Do I need a hard drive if I have an SSD?

A solid state drive (SSD) is a type of computer storage device that uses flash memory rather than spinning platters like traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). SSDs have faster read and write speeds, are more durable since they have no moving parts, generate less heat, and are quieter than HDDs. Some key benefits of SSDs over HDDs include:

  • Faster boot and load times – SSDs can access data almost instantly, while HDDs require time for the platter to spin and the read head to move into position.
  • Faster transfer speeds – SSDs have much faster data transfer rates, with sequential read/write speeds of 500-550 MB/s for SATA SSDs and over 3,000 MB/s for PCIe NVMe SSDs. HDDs max out around 150 MB/s.
  • Better reliability and durability – SSDs are less prone to damage from drops, vibration, or magnetism since they have no moving parts.
  • Lower power consumption – SSDs use less energy than spinning HDDs, extending battery life in laptops.
  • Compact and lightweight – SSDs take up much less space and weigh less than HDDs.
  • Silent operation – SSDs make no noise compared to the audible spinning of HDD platters.

While HDDs have advantages like lower costs per gigabyte and higher maximum capacities, SSDs are greatly preferred in most computing devices today for their speed, performance, reliability, and quiet operation. However, some users may still need or want to use an HDD in addition to an SSD.

Faster Speeds

SSDs are significantly faster than HDDs for most use cases. This is because SSDs use NAND flash memory chips to store data while HDDs use magnetic spinning platters. The lack of moving parts enables SSDs to access data almost instantly, resulting in much faster boot times, program launches, and file transfers.

According to Tekie, SSDs have average sequential read and write speeds of 200-550 MB/s while HDDs max out at 100-200 MB/s. For random access speeds, SSDs achieve 10,000-100,000 IOPS compared to just 100-200 IOPS for HDDs. This performance advantage makes SSDs the clear choice for operating systems, applications, games, and any tasks requiring fast access to data.

Overall, SSDs deliver 3-4x faster boot times, 5-10x faster game/program loading, and significantly faster file transfers and data access. Upgrading to an SSD provides a readily noticeable speed boost for most PCs and laptops still using traditional hard drives.

Durability and Reliability

SSDs tend to be more durable and reliable than hard drives due to their lack of moving parts. Traditional HDDs rely on spinning platters and moving read/write heads, which makes them more prone to mechanical failure over time. SSDs have no moving parts, so they are not susceptible to damage or degraded performance from vibration, shock, dust, etc. According to a cloud storage analysis from ZDNet, SSDs had lower failure rates than HDDs in heavy enterprise workloads.

Research from Backblaze also showed SSDs maintaining under 1% annualized failure rates through the first four years of use. The lack of moving parts gives SSDs a clear reliability advantage for laptops and mobile devices that are prone to vibration or drops. Even in desktop use, SSDs avoid the mechanical wear and tear that eventually causes HDD failure. Their solid state nature makes SSDs better equipped to withstand accidental drops, transportation, power outages, and general long-term use.

Size and Storage Capacity

One of the main reasons people still use traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) is the larger storage capacity offered at a lower cost per gigabyte. HDDs come in sizes up to 16 terabytes or more, while most consumer SSDs max out at 4TB. This makes HDDs a better value, costing around $0.03 per gigabyte versus closer to $0.20 for SSDs.

If you need massive amounts of storage space, such as for a media server or backup drive, an HDD is likely the most cost-effective option. The mechanical parts allow fitting more physical platters and heads, packing in more data per volume. SSDs rely on increasingly dense NAND flash memory chips, which remain more expensive.

For general computing and gaming, a 512GB or 1TB SSD paired with a large HDD for additional storage tends to offer a good blend of speed, capacity, and cost-effectiveness. But for bulk data archives, surveillance systems, and other large storage needs, HDDs have a substantial per-gigabyte price advantage.

Cost Differences

One key factor in the SSD versus HDD decision is cost. Hard drives have historically been much cheaper per gigabyte than SSDs. According to sources,

For example, SSDs can cost around $0.08-$0.10 per gigabyte, whereas hard drives are often below $0.03 per gigabyte. This means you can get the same amount of storage capacity on a hard drive for a fraction of the cost of an SSD.

As explained by Spiceworks, “In terms of price for each GB of storage, the SSD is much more costly than the HDD. SSD costs twice as much as HDD approximately.”

