PC hard drives inch closer to joining floppy disks in the digital graveyard

Mechanical hard drives have proven a resilient storage medium over the years, just as floppy disks once were, before USB flash drives eventually took the baton. Will HDDs see the same fate? Not today and not tomorrow, but it's bound to happen one day. It's certainly trending in that direction, with one of the biggest suppliers of HDD motors anticipating a massive decline PC HDD shipments this year.

Our friends at AnandTech came across a report by Nidec (PDF), a Japanese motor manufacturer that produces HDD spindle motors found on around 85 percent of all HDDs. It's fair to say that Nidec has a pulse on the HDD market.

According to the report, HDD shipments continue to slide, with PC HDDs being hit the hardest—shipments of PC HDDs are on pace to drop in half from 124 million units in 2018 to 65 million units in 2019.

Shipments were declining more gradually before this point, with 289 million units shipped in 2013. However, PC HDD shipments are about to fall off a cliff.

It's not difficult to understand why. Just as USB flash drives effectively supplanted floppy disks (for the most part), PC storage schemes have been transitioning to much faster solid state drives.

This past year, we have seen NAND flash memory pricing go into free fall, leading to much more affordable SSDs than ever before. Crucial's MX500 in 1TB form, one of the best SSDs for gaming, can be had for only $129.95 right now. We've also seen 1TB SSDs drop below the $100 mark. It's not just SATA drives, either—just last week, Intel's 1TB 660P NVMe SSD was on sale for $101.99.

SSDs have reached the point of being viable for consumers and OEM system builders alike—these days we routinely see desktop and laptop deals with SSDs inside instead of HDDs.

Of course, if looking only at the amount of storage, HDDs still offer a better bang-per-buck, or bang-per-gigabyte. As such, I don't anticipate them joining floppy disks in the near future, especially since hundreds of millions of HDDs are still being shipped annually when factoring in data centers and non-PC devices. But the gap is definitely closing, especially on home PCs.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).