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Which hard drive technology is better?

Q. I’m looking to buy a new MacBook Air and read your buying guide on the subject. I’m not convinced about the benefits of a solid-state drive over a conventional hard drive. Could you provide me with your thoughts on this selection? Thanks!
- Steve from Boise, ID, listens to my national radio show on KIDO 580 AM

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A. It wasn’t too long ago I would have recommended a conventional drive over a solid state drive in a heartbeat. However, things have changed a bit lately. SSD prices are going down while storage capacities are going up.

Let’s not forget that SSDs are showing up in more mobile gadgets. Smartphones and tablets basically use SSD technology to store all their information. The MacBook Air’s only hard drive option is an SSD and even Windows laptops, such as the upcoming Intel Ultrabook, use them.

So, should you make the switch from a conventional hard drive? Well, it really depends on what you’re doing with your system. Both technologies have their strengths and weaknesses.

First, here’s a quick refresher on the two technologies. Conventional hard drives store information on magnetic disks that spin at high speeds. To read and write information, a mechanical arm has to move across the surface of the disk. It’s like a very small record player.

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