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hard disk
Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2003 

A magnetic disk on which you can store computer data. The term hard is used to distinguish it from a soft, or floppy, disk. Hard disks hold more data and are faster than floppy disks. A hard disk, for example, can store anywhere from 10 to more than 100 gigabytes, whereas most floppies have a maximum storage capacity of 1.4 megabytes.

A single hard disk usually consists of several platters. Each platter requires two read/write heads, one for each side. All the read/write heads are attached to a single access arm so that they cannot move independently. Each platter has the same number of tracks, and a track location that cuts across all platters is called a cylinder. For example, a typical 84 megabyte hard disk for a PC might have two platters (four sides) and 1,053 cylinders.

In general, hard disks are less portable than floppies, although it is possible to buy removable hard disks.

Also see What's Inside a Hard Drive? in the Did You Know . . . ? section of Webopedia.

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For pages about hard disk . Also check out the following links!

Related Links

Hard Disk Logical Structures and File Systems 
Describes "standard" file systems used on PCs, with particular focus on the FAT file system and its variants. This page is from "The PC Guide."

PC Guide's hard disk drive reference 
Offers a large amount of information covering construction and operation, geometry and formatting, performance factors, BIOS and size issues, interfaces, configuration and file systems.

Disk Manager product page
Describes Ontrack Computer's Disk Manager product, a hard disk installation package.

Hard Disk BIOS and Capacity Factors
Describes issues related to how the BIOS and operating system interact with the hard disk, and BIOS-related issues and problems. Includes a full look at the many capacity limitations inherent in using IDE/ATA interface drives, and other BIOS restrictions on hard disk capacity. This page is from "The PC Guide."

Hard Disk BIOS Translation Modes
Detailed description of the various types of BIOS translation that are used in modern PCs. Includes sections on normal/standard CHS mode, Extended CHS/large mode, Logical Block Addressing (LBA), a comparison of translation modes, and caveats on changing translation modes and transferring hard disks between PCs. This page is from "The PC Guide."

Hard disk information page
This site hosts a collection of information on hard disks, including an EIDE FAQ, the bus master DMA features and drivers and troubleshooting, driver information, and manufacturer pages.

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Priority Electronics: Laptop Hard Drives - Online seller of laptop hard drives for leading laptop computers, including Dell, Sony, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, Gateway, NEC, and Samsung.

Voyage Technologies: IBM Hard Disk Drives - A full service provider of IBM RS/6000 and pSeries servers, disk drives, workstations, and parts. Offers vast inventory, testing and refurbishment.

Aberdeen: Hard Drives - Online retailer of computer hard drives including IDE, SCSI and removable drives.

related categories

Hard Disk Drives

related terms



disk drive

disk pack


floppy disk

ghost imaging

hard card

hard disk type


IDE interface



mass storage


removable hard disk




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