Can you have both HDD and SSD together?

Yes, you can absolutely have both a hard disk drive (HDD) and a solid state drive (SSD) in your computer at the same time. Many modern desktop and laptop PCs are configured this way to balance storage capacity and speed.

Table of Contents

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to some common questions about using HDD and SSD together:

What are the benefits of having both HDD and SSD?

The key benefit is you get the large storage capacity of a HDD along with the performance boost of a SSD. The SSD can be used for the operating system, applications, and files you access frequently, while the HDD stores media files, documents, and other data.

How do you setup a system with both HDD and SSD?

Typically the SSD is used for the OS drive (C:) with the HDD as a separate data drive (D:). The SSD is normally installed in the fastest SATA or M.2 slot on the motherboard.

Should the SSD be bigger or smaller than the HDD?

SSDs are typically smaller in capacity than HDDs due to the higher cost per gigabyte of SSD storage. A 128GB or 256GB SSD paired with a 1TB or 2TB HDD is a common configuration.

Which components should be installed on the SSD?

For optimal performance, install the operating system, applications, and games you use most often on the SSD. The HDD can store files, photos, videos and other data.

What cable do you need to connect both drives?

If both drives are SATA, you just need SATA data cables to connect them to the motherboard. M.2 SSDs connect directly to the motherboard without a cable.

Advantages of Using HDD and SSD Together

Combining a hard disk drive and solid state drive gives you some major advantages over using either type of drive on its own:

Large Storage Capacity

The key benefit of hard disk drives is their large storage capacity. HDDs are available in sizes up to 10TB for desktops and 2TB for laptops at relatively affordable prices. An SSD alone would be prohibitively expensive for such large capacity storage.

Faster Load and Boot Times

SSDs provide much faster load times for operating systems, games, and applications due to their faster random read speeds compared to HDDs. Boot time greatly decreases with your OS on a SSD.

Faster File Transfers and Saves

The higher sequential read/write speed of SSDs results in noticeably faster moving or copying files on your system. Saves to storage are also quicker with a SSD.

More Responsiveness

Since SSDs don’t have to physically move read/write heads to access data, your system will feel more responsive when running programs installed on the SSD. Everything happens instantly.

Better Multitasking

With your OS, games, and apps on the fast SSD, there is less storage bottlenecking when running multiple demanding programs at the same time. Your system stays responsive.

Quieter Operation

SSDs have no moving parts, unlike the spinning platters and moving heads of HDDs. This makes them completely silent in operation.

Faster Access Times

SSDs have near instant access times to stored data of just 0.1ms typically compared to 10-15ms for HDDs. This improves performance across the board.

More Reliable and Durable

Absence of moving parts also makes SSDs more reliable and durable than HDDs. They can withstand bumps and vibrations better with lower failure rates.

Faster Reboot and Resume

Rebooting your computer is significantly faster with your OS on an SSD. Resume from sleep is also instant compared to the delay with a HDD.

Better Performance over Time

SSD performance doesn’t degrade over time like HDDs. You’ll enjoy fast speeds over the lifespan of the drive.

Disadvantages of Using HDD and SSD Together

While the pros clearly outweigh the cons for most users, there are some downsides to consider with this setup:

Increased Cost

Having both an HDD and SSD naturally costs more than having just one drive. You have to buy two drives instead of one plus cables, mounts, etc.

More Complex Setup

There is some extra work involved in properly setting up and configuring a dual drive system compared to a single drive PC. You need to decide how to partition the drives, what data goes where, manage cable routing, etc.

Potential Compatibility Issues

In rare cases, there may be compatibility issues with certain motherboards or BIOS settings when mixing SSD and HDD drives. Not typically a problem, but something to research before buying.

Requires Proper SSD Optimization

To get the full benefit of the SSD you need to optimize your system settings to take full advantage of the SSD’s speed. This involves some tweaking.

Extra Heat Generated

Having both an HDD and SSD in your system will generate more heat than a single drive as both drives consume power. Proper airflow is important to keep things cool.

Potential Bottlenecks

If not properly configured, high speed SSDs may be bottlenecked by older/slower components in other parts of the system limiting the full benefit of the SSD performance.

How to Setup a Dual HDD and SSD System

Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up your computer with both a HDD and SSD for optimal performance:

1. Install the SSD

Physically install your SSD into the fastest SATA or M.2 slot on your motherboard following the instructions that came with your computer or motherboard. Be sure it is securely mounted.

2. Connect Cables/Power

Connect the SATA data and power cables to the SSD if needed. The SATA cable connects to an open SATA port on the motherboard. M.2 SSDs don’t need cables.

3. Install the HDD

Physically mount your HDD into an open drive bay following the instructions for your case. Usually 3.5″ HDDs are screwed into sliding trays that fit into the bay.

4. Connect Cables/Power

Connect the SATA data and power cables to the HDD, routing them neatly through the case. Ensure the SATA cable reaches an open SATA port on the motherboard.

5. Boot into BIOS

Enter your system BIOS setup menu on bootup to verify both the SSD and HDD are detected by the motherboard. This confirms the drives are properly connected.

