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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Computer Media: What are the Differences?

What are all these different drives? Probably the easiest way to explain it would be to define each of them:

  1. Hard Drive - A hard drive is a fast, high capacity internal disk drive found in all modern PCs. Unless the computer is older than say, 12 years, it should have a hard drive in it. Any PC running Windows does.

    The reason for having a hard drive is to give you a permanent place to keep your computer's information. They are generally much more reliable than keeping your data on a floppy disk (that's not to say you shouldn't back up your info though), are much faster, and hold tons more.

    Adding a second hard drive is a great way to add more space for files. They are available as both internal or external.

  2. Floppy Drive - These little 3.5" disks hold about 1.4 MB of information. It seems like just yesterday that floppy disks ruled the planet, but now with the cheap price of CD-Rs and CD-R drives, the floppy drive is being put to pasture. Most new computers don't even have one.

  3. Zip Drive - A zip drive is basically a floppy drive on steroids. The disks work in the same manner as a regular 3.5" floppy disk, except they can store up to 100 MB. A 3.5 floppy can only store 1.4MB.

    In case you're wondering, no, you can't stick a zip disk into your 3.5" floppy drive and expect it to work. In fact, you would have to insert it with the assistance of a hammer. If you wanna use Zip disks, you'll need a Zip drive.

    Oh, and Zip drive should not be confused with Zip files!

  4. CD-R- A CD-R is a writeable CD, meaning you can record data to the CD. Works just like a regular CD ROM drive otherwise. Although you can add data to a CD-R, you can't delete data from it. Once it's there, it's there. Most CDs hold 675 meg of info.

  5. CD-RW- Same as a CD-R except you can re-write the CD. So, you can remove old files, and add new ones if you like. The only disadvantage to this over the CD-R is the disks are generally more expensive.

  6. DVD-R/+R - As DVD recording comes of age and the prices come down, more of us will likely be adding DVD writers to our computers. If adding a DVD writer to your computer, I would suggest getting one that writes to both DVD+R and DVD-R disks.

  7. USB Drive- Also known as a thumb drive, key drive, pen drive or flash drive. These handy little things plug right into your USB port and come in many sizes.

  8. Card Reader- If you have a memory card reader for you Compact Flash, Smart Media, or other camera card it is technically a drive. These are beginning to appear as standard in some new computers, but you can also get external ones. They really make transferring pictures from the digital camera easier.

  9. Digital Audio Player- We go more into detail about these elsewhere, but in this context consider your player an external hard drive.

I hope this helps clear things up.

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