Buying Guide Part 7: SSD/HDD
Many people still don’t realize that having an SSD (solid state drive) instead of a standard HDD (hard disk drive) actually does make a big difference in overall performance. In the majority of the starting configurations for gaming PCs, the standard drive is a 1TB HDD and most customers just leave it as is.
Earlier this year, my brother was looking for a new PC and I made it a point to make sure he gets one with an SSD as the boot drive. He had purchased one with a regular HDD and boot times were slow. He returned that and got one with an SSD. He was extremely happy and was extremely surprised at how fast things booted up and ran. It was like instant-on with the SSD whereas with the HDD, you can go do something else and come back later.
Think about this. The CPU gets updated every single year. Same with the graphics card. Memory is now at DDR4. But, HDD technology hasn’t advanced much in the last decade at the very least. The only advances that pertain to the hard drives is the SATA connection and the last update to that was the introduction of SATA 3.0 back in 2009. Eight years ago!
SATA 3.0 basically increases the speed and bandwidth of the connection between the drives and the system. But if HDD performance hasn’t increased much, having a SATA 3.0 connection really doesn’t matter.
My Recommended Setup
In my own system, I have both SSDs and HDDs. I use a decent size 256GB SSD as my boot drive and a 2.5TB HDD as my data drive.
The cost per gigabyte for SSDs is still roughly 6 times in comparison to the same size HDD drive. So, if you need a large drive for your data, get an HDD as a secondary drive but definitely get an SSD as your primary boot drive.
Actually, I have a total of 4 drives in my main system. I have two SSDs and two HDDs. One SSD is my boot drive. The other SSD is where I keep my files and install my games. The large 2.5TB HDD is my media drive (pictures, videos, etc). My second HDD is my backup drive where I have automatic backups of certain folders from my other drives.
The reason I don’t keep any of my files and whatnot on the boot drive is that I had a tendency to reinstall a fresh copy of windows every couple of years. By keep my files on other drives, I never have to worry about moving or losing my data when I wipe the main drive for a reinstall.
Having your games installed on the SSD versus a HDD also makes a big difference when it comes to load times. In my previous articles, I mentioned that the graphics card is the most important when it comes to gaming performance and then the processor after that.
But, don’t you hate waiting for the game to load or for the next region to load when moving around in a large game world? Having the best graphics card won’t help with load times. This is where the drive performance comes into play and the SSD makes a big difference.
SSD / HDD Brands
For HDDs, my go to brand has been and still is Western Digital. I have used many of the other brands over the years and when it comes to performance and especially reliability, Western Digital is still king, in my opinion.
For SSDs, Samsung and Kingston are brands that I like. However, within the last year, Western Digital is finally now offering their own line of SSDs and so far the reviews have been good. I have yet to test one myself but I have faith in Western Digital to put out good products.
Based on my own experience, the Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSD is a good start and priced decently for an SSD.
Part 6 Gaming PC Components Guide – Memory | Part 8 Gaming PC Final Build Coming Soon