hard disk

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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