6. Set SSD as First Boot Device

While in the BIOS, find the boot order option and move the SSD to the first boot position so the system boots from it instead of the HDD.

7. Initialize and Partition SSD

Initialize the SSD from within Disk Management in Windows. Create a partition on it then format it NTFS. Repeat for the HDD.

8. Install OS on SSD

Perform a clean install of your operating system onto the SSD partition. This ensures the OS is optimized for the SSD.

9. Install Applications on SSD

Install your most frequently used apps and programs onto the SSD. These should load faster now.

10. Store Data on HDD

Use the HDD to store your personal files, documents, photos, media, and other data. This leaves the faster SSD free.

11. Optimize SSD

Ensure your operating system is properly optimized to work best with your SSD. Enable TRIM, disable hibernation, and Alignment settings.

Performance Comparison of HDD vs SSD

Let’s compare the performance differences between a typical hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) in some key categories:

Sequential Read Speed Up to 210MB/s Up to 550MB/s
Sequential Write Speed Up to 210MB/s Up to 520MB/s
Random Read Speed (4k QD32) 0.5-1.5MB/s Up to 400MB/s
Random Write Speed (4k QD32) 0.5-1.5MB/s Up to 400MB/s
Latency 10-15ms 0.1ms
Boot Time Up to 30s 10-13s
File Copy Time (3GB) Up to 150s Up to 9s
Access Time 10-15ms 0.1ms

As you can see, SSDs provide substantially faster performance across the board when compared to HDDs. The bigger capacity of HDDs makes them ideal for storing files, while the speed of SSDs allows them to excel at running programs.

Ideal HDD and SSD Partition Setup

If configuring both a HDD and SSD in your desktop or laptop, it’s recommended to partition them as follows for optimal performance:

SSD Partitions

  • C: 120GB+ – Install Windows here along with any applications
  • D: 50+GB – Games install here for faster load times

HDD Partitions

  • E: 500GB+ – Store personal files, documents, photos, music, movies, etc.
  • F: Remainder – Media storage for TV recordings, rips, ISOs, etc.

Adjust the partition sizes to suit your needs – this is just a suggested starting point. The key is to run your OS, apps, and games from the SSD while using the larger HDD for file storage and backups.

Tips for Getting the Most from Your SSD

Follow these tips to ensure your system is optimized to get the most benefit from your solid state drive:

Enable TRIM

The TRIM command improves SSD performance and lifespan by clearing out deleted data blocks. Ensure TRIM is enabled in your OS.

Disable Hibernation

Windows hibernation uses a file equal to your RAM size which takes up space and slows down your SSD. Best to disable it.

Update your BIOS

An updated BIOS may enable optimizations for SSDs. Check your motherboard manufacturer’s website for the latest BIOS version.

Disable Disk Defragging

Defragging is unnecessary for SSDs and can actually shorten the lifespan. SSD optimization is handled by TRIM.

Set the SATA mode to AHCI

AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) enables features to improve performance of SSDs. It’s recommended for use with SSDs.

Alignment Partition

Ensuring partitions are properly aligned eliminates potential read/write speed issues. Some tools can check and fix alignment.

Update SSD Firmware

Most SSD manufacturers periodically release firmware updates which can fix bugs and improve performance. Check for the latest updates.

Disable Superfetch and Prefetch

These Windows services are designed to speed up HDDs but provide little benefit for SSDs. You can disable them safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use both an HDD and SSD in my PC?

Using both a HDD and SSD is recommended for most desktop and laptop PCs as you get the huge storage capacity of HDDs combined with the performance benefits of SSDs. Install your OS, apps, and games on the SSD and use the HDD for general file storage.

Is an SSD or HDD better for gaming?

An SSD is better for gaming as it significantly improves game load times and level load times. Install your games and OS on the SSD. Use the HDD for storing other game files.

How do I know if my motherboard supports an SSD?

Most modern motherboards support SATA SSDs. M.2 SSD support will depend on if you have an M.2 slot. The manual or manufacturer website will confirm SSD compatibility.

Should I get one big SSD or two smaller SSDs?

For optimal performance, get one bigger SSD close to your capacity needs rather than splitting storage between two smaller SSDs. A single SSD can utilize the full SATA or M.2 bandwidth.

Do SSDs fail more than HDDs?

SSDs are actually more reliable and durable than HDDs overall due to not having moving parts. The lack of mechanical parts and shock resistance means lower failure rates.

Do I need to remove my HDD if installing an SSD?

No, you can have both an HDD and SSD installed in the same PC. Use the SSD for your OS, apps and games, and the HDD for data storage to get the benefits of both.


Using both a HDD and SSD together allows you to get the huge storage capacity of traditional hard drives along with the speed and performance benefits of solid state drives. Install your operating system, applications, and games on the SSD while using the HDD for general file storage to optimize system performance.

With proper setup and configuration, a dual drive system provides a great balance of speed and storage capacity. Follow the tips outlined to ensure your system is optimized to take full advantage of the strengths of both drive types.