Hard drive manufacturers are able to keep costs lower partially due to economies of scale, as they produce vastly higher volumes compared to SSDs. Hard drives have long been the default storage option for most PCs and servers. As SSD costs continue to decline over time, the pricing gap has narrowed, but HDDs remain the more budget-friendly choice for large amounts of storage.

Use Cases for SSDs

SSDs are ideal for storing your operating system and applications due to their faster speeds compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). This results in much quicker boot times when your OS is installed on an SSD (Source).

Additionally, launching programs and loading files stored on an SSD is significantly faster versus a HDD. Gaming is another common use case where storing games on an SSD can lead to much faster level load times (Source). The performance boost from an SSD is very noticeable for games with large levels or maps that require loading.

In summary, the ideal uses for SSDs are for your operating system boot drive, frequently used programs, and games where you want faster load times.

Use Cases for Hard Drives

Hard drives are still ideal for certain uses, even with the rise of SSDs. One major advantage of hard drives is their large capacity, with high capacity consumer models going up to 20TB. This makes them well-suited for media storage and archiving large amounts of data. According to Turner Tech, one of the top uses for hard drives is storing photos, videos, and music libraries.

The large capacities also make hard drives a good choice for backups. Backing up the operating system or an entire computer is easier with a high capacity drive. External hard drives are commonly used for creating full system backups. According to HP, backups are one of the top 5 uses for external hard drives.

Finally, hard drives can serve as good archival storage due to the lower cost per gigabyte compared to SSDs. If you need to archive large amounts of data for years, hard drive storage provides an affordable long-term solution.

Hybrid Options

One option to balance the benefits of SSDs and HDDs is to use a hybrid setup with both types of drives. This typically involves using a smaller SSD as the primary boot drive paired with a larger mechanical hard drive for mass storage. The SSD boots the operating system and commonly used applications faster, while the HDD offers abundant cheap storage capacity (TechTarget, 2022).

Hybrid hard drives (SSHDs) attempt to combine the best of both worlds in a single unit, with a small amount of fast flash storage augmented by a slower mechanical disk. However, while SSHDs offer some benefits over traditional HDDs, they generally don’t match the performance of dedicated SSD boot drives. Many experts recommend using an SSD boot drive with a secondary HDD instead for optimal speed and value (Amazon, 2022).

The hybrid approach allows you to maximize the strengths of SSDs for performance-critical tasks while still being able to store large amounts of media, documents, and other files economically on a hard drive. With strategic data placement, you can get both fast boot times and abundant storage capacity.

Maximizing SSD Benefits

There are several tips for optimizing SSD performance in Windows to get the most out of your solid state drive:

First, make sure TRIM is enabled. TRIM is a Windows feature that helps SSDs maintain optimal performance by clearing out invalid data blocks. You can check if TRIM is active by going to Command Prompt and running the command “fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify”. If it returns a 0, TRIM is enabled. If it returns a 1, you’ll need to activate TRIM (

Next, disable defragmentation. Defragging is necessary for traditional hard drives but can actually decrease lifespan and lower performance on SSDs. Open the Optimize Drives tool, select your SSD, click “Change settings”, and uncheck “Run on a schedule” to disable defrags (

It’s also recommended to disable Superfetch and the Indexing Service in Windows, which can cause extra writes. You can turn these off in the Services tab of the Task Manager.

Finally, enable Write Caching in the Device Manager. This caches data in volatile memory before writing it to disk, which boosts write speeds (

Following these tips will allow your SSD to operate at peak performance.


In summary, while SSDs are faster, more reliable, and smaller than traditional hard drives, there are still some use cases where having an HDD in addition to an SSD makes sense. Here are some factors to consider:

  • If you need a lot of storage capacity – SSDs are more expensive per gigabyte, so HDDs are better for large storage at lower cost.
  • If you need to store large media files that don’t require fast access – Like videos, photos, music, etc. An HDD will provide ample storage at lower cost.
  • If you want a drive for backups or archiving data – HDDs are good for storing data that doesn’t need frequent access but needs higher overall capacity.
  • If you are on a tight budget – An SSD for the OS and apps plus an HDD for media storage can optimize performance while minimizing cost.

In general, having both an SSD and HDD allows you to take advantage of the strengths of each. The SSD provides faster boot and loading times, while the HDD offers abundant inexpensive storage. For most users, a dual drive setup is an ideal combination.