When it comes to purchasing a storage device for your laptop, notebook, or PC, there are really only two options: You can opt for a Solid State Drive (SSD) or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD).

By now, you’re probably familiar with the tried-and-true HDD, but you might not know what an SSD is, or what distinguishes one type of drive from the other.

In order to make an informed decision, you should have a fundamental grasp of the differences between each drive and how they can benefit your setup.

While both drives have definite advantages and disadvantages, with a little direction, you can likely determine which one will best suit your needs.

To get you to up to speed, we tackle all you need to know below.

Table of Contents:

  1. What’s the Difference Between an SSD and HDD?
  2. Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
  3. How to Determine Which Drive is Right for You

What’s the Difference Between an SSD and HDD?

If you’re completely out of the loop when it comes to storage technology (don’t worry; we’ve all been there), then you probably think both types of drives do the exact same thing:

They just store away your computer’s files for safe keeping.

That’s it, right?

In the most basic sense, yes.

SSDs and HDDs are devices that connect to the motherboard of your PC, laptop, or desktop, storing everything from your Operating System to your documents, programs, preferences, pictures, videos, and more.

But the main underlying differences between the two drives are their physical components, which rely on two completely different types of technologies resulting in different levels of performance and functionality for end users like yourself.

So, what are these technologies, and what exactly can they do for you? Let’s find out.

Understanding How HDDs Work

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

HDDs are purely mechanical drives that use magnetic spinning hard disks — or platters — to store your data.

Hovering above the platters is the read/write head, a mechanical arm which reads (loads) and writes (saves) data stored on the platters.

In order for HDDs to reach their operating speed, the spinning platters must reach between 5,700 – 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM), which can take awhile depending on your drive.

For this reason, HDDs are the slower of the two drives.

Understanding How SSDs Work

Picture of Solid State Drive

SSDs use a completely different type of technology called NAND Flash Memory, which relies on tiny flash cells to store your data.

Because there are no physical moving parts in an SSD, they are considerably faster than HDDs.

SSDs also have another singular function: they increase the data transfer rate — also known as the read/write speed — of your computer.

So what does that mean exactly?

Would you like to know more about SSDs? Check out our comprehensive SSD guide to learn more about what they are and how they can benefit your computer setup!

High transfer speeds (usually around 550/500MB/s Read/Write) will dramatically decrease boot and load times while increasing responsiveness and overall performance.

Your most demanding applications — think music and editing software, PC games, or any resource intensive application (like scientific computing, digital animation, or design engineering) — will operate seamlessly.

So, which drive is right for you?

Let’s discuss some advantages and disadvantages to find out.

Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs

To see how these drives compare, check out our chart below:

SSD Vs. HDD Infographic

 

So, we’ve compared the two hard drives.

Generally, SSDs are considered the superior drive in departments like speed, responsiveness, and performance, but HDDs offer higher storage capacities at a much cheaper rate.

Now that we know in what areas each drive excels, it’s time to determine which one will benefit you the most.

How to Determine Which Drive is Right For You

Which Hard Drive Is Right For Your Needs?

While there are already some great hard drive buyer’s guides out there to help end users like yourself, purchasing the perfect device for you can still be a daunting task.

To help you out, we’ve included several use cases below that you can probably relate to. This way, you can make an informed decision that caters to both your budget and your needs:

I only use my home computer

The Gamer: You probably own a customized PC and enjoy playing demanding games. In this case, an internal storage SATA III SSD with around 240 GB would do the trick. A drive with this speed and capacity would immensely improve your gaming experience.

A lot of heavy gamers might prefer to store intensive game files on their HDD, while utilizing the fast transfer speeds of their SSD to do the heavy lifting required by gameplay.

The Home System User: Do you just want a place to store all of your photos, videos, and other miscellaneous files?

If this is you, then investing in a heavy duty SSD won’t be necessary. You should instead opt for an external HDD with plenty of space, preferably around one to two Terabytes.

I’m always on the go

The Freelancer: You like to — or must — take your work with you. For portability reasons, you definitely need an SSD that can power your computer and hold your valuable files in any setting.

For this, we recommend a 480GB portable SSD. A drive of this caliber isn’t terribly expensive and it provides the power you need to run your most demanding applications wherever you may be.

The Commuter: If you prefer to take advantage of the gaps in your day to get some serious work done, then you need a drive that is both compact, lightweight, resilient, and powerful.

No worries!

