The hard drive or hard disk, is a very complicated part of your computer. Be very gentle with it as the parts inside of it have to work precise. I will not go that much into about how hard drives work, because that is a tutorial inside of itself. All it really does is holds every single piece of information that your computer has on it. Every single file that you save is on your hard disk. If you delete the file, it is gone... well actually it is not, but just to keep it simple, the average person will have no way of recovering deleted data. When you delete things through windows and it is sent to the Recycle Bin, it is not actually deleted, but rather the file is just moved to a different directory. That is why you can restore the things you deleted on accident. However if you Empty the Recycle Bin or delete files from within it. They will be gone for good. So if you want something off of your computer do not store it in the Recycle Bin, it will just take up space. Hard drives are the cheapest way to store files, if you take time to think about it they are by far the most inexpensive way to store data, when you compare the $ to MB with other media such as Zip disks, CD-R, CD-RW and tape drives. When you hook up your hard drive, you can have as many partitions as you want. A partition on your hard drive is, basically like having two actual hard drives. For and example if you have a 40GB hard drive like me, you can make just a c:\ partition and have that take use all 40GB or you can split it in half and make c:\ be 20GB and d:\ be 20GB. This comes in useful when you want to safely store files and don't want them to be erased by formatting the drive. When you are in DOS and type FORMAT C: it will only format the c:\ partition of your hard drive and will not touch anything in the d:\ or any other partition that you may have. To partition your hard drive, go into MS-DOS mode or boot up your computer with the windows boot disk and type FDISK.
Now its time to talk about the different speeds of hard drives. The faster rpm that the hard drive has, the less amount of space that it will have on it. For and example my hard drive has 40GB of space on it and it runs at 7200rpm, and has a 9ms (millisecond) seek time, and it is Ultra ATA/100 What this all means is:
40GB - This is how much data can be stored. Gigabytes or 40,000,000,000 bytes of information, Everything that goes on inside you computer is either a 1 or a 0, for data. a bit is can either be a 1 or a 0. there are eight bits in a byte so one byte might look like 10011010. There are 1,000 bytes in a Kilobyte, and there are 1,000 Kilobytes in a Megabyte (1,000,000 bytes) and there are 1,000 Megabytes in a Gigabyte. It is all very simple if you know the metric system of measurement. So 1Mb or Megabit is actually 125 Kilobytes (1,000 / 8 = 125). The reason I stated that is so that you don't get confused by the difference between MB (megabytes) and Mb (megabits).
7200rpm - This is how fast the hard drive spins. Hard drives come with one of four main spin speeds right now. 5400rpm, I would not suggest that you go with this, as it is very slow, however you can get hard drives up to 80GB. 7200rpm, this is becoming the standard now days, it is fast and can store a good amount of information, about 40GB max storage right now. 10000rpm these are very fast, but the are more expensive and cannot hold as much, about 30GB max. 1500rpm! these babies are some of the fastest hard drives you can get, they are extremely expensive and extremely limited on hard drive space, about 20GB max, if you have the money get a RAID configuration. (I will not cover RAID, sorry)
9ms - This is how fast the drive can find what it is looking for. This is not very important these days. To be completely honest, I do not even pay that much attention to this number. Basically lower numbers are better so if you can go for the lower numbers, but if not then it is no big deal.
ATA/100 - This is how fast your hard drive can write and read information. This is one of the very important factors when choosing a motherboard and hard drive, make sure that your motherboard supports the drive that you ordered. My motherboard for my Pentium 4 processor supports ATA/33, ATA/66, and ATA/100 This means that the hard drive can read and write information at 100MB per second, as an ATA/66 would only be able to do 66MB per second.
RAID - This is a configuration to do a number of different things with two hard drives. You can have your RAID set up so that half of the information gets written on one hard drive and half gets written on the other drive. so basically if you had two 10GB hard drives at 15000rpm you would basically have one big 20GB hard drive that is 30000rpm! Note, that you have to have two physical drives, not two partitions, having the same exact drives is an important factor, and you have to have either a SCSI card that supports RAID or a motherboard that supports RAID. You can also have each hard drive to the exact same thing as the other, so every time you do something on your computer you would have a perfect copy of your hard drive.
I gave my hard drive a 95% rating for greatness. I love it, I will probably never ever fill up 40GB of data. I would have given it more, but it just does not seem to be as fast as other drives, even with DMA enabled in windows it just does not load data as fast as I want it to. I actually ordered a 40GB 7200rpm ATA/66 Maxtor hard drive from KAYPRO.COM for about $260, but they ended up sending me a 40GB 7200rpm ATA/100 Western Digital hard drive instead, which is way better! Thank you KAYPRO.COM for giving me a great deal, I give you two huge thumbs up for screwing up my order!