With solid state drives now becoming just as prevalent on the market as hard drives, you’ve probably been wondering which is right for you. Both hard drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) are data storage devices, utilizing what is known as non-volatile memory (NVM). NVM is essentially long-term data storage, as the information is retained even when the storage device is not receiving power. This is different from volatile memory — such as RAM — which is lost when power is shut off. NVM is what allows your computer (or phone, or tablet) to retain your photos, music collection, game installations, etc. While both HDDs and SSDs serve the same purpose, the mechanisms and methods by which they read, write, and store data are different, and each comes with its own pros and cons.
Updated June 25, 2016: expanded text to explain pros and cons of both technologies, as well as detail newer hybrid models.