SSD and HDD are both storage drives used in a PC, but SSDs are more recent in popularity. An HDD is more of a traditional storage drive, in that it has moving mechanical parts and is relatively bigger. SSDs are, in comparison, quite small because these are flash storage devices that take up very little space inside your PC.
The HDD vs SSD debate is an old one at this point, and if you’re looking to set up a new PC then this might just be the question running through your mind. If you want the short answer, an SSD it is! However, both of these drives have their pros and cons, and once you know the specifics of each you will be able to choose the one that best fits your needs.
How It Works: HDD
Since HDD is the traditional and older storage (introduced by IBM in 1956, so more than sixty years old!), we’ll talk about this first. HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive. Its parts consist of the platter (a spinning circular disk that stores data) and a read-write arm that floats over the disk to access that data.
The platter is magnetic, and the faster it spins the better the HDD performs. To give you an idea, modern HDDs used in laptops generally spin at a speed in between 5400 RPM (Revolutions per Minute) or 7200RPM.
HDDs use a SATA connection to link to the motherboard. The most modern version of this is the SATA III. When it comes to size, most HDDs are either 2.5 inches (for laptops) or 3.5 inches (for desktop PCs).
How It Works: SSD
SSD stands for Solid State Drive. SSDs are based on the technology used in USB sticks. Instead of using moving parts. These store data on microchips. SSDs use NAND-based memory, which is nonvolatile. This means simply that the SSD won’t ‘forget’ your data once turned off. If you want to erase the data yourself, you can always format your SSD.
The more NAND chips an SSD has, the better it performs. Like the ‘arm’ of the HDD, an SSD uses an embedded processor called the controller to read and write data. Many SSDs use SATA III ports as well, but we are beginning to see SSDs with M2 and PCIe connectors in an overwhelming majority of new PCs.
SSD vs HDD: A Comparison
Although they look quite similar from the outside, they could not be more different when it comes to their internal working. Here is how they stack up against one another.
SSD vs HDD: Speed
Speed is practically the most drastic difference between the two drives. In short, SSDs are much faster due to their superior technology, which still continues to improve. Other than its build, HDD also has the disadvantage of requiring SATA, which does not allow high speeds. For instance, SATA III only goes up to 600 MB/s. SSDs also support PCIe and M2 connections which do not have this limitation.
Since the speed of HDDs depends on how fast the platter spins, this becomes an additional limitation. Some HDDs have very high spinning speeds such as 10 000 RPM, but these are pricier. To help you relate spinning speed and processing speed, here’s an example. A SATA III HDD that spins at 5400 RPM will have a speed of 100 MB/s, whereas one at 7200 RPM will have 150 MB/s.
In contrast, SSDs can easily run at 550 MB/s on average with SATA III, but when using PCIe, the speed increases impressively. PCIe SSDs can go up to 1.2 to 1.4 GB/s. Pricier ones even go up to 2.2 GB/s!
SSD vs HDD: Price
You’ve probably guessed this already, but HDDs are significantly cheaper than SSDs. This is because they have lower speeds and the technology has been around longer. However, in recent years, the price per terabyte has come down for SSDs as well.
Similarly, SATA III SSDs are cheaper than M2 or PCIe SSDs, sometimes having the same prices as HDDs. The better a drive promises to perform and the bigger its specs, the more expensive it is.
SSD vs HDD: Capacity
Again, comparing capacity shows you a drastic change, but this time it works in favor of HDDs. HDDs have always had more storage available. In recent years, SSDs have begun to offer greater storage, but with a significantly heavier price tag.
Commercial HDDs have capacities between 40 GB and 12 TB, but enterprise-oriented HDDs can go even higher. SSDs generally don’t go higher than 1 TB, maybe 12 TB at maximum for desktop PCs (but they usually cost more than an arm and a leg!). We recommend using a smaller SSD (around 160 GB or so) to store important operating programs and then adding an HDD on top for other data.
SSD vs HDD: Reliability
Because SSDs use nonvolatile storage, they are the best bet for reliable data storage. HDDs are affected by magnetism, in that exposure to magnets can erase data. While most people are careful when it comes to avoiding this scenario, the possibility does mean that HDDs are a bit less reliable.
SSD vs HDD: Lifespan
Because of the moving parts in HDDs, these are more susceptible to wear and tear and hence have a shorter lifespan. HDDs last around 5 or 6 years. The lifespan of SDDs is indefinite and depends on more conditions, but it is still longer than an HDD.
SSD vs HDD: Gaming
SSDs are better for games because of superior performance which leads to less load time, but if your games are heavy duty and require more storage, then an HDD might be your best bet since purchasing an SSD big enough to store multiple games is probably not worth the cost.
If you have a game which suffers from long loading times (such as RUST), you should install that game on your SSD. Otherwise, it will be better to install games on your HDD since an SSD has no advantage over its counterpart when it comes to gaming other than faster load times.
Ultimately, if you need more storage, then an HDD might be a better option. If you need high speed and better performance, consider an SSD. If budget isn’t an issue for you, then simply go for a high-end SSD that will fulfill both of these requirements. As mentioned above, you can use both of these together to create a custom fit that suits your needs. Remember that if you are switching over to an SSD from an HDD, you can transfer a Windows installation instead of installing a fresh copy.