Over the last several years, the need for greater storage capacity on our hard drives has steadily increased. Not too long ago, a 2 GB hard drive was considered more than adequate to meet our needs, but with the latest operating systems and applications now consuming over 800 MB’s each, an 2 GB drive would quickly become full and is simply inadequate for our modern day needs. Luckily, the hard drive manufactures have done a pretty good job of keeping pace with the increased demand for storage space. Thanks to continued innovations resulting in increasing storage capacity, along with higher data densities, a new 25 GB hard drive can be bought today for the same price a 2 GB drive sold for 3 years ago.

When selecting a hard drive for your system, the two choices today are IDE or SCSI. With lower average seek times and higher rotational speeds than IDE drives, the SCSI drives have always held the edge in performance. This coupled with the other advantages the SCSI interface has over the IDE interface, such as simultaneous access of several drives at once (IDE can only access 1 drive per channel at a time) and the ability to support more devices (IDE can support 4 devices whereas SCSI can support 7 to 15 depending on the interface card), SCSI has always been the choice of high end users. Although SCSI has many benefits over IDE drives, there remains one major drawback. The cost of a SCSI system can easily be double or triple the cost of an equivalently sized IDE system.

So unless you absolutely need support for more than 4 devices, or need access to several devices simultaneously, such as in a server or high end graphics or video editing workstation, for most people the high cost simply cannot be justified. Of course if you have the means, and less than maximum performance is unacceptable to you, then by all means choose SCSI. For most home users, however, with one or two hard drives, and perhaps a DVD player and CD recorder, IDE can offer good performance at a fraction of SCSI’s high cost.

While both IDE and SCSI drives have seen numerous improvements over the last year, with recent the improvements to IDE drives, such as higher data densities, lower seek times, increasing the rotational speed to 7200 RPM and the addition of the Ultra ATA 66 interface standard, IDE drives remain a very competitive option for the small business or home user. Since we are concerned with what the majority of our readers are going to be looking for as far as upgrading, we have chose to stick with IDE drives for this initial round-up. For all of you high-end users out there, don’t fret, as we will have some upcoming SCSI comparisons in the months ahead.

Before we go too far, let’s take a moment to look back at the IDE interface and some of the changes it has undergone over the last several years.

The Evolution of IDE

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