Storage Wars - SSD or HDD?

By Steve Thomson 17 Jan 2018
ssd vs hdd

If you’re buying a new computer, especially a laptop, you’ll have to make some decisions about storage. Knowing what’s what will help you make the best choice, and the same goes if you’re building or upgrading your own PC.

Yes, the amount of storage space matters, but so does the type. Should you go for a ‘Solid State Drive’ (SSD) or a ‘Hard Disk Drive’ (HDD)?


What’s the difference?


Hard disk drives, as we know them, have been around since the start of the home computing era in the 1980s. They work by storing data magnetically on spinning disks, with a moving head to read and write data to and from the disks.

SSDs have gotten more popular over the last decade. They’re similar to the type of memory used in USB memory cards, and use microchips to store the information electronically.


Why use an HDD?


Hard drives have one big advantage over SSDs – storage space. HDDs are available in quite massive sizes, and at a fraction of the cost-per-gigabyte of SSDs.

If cheap, plentiful storage space is your priority, the traditional hard disk ticks all the boxes.

Why use an SSD?


The biggest difference between the two types of storage is speed. To open a file or program, an HDD has to gather information from the spinning disks, one sector at a time. SSDs read from every sector at the same time, which means programs and files open more quickly.

You’ll notice the difference most when you turn the computer on. With an HDD, MacOS and Windows 10 typically take around 45 seconds to go, from pressing the power button to having the login screen available. Using an SSD as your boot drive will often bring that down to approx. 15 seconds.


The best of both worlds?


Can the best bits of both systems be combined? Well, yes, at least in a way.

Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHDs) combine a conventional HDD with a small amount of SSD flash memory built in (typically 8GB). The drive monitors which files you open regularly, and puts them in the flash memory to give you super-fast access. This can be a good option if you need to replace a laptop hard drive.

These 'dual-drive hybrid systems' are pretty common, particularly in desktop PCs. Most desktop cases have enough space for at least two storage drives, and using one of each type of drive gives all the benefits, with not much drawback.

Use the SSD as the boot drive, and your computer will turn on in a flash. Back that up with a large capacity hard disk drive, and you'll have fast load times with enough space to not worry about it for a while. If there’s enough space on the SSD, install big programs like Microsoft Office on there so they load quicker too.



Choosing a storage option isn’t something you’ll do very often, but it’s important to get it right. Really, there are three things to think about: storage capacity, performance and price. Here’s how they stack up:

  • Storage Capacity: how you use your computer affects which type of drive to choose. If you have lots of stuff to store, an HDD is probably the way to go.
  • Performance: matters every time you use your computer. Snappy start-ups and fast-opening files make for better productivity, so if this is the most important thing to you, SSDs are your friend.
  • Price: large capacity HDDs and small SSDs are similar in price, so this isn’t quite such an important factor as the other two – unless you’re in the market for a 1TB+ solid state drive.

Shop SSDs and HDDs

If your computer’s a desktop and you’ve got the space, we think a hybrid dual-drive system gives the best results, with a fast-booting SSD backed up by a large capacity hard disk drive – or two. If you can only use one drive, it depends on what's more important to you - speed or storage capacity.

To find out whether your kit is working as it should, use our Free Check-up service. We’ll do a full scan, and let you know what we find.

Hopefully that's explained your storage options, but if you'd like to speak to an expert from Team Knowhow, you can get hold of us here.

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