Every hard drive has a cache size number. This number is also known as the buffer size. Today, the typical disk cache ranges from 32MB to 64MB. But what does this number mean? And does it actually have any effect on PC performance?
In PC terminology, the bigger number is almost always better. This is true for hard drive cache size, but not to the extent that many people think.
The hard drive cache controls the amount of data that the hard drive can temporarily store on the disk. Basically, the cache reduces the time it takes for your hard drive to access data.
When accessing your hard drive (which is constantly happening on your PC), the cache holds data that has recently been accessed. It also holds data that it thinks you could access next. Instead of forcing the needle of your hard drive to scan the disk every time you switch between songs or access your pictures folder, the hard drive can intelligently recognize files that have been used recently.
Ultimately, the cache makes your computer run faster. But once your hard drive has a cache, the size of it isn’t really important.
When you’re comparing two different hard drives, you may see them listed like this:
SeaGate 1TB Hard Drive 7200rpm, 32MB cache
SeaGate 1TB Hard Drive 7200rpm, 64MB cache
The only difference between these two is the cache size. Which one should you buy?
Ultimately, your hard drive’s cache is only used in a small percentage of data transfers. In other words, the average PC user won’t notice any difference between the two hard drives listed above.
Of course, if there is no price difference between two hard drives like this (or price difference of only a few dollars), then the upgrade should be worth it – especially if you’re a PC gamer or a power computer user.
Other important hard drive specs to pay attention to
When comparing two hard drives, you should pay attention to other factors, like the size of the drive, its rotation speed, and the manufacturer brand. Some hard drives operate at 10,000rpm (rotations per minute), which means they are able to access data in a much shorter period of time than their 7,200rpm counterparts. Some laptop hard drives even operate at the lower rating of 5,400rpm. In cases like this, the difference between hard drives will be more noticeable – even to an average PC user.
The hard drive manufacturer you choose is also important. Some of the biggest names in the hard drive world include SeaGate, Western Digital, and Hitachi. In general, these three brands are safe purchases, although you get the occasional bad apple. Always read hard drive reviews online before you make your purchase.