SSD or HDD: Which is better?

An SSD can greatly increase the speed of your PC, but an HDD stores a ton of data cheaply. Which is the right choice for you?

Last updated on the 3rd of November 2023
SSD or HDD: Which is better?

If your PC needs more storage, or if it’s running slow, upgrading to the best SSD could solve all your problems. But should you install a solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (HDD)? If you’re a gamer, you’ll almost certainly want to go for an SSD, but it might be that an HDD is better suited for your needs if all you want is more space. SSD or HDD, which is better?

Is an SSD better than an HDD?

While an SSD and an HDD are both classed as a hard drive, there are two main differences:

  • SSDs are faster but more expensive.
  • HDDs are slower but cheaper.

Taken at face value, SSDs are better than HDDs, and we generally recommend upgrading to the best SSD you can afford in order to improve your computer’s performance.

An SSD or solid-state drive is significantly faster than its HDD counterpart due to the way the SSD stores, reads, and writes data. An SSD takes information and stores it electronically, which allows data to be written and retrieved with exceptional speed.

HDDs by comparison store information by writing to and reading from a spinning disk. This operation is performed by a mechanical arm which physically moves backwards and forwards as the disk rotates. The problem with this design is that the arm can only read whatever is immediately beneath the arm on the disk. An SSD doesn’t have this limitation, and is able to access all of the stored data immediately without waiting for a physical component to rotate to the correct place.

Should I upgrade to an SSD?

If you’re a gamer and want the best performance for your PC or laptop, it’s worth investing in the best SSD for gaming. Game developers are increasingly making SSDs a requirement for their games, so it’s only a matter of time until HDDs won’t be compatible. So, if you only have an HDD right now, you may want to consider upgrading your HDD to an SSD to future-proof your device.

However, SSDs are expensive and more costly than HDDs on a gigabyte by gigabyte basis. A modern 1TB (1000GB) SSD can easily set you back $50 to $100+, while a 1TB HDD can cost as little as $25 or less.

While an SSD is definitely more expensive, we recommend you upgrade to an SSD as soon as possible. Ideally, you want a 500GB SSD or greater. But, if money is a concern, you have two options:

  • Buy an SSHD drive - a solid-state hybrid drive is a hard drive that bridges the gap between an SSD and HDD. It’s cheaper than an SSD, and faster than a HDD.
  • Get a HDD with a high RPM - RPM stands for rotations per minute. HDDs with higher RPMs can read and write data faster than HDDs with a lower RPM. For a modern computer, aim for 5400 or 7200 RPM HDDs, whichever is in budget.

Should you upgrade anything else in your PC? Rate your PC with our benchmark test to find out.

Is it better to play games on SSD or HDD?

Installing and playing games on an SSD will give you significant performance improvements over using an HDD. Gaming on an HDD can result in longer load times, and slower system performance. SSDs allow your computer to retrieve data much faster, which will make it much easier to play games.

It’s also worth noting that game developers are increasingly requiring SSDs as part of their system requirements, and it’s very likely this trend will become more prevalent as time goes on.

Are SSDs more reliable than HDDs?

An unsung benefit of an SSD over an HDD is the SSD’s resilience. Assuming you were to drop your computer, an SSD is less likely to be damaged than an HDD. This is because a number of components can easily be irreparably damaged by the shock of a fall:

  • The spinning disk can shatter or crack, making data recovery impossible.
  • The arm can become misaligned or scratch the disk, making data recovery eye-wateringly expensive or impossible.

SSDs have no moving parts, making them more reliable, though they can still be damaged if subjected to enough punishment. Generally, aim to not drop your hard drive, which is something everyone can agree is sensible.

What is the lifespan of an SSD?

There’s a lot of debate over whether SSDs or HDDs last longer than the other, but the general consensus and our long experience with hard drives suggests that both SSDs and HDDs will last between 5 and 10 years. SSDs will gradually slow down as they are used because the electronic components within wear out and lose the ability to hold the same charge as they did when new. HDDs slow down due to mechanical wear over time, and several points of failure in the disk, arm, and other components can lead to a complete failure of the drive after years of use.

However, given that most computers, particularly gaming rigs, have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years, dedicated gamers won’t need to worry about the lifespan of their hard drives so long as they keep a good backup of their data ready using cloud storage or an external drive.