M.2 SSD drives are designed with form factor in mind, so they can fit in the thinnest ultra-books and laptops. For a drive that can really handle all the heavy lifting, we recommend a 6GB/s M.2 SATA III SSD.

The Traveler: You’re the type that can’t sit in one place for too long. Because you’re out and about, you need a storage device you can trust — one that’s durable, efficient, and reliable. In this case, you should consider a 1TB external HDD that can take a beating.

Picking a hard drive for your computer is an exciting investment. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with the tools to determine what type of drive is best for you.

 

107 Comments

  1. Rob C

    Even tho I’m more or less familiar with the differences its a nice guide for those that aren’t, pretty cool 👍

    Reply
  2. Bruno

    I have both in my PC. For fast booting and loading times i have ssd and using HDD for storing videos,photos and important documents and files

    Reply
  3. Al Cro

    I like the idea of the speed of an ssd over an hdd. and the fact that they are a bit more robust to knocks, but they still are pricey compared to HDD.

    Reply
  4. Jm Jurado

    More likely SSD is a recommended one if price or budget is not an issue. Most advantages are in favor of SSD compared to HDD. While cacacities are still dominated by HDD sooner or later as technology get snarter, SSD production will improve more and might release a bigger storage capacities more than 1GB.

    Reply
  5. Sony

    I still need both. SSD for system and HDD for storage media. Although SSD are better than HDD, but the weaknesses that are still not covered is a matter of price. With the same price I can get a HDD with a larger capacity than SSD. So the wisest thing I think is to use both.

    Reply
  6. jason

    thank you ^_^ silicon power!!! hope i can experience this new ssd!! i really really want to experience and test this new ssd <3

    Reply
  7. Edward Tavares

    With AMD StoreMI on Ryzen 2nd gen motherboards, your HDD and SSD look like a single drive to the OS and the most accessed files are stored on the SSD. You essentially get SSD speeds for your HDD.

    Reply
  8. Machida

    Wow this was a really insightful article! I’m trying to build my own PC for college, and reading this gave me a lot more confidence!

    Reply
  9. Nanang Sugiarto

    SSD is thr better drive compared with HDD. More durable, lighter, and hi-speed transfer. Thats why, SSD is the best option for drive upgrade

    Reply
  10. Edward Reinholtz

    Wouldn’t you use a sdd to transport info like if you work in an office and bring your work home and then bring it back To Work ? What is a SDHD ? I have a 1 t drive if I want to save from computer .

    Reply
  11. Matias P

    SSD are great, but too expensive, thanks for clarifying that SSD is not always necessary, but you should definately get one if you have the money for it. Great post!

    Reply
  12. SSD это будущее, доступный обьем растет с каждым годом, и скорость чтения\записи вместе с ним, отсутствие шума и движущихся частей делает его более тихим, и при этом более надежным

    Reply
  13. I’ve always wanted to have an SSD so that my PC will boot up faster and smoother gaming experience. But with monetary constraints, I can’t fulfill my dreams. I want to win that contest.

    Reply
  14. Yaw Gyebi Owusu-Acheaw

    Whoa i didn’t know these now i know what to choose when i start building my gaming pc
    Thank you for the enlightenment

    Reply
  15. Alexandr

    I’ve been using ssd for a long time, but only for the system. Under the games and programs have to use hdd. It’s good that technologies are becoming more affordable and cheaper and soon everyone will be able to give up hdd in favor of ssd

    Reply
  16. Southend

    Don’t miss out on your chance to will the price pack of your choice! pick between a #photography, #business or #gamer pack. Photography is My thing…

    Reply
  17. Bola Oloye Sunrise

    This it’s so cool have come across both before but didn’t know the better one, now I have been enlightened.

    Reply
  18. MICHAEL CHEVILLOT

    Thanks for the information, I knew some of it, but you explained it so simple in everyday terms that was easy to understand. I bookmarked your page and I am sending it out to some of my, less pc knowledgeable, friends and relatives. I appreciate the effort, All the Best!!!!

    Reply
  19. without opening the computer case is there a way to tell if you have a SSD interface along with a
    Hdd hard drive.? I have an HP Pavilian p62729f Pc with a usb external hard drive for backup . It was upgraded to Winows 10

    Reply
  20. André Mendes

    Great tutorial. I own both but with SSD finally having good prices for GB if I build a new PC I would own SSD only, the difference in performance is night and day.

    Reply

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