Magnetic Discs  What is it? Types and Best Uses ▷ 2020

Until a few decades ago, it was illogical to think that an entire library could be stored in one small, efficient device. Today this is possible thanks to the existence of magnetic discs that are increasingly sophisticated and are commonly found..

With the appearance of storage through computer media, not only did the environmental impact, but also an improvement was achieved in terms of security in relation to saved data and to increase the comfort of users.

So that you know a little more about what a magnetic disk is, in this article we will show you how such a device works, what are its main characteristics, the difference that exists with respect to optical discs and many other things.

What is a magnetic disk and what is it used for in computing?

A magnetic disk is a device that is inside or outside of a computer and serves to store computer data through physics. Use especially the dipole principles of magnetism.

Data is saved in bytes anywhere or sector of circular tracks of the disk to be able to relate them in the future with some criterion of attraction by magnetism of the particles that compose it. When the user needs to obtain these data, they will have to request them through the processor from the PC to order the disk head to generate the magnetic fields.

How does a magnetic disk work to store digital information? Main features

Within this set of devices are external hard drives, internal drives of computers and old floppy disks and DAT tapes. In order to obtain the data or information saved, the disks work through magnetic dipoles, which are generated on the surface of the same by handling of magnetic particles created by a head.

This arm (or head) works as a data reader and also as a writing element. It has an electromagnet and its work is relatively simple, since when it is close to the disk magnetic particles check if attraction is possible, through magnetism, in order to attract or repel in a dipole field. In this way, it is possible to know if the field has a positive or negative pole and if it is what the user needs or not according to their requirement.

It is characterized because it has no restrictions regarding the amount of information that can be saved, since it allows large amounts as well as small volumes of bytes. Other characteristics that we can highlight of a magnetic disk is that it has a “Non-volatile memory”. This means that you do not lose the information it contains if you do not have access to electricity. This is a well-defined point regarding the RAM memories, since they do have the ability to save data, but they lose it when they do not receive a power supply.

You have to be careful when handling them. This is because discs can be damaged if they are not treated carefully. In addition, it is preferable to avoid being in hot or humid areas and also close to sources of dust. When the device is in operation it is recommended not to move it because it could damage the head or other components such as the drive or impulse motor. This is because the disk is constantly spinning when it is turned on.

What are the types of magnetic discs that exist?

Next, we will show you the different types of magnetic discs that exist until now, although they are not all used today:



These magnetic discs, which are called “Floppy disk or floppy disk”, are not used today due to their obsolescence. Although they have similar characteristics with hard drives since they are round, rotate at high speeds and are used to store data in a magnetizable way, the great barrier they present today is their storage capacity, being this very limited, just 200 mebibytes.

It is called flexible because of the square or rectangular plastic cover that covers the plate. They are removable, so they can be taken anywhere and can be read on a special device, which will change according to the size of the floppy disk. The most recognized formats are those of 8 inches, 5¼ “and, more modern, 3½ inches.



Hard disks, like floppy disks, also spin at high speeds, but their operation is more complex than floppy disks. In its structure it has a alloy material flat tray to which a board with electronic circuits is added, or computer bus. Then they connect a head (with electromagnet) that serves to read and write the information, a motor necessary to drive the plate axis. It also has a motor for what run head and one controller card.

Its structure, or arrangement of information, of the magnetic disk is divided into tracks, cylinder, sector or track divisions, geometric sectors and cluster. These differ according to the location of the information on the plate. As we have already explained before, the operation of the rigid magnetic disk is carried out by bipolar physical processes. The head, through the electromagnet that it has, attracts or repels magnetizable molecules to obtain the necessary information.

We have to specify also that a hard drive can contain one or more magnetic platters, which will work as a set to obtain greater storage capacity.

What are the main benefits of using magnetic discs?

So far we have talked about what a magnetic disk is and how it works, but we have not touched on the issue of the benefits of using such a device. Now, we will explain to you what are the most important advantages of using a magnetic disk to store computer data on it.

Let’s know more in detail:

  • The byte limit that you can write to the magnetic platter is not a restriction for its use. This is because the user has the option of saving large files quickly, as well as accessing them directly. The same happens when you want to host a small amount of data.
  • The saved information can be erased and thus the disk can be reused as many times as the user needs it. Also, through special software, you can recover deleted information.
  • By having a non-volatile memory, data is not lost when power is cut off. In this way, users ensure that they will always have the saved information available.
  • It has the great advantage be compatible with all kinds of files. This occurs because files are saved in bytes, so the format is not a restriction on using the data. In this way we can say that there are no limits.
  • There is the possibility of transporting the magnetic disk to another computer and be able to read the information you have on the other device. Therefore, a hard drive is compatible with a wide variety of desktop computers. This makes its use easier and more accepted among users.

Magnetic vs. Optical Disks How are they different and which is better for storing data?

Magnetic vs. Optical Disks How are they different and which is better for storing data?

Magnetic discs work through its head. This arm has an electromagnet that magnetically modifies the area in which the information is housed and thus may or may not attract the data. Instead, an optical disk that also saves files, it does so through laser beams, according to different types of digital formats. It uses this type of beam to read and write the data that exists on the surface of the disk. The big difference between these two kinds of technology is the better storage capacity at a lower cost than optical discs.

Further, they are less sensitive to external factors such as humidity, dust and shocks. This is because the magnetic chuck is built with 2 kinds of materials. One, which is located on the inside, which is usually made of aluminum or its alloys, and in the most modern, this component is made of glass. The other material that covers the first is a combination of cobalt. Moving optical discs is much easieras it is not necessary to open the internal computer components to remove the storage drive.

As a curious fact we can say that on a magnetic disk you cannot see the area that is recorded with information. This does not happen in an optic disc, since in this type of device a darker area can be seen with the naked eye, which indicates the place where the information was housed. As examples of magnetic disks we can name the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, we will answer you as soon as possible, and it will also be of great help to more members of the community. Thank you! 😉

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