Is 256GB solid state drive good?

In the past few years, solid state drives (SSDs) have become increasingly popular for use in laptops and desktop computers. SSDs offer much faster read and write speeds compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), along with other benefits like better durability, silent operation and lower power consumption. However, SSDs have historically had much lower capacities than HDDs. So a common question for many is whether a 256GB SSD provides enough storage capacity for most users.

Quick Answer

For most mainstream laptop and desktop users, a 256GB SSD is generally considered sufficient for the operating system, apps, files and other data storage needs. However, users who have larger storage requirements like storing extensive media libraries may find 256GB limiting. Overall, 256GB offers a good balance of capacity and affordability for many users.

What is an SSD?

A solid state drive, often abbreviated as SSD, is a type of computer storage device that uses flash memory chips to store data, unlike the spinning metal platters used in traditional HDDs. Some key advantages of SSDs compared to HDDs include:

  • Faster read/write speeds – SSDs can read and write data much more quickly, often 10-100x faster than HDDs, thanks to not having moving parts.
  • Better durability – With no moving parts, SSDs are less susceptible to damage or crashes from vibration, movement, etc.
  • Quieter operation – SSDs run silently compared to the audible spinning of HDD platters.
  • Lower power draw – SSDs consume much less power, extending laptop battery life.

However, SSDs have traditionally had much lower storage capacities compared to HDDs for an equivalent price, though the gap has narrowed significantly in recent years.

Pros of 256GB SSD

Here are some of the major advantages of using a 256GB SSD:

  • Faster boot and load times – With an SSD, computers can boot in seconds rather than minutes, and programs and files open almost instantly.
  • Improved system responsiveness – Operating systems and apps run much smoother and more responsive with an SSD.
  • Faster file transfers – Copying/moving files is significantly quicker with SSDs.
  • More durable – Being solid state with no moving parts, SSDs can better withstand bumps or drops.
  • Silent operation – SSDs run totally silent, great if you use a PC in quiet environments.
  • Lower power usage – SSDs extend laptop battery runtimes by using less power.
  • Smaller size – 2.5″ SSDs take up little space and are perfect for thin/light laptops.
  • Affordable capacity – At 256GB, there’s decent capacity for OS, apps, files.

For most users, the biggest benefit is the massive improvement in system speed and responsiveness