drives

seagate momentus xt sshd

A Hybrid Drive or Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) is a type of hard drive that offers SSD-like speed (well not really) at the same time a large capacity that mechanical hard drives offer. It’s basically a hard drive with a flash chip built in it. One best example of this is the Seagate Solid State Hybrid Drive STBD1000400 7200RPM Solid State Hybrid Drive that comes with an 8GB SLC flash. But soon this will be out performed by the upcoming WD Black SSHD. I also don’t have figures for this but an SSHD drive is (slightly) faster than a 7200RPM hard drive. Still, not significantly faster than a SSD.

For the Ultimate Performance Use SSD

samsung 840 pro ssd

Now if you want to really crank up those numbers and significantly increase your read/write speeds, and thus also decreasing your boot up time and wake up/resume time significantly, then you definitely go for a Solid State Drive.

I currently have a Samsung 840 Pro SSD, it’s not the latest and the fastest SSD out there, but it sure is significantly faster than any hard drive or hybrid drive (even faster than a WD Velociraptor) that the market has to offer. My Samsung 830 SSD can reach write speeds of up to 320MB/s, and read speeds of up to 450MB/s. And that’s not even the fastest record an SSD can achieve.

samsung-830-128gb-ATTO-Disk-Benchmark samsung-830-128gb-crystaldiskmark samsung830-128gb-HD-tune-pro5-Read

Currently, the fastest SSDs are the Samsung 850 Pro and SanDisk Extreme II.

Other than blazing speeds that SSDs offers, some models like the Samsung 840 Pro and 840 Evo offers AES hardware encryption, making your data safe and secure, even if it’s stolen. Hard drives don’t have this kind of technology built in them, and they usually rely on software-based encryption which is less secured compared to hardware-based encryption.

I know Solid State Drives are insanely fast, but they are also expensive. GB/price is significantly higher compared to a hard drive. SSDs are expensive, but they offer ultimate performance that is best for your laptop and even desktop PC.

Editor’s Recommendation

There is no question that when it comes to performance, Solid State Drives are the way to go. But what should you buy for your laptop? If you are going to ask an Enthusiast, they would definitely tell you to buy an SSD. But my answer is simple; just buy what your budget allows you. If you can afford an SSD, then go for it. There are tons of SSDs out there, but I recommend the ones I mentioned above.

A Solid State Hybrid Drive is also a good option, but personally I wouldn’t invest on this one. I would rather get a WD Scorpio Black 7200 RPM or get a SSD instead. In my own experience, WD drives tend to be more reliable than Seagate’s hard drives.

wd my passport external hard driveOh, there’s another issue concerning SSDs other than their prices. SSDs usually come in smaller storage capacity, unless if you can afford the Samsung 840 EVO 750GB or 1TB. But if you can’t, a SSD + HDD combination or SSD + External HDD can be a solution to this. There are laptops that come with an extra SATA or mSATA slot. You can use that as a secondary storage. But for those laptops that doesn’t have a secondary storage option, an external HDD like the WD My Passport Pro or My Passport Ultra would be a partner for the SSD.

Also if you are going for an SSD + HDD / External HDD setup, I would suggest that the SSD would only contain the Operating System and major applications that you use. You may or may not install games on the overflow drive.

Hope this article helps, please don’t forget to share this with your friends and network. Let’s keep people with laptops, or for those who are planning to buy one, well informed.

For the latest and best SSD’s on the market, check out ThePCEnthusiast’sBest SSD to Buy This Season


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11 Responses to Why You Need to Change the 5400RPM Hard Drive In Your Laptop

  1. Jay says:

    The Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB HD in my Alienware M15x lasted over 3 years and 7 months. I think that’s pretty good.

  2. David Lowe says:

    New Inspiron 24 7000 Series

    The above brand new Dell desktop has a 5400 rpm hard drive. Why would such a new machine not have an SSD hard drive? Why would it have the old 5400 rpm technology?

    Is it OK for a desktop to have the 5400 rpm hard drive as compared to a laptop?

    Thanks,
    Dave

    • Peter Paul says:

      Thank you for your comment David. To answer your question, manufacturers still use 5400rpm drive to cut the cost of their products, and make them affordable or price-friendly. While SSDs do offer significant faster speed, they are also more expensive compared to a hard drive in terms of price/capacity. There are many laptops, notebooks or all-in-one desktop that has a 5400rpm drive installed on them despite being the latest model. However there are also laptops, notebooks and AIO desktops that are now using SSDs, some even use PCIe-SSD (offering faster speed vs SATA-based SSD). But usually these products belong to the mainstream or high-end category and comes with a premium price. I hope that answers your question.

  3. Gordon Freeman says:

    “Now if you want to really crank up those numbers and significantly increase your read/write speeds, and thus also increasing your boot up time and wake up/resume time significantly, then you definitely go for a Solid State Drive.”

    Shouldn’t it be “thus also DECREASING your…”??

  4. Mario says:

    I have a Lenovo Y580 i7 16GB Corsair Vengeance with two HDD (Samsung 1TB 5,400 rpm and 5,400 rpm Seagate 2TB in place DVD writer). I plan to put the Samsung 850 EVO 250GB mSATA solid state drive. Will it improve the speed of laptop?

    • Peter Paul says:

      An SSD will improve your laptop experience in a sense that it will speed things up specially operations that has something to do with read/write, example loading things, boot up, shutdown, etc.
      But does your laptop have an extra slot for mSATA? you need to have an mSATA port for that kind of SSD. If you only have SATA ports, go with Samsung 850 EVO SATA III instead.

  5. George D says:

    I believe Hard Drive speed is the very last thing that might affect PC “Performance”. The main things are CPU, SDRAM, available RAM, etc.

    OS programs are loaded into RAM on startup, so performance is not at all related to Hard Drive speed. The same holds true with Web surfing, running Games or Copying Videos.

    I beg you to differ with me.

  6. George D says:

    i noticed that you did not post my legitimate question. It is sad to say that people like you exist, people that are dishonest, and do not speak the truth, should not exist.

    • Peter Paul says:

      sorry late approval of comments, and you didn’t post a question, you posted your own comment that you believe hard drive speed is the very last thing that might affect PC performance. and you beg to differ. But we also beg to differ, hard drive speed / performance does affect the PC, specially in laptops. Have you every tried to use or upgrade to an SSD before?

      It’s not only the CPU, RAM, GPU that affects performance. The hard drive does affect the performance of the PC as well. I don’t need to explain this further, as it is the main topic of the article.

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