How to choose: HDD or SSD?

 SSDs are the new storage standard, but HDDs are still useful. This article explores the differences and will help you find the right hosting solution. 

SSD Hard Drive,HDD Hard Drive
image source Intel 

Like your CPU and GPU choices, your storage drive can have an impact on your gaming experience.

Fast SSDs can reduce load times and improve system responsiveness, while slow HDDs can add several minutes of standby time to each gaming session.

When you're deciding between HDD and SSD options for gaming, it's important that you find the right storage drive for your goals and budget. Below we will analyze the advantages of HDD (traditional hard drive) and SSD (solid state drive).

SSD vs. HDD: Performance and Price 

SSD Hard Drive,HDD Hard Drive
image source Intel 

In short, the choice between HDD and SSD depends on whether you prioritize performance or capacity.

Solid state drives (SSDs) typically use flash-based memory to store data and therefore have no moving parts. They have faster read/write speeds than HDDs, lower access times (less latency), and a higher cost per gigabyte of capacity.

Hard disk drives (HDDs) use rotating magnetic media to store data, which is accessed by a read/write head on an actuator arm (much like a tape recorder head). They have slower read/write speeds, higher access times, and a lower cost per gigabyte of capacity than SSDs.

Understanding Storage Performance

The most common benchmarks for evaluating a storage device's performance is its read/write speed - the time it takes to retrieve or store data.

Sequential read/write speeds are the most commonly used performance metric and represent usage where large chunks of data are moved sequentially - for example, copying and pasting large files to the machine. They are measured in megabytes per second (MB/s).

Random read/write speeds use data located in random blocks around the drive that take longer to read or write than sequential blocks. This is a good reflection of day-to-day use as games and other applications often read and write small files to disk and access the data not found in sequence. These speeds are measured in IOPS (input/output operations per second).

Synthetic benchmarks are often used to market storage drives, but these tests should be done meticulously - they don't always reflect real-world performance. Manufacturers can showcase the best drive performance by testing at a high queue depth (number of actions performed in sequence), such as 32, even at a queue depth. 8 or less will be more practical for most users.


When buying an SSD, you'll likely come across two different connection formats: SATA III and NVMe. NVMe is quickly becoming the standard, but it's still useful to know the difference.

SATA III (Serial ATA) is a cable that works with the SATA protocol to connect multiple older SSDs and HDDs to your PC's motherboard.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a newer protocol that allows direct connection to the motherboard's PCIe lanes, providing higher throughput and lower latency. PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 drives can transfer data at thousands of megabytes per second - significantly faster than SATA III - with PCIe 4.0 drives nearly doubling 3.0 bandwidth.

Older motherboards and BIOS may not support NVMe, so make sure your system supports it before upgrading. You can do this by checking your motherboard's documentation or by searching for motherboard specifications online.

What is the difference between SSD Formats?

The different forms are not just physical differences. They also specify how the drives will connect and communicate with your motherboard.

2.5 inch SSD

2.5 inch SSD Intel
Intel SSD

2.5-inch SSD looks like a 2.5-inch mechanical drive. Consumer drives typically use the SATA III protocol and require separate power and data cables. However, NVMe is quickly becoming the new standard for consumer SSDs.

M.2 Intel SSD
image source Intel 

M.2 drives are shaped like small, thin rectangles, often compared to sticks of gum. They plug directly into an M.2 slot on the motherboard. These typically use the NVMe transfer protocol, although some older devices may use SATA. Additionally, the M.2 connectors are locked differently to avoid use with incompatible sockets. 

The M.2 slots can be located under a heat shield or even on the back of a Mini-ITX motherboard. If you are having trouble locating the M.2 slot, check your motherboard's documentation.


AIC intel SSD
image source Intel 

SSD AIC (Add to Card) connects to a PCIe slot on the motherboard for power and data. They use PCIe lanes to communicate directly with the system, just like NVMe M.2 SSDs.

If your system lacks a free M.2 slot, an AIC SSD can also act as a PCIe-to-M.2 adapter.

Other formats

There are other types of SSD interfaces and formats, such as the NVMe-based U.2 SSD. They are more commonly used in server/professional environments rather than gaming builds.

Why use HDD?

HDDs are generally slower and less durable than SSDs. But there's still a great reason to get one: capacity. When used as secondary storage, an HDD can provide terabytes of extra space to store anything that won't fit on your primary SSD.

Look for the following when comparing with HDD:

Spindle speed is the main determinant of read/write speed. Typically high-performance drives have 7,200 RPM, but speeds can vary from 5,400 to 15,000 RPM. Higher speed usually means better performance.

Formats can be 3.5 inches or 2.5 inches. In consumer devices, both SATA III and cable require separate cables for power and data.

Boost HDD memory with Intel® Optane™ Memory

One of the big downsides of using an HDD is speed. Intel® Optane™ memory offers a solution: SSD-like performance from an HDD you already own.

16-64GB Intel® Optane™ Memory M10 module will work in the background to learn your most frequently used apps and files, keep them handy for quick access and remember them even after you turn off your PC. 

Should you choose HDD or SSD?

Switching to an SSD from an HDD is one of the most notable upgrades you can make. If your budget allows, we recommend one of the options below.

Intel® Optane™ Memory H10 with Drive Solid State Memory delivers high-speed Intel® Optane™ memory and high-density SSD storage in one package. Your system benefits from the low latency and high performance capabilities of Intel® Optane™ memory under load, as well as up to 1TB of storage for games and files.

The Intel® 665P Solid State Drive offers 1 or 2TB of SSD capacity, ensuring that you have enough room to install your big game while still experiencing the other benefits of an NVMe SSD. Read more about how storage affects gaming here.

Another popular option is to pair an SSD for quick boot and load times, along with a larger capacity HDD for files you don't access often.

Your hosting solution may look slightly different depending on factors such as your budget, hardware, and intended use of the system. Regardless of where you question HDD vs SSD for gaming, consider the impact a fast, reliable storage solution can have on your PC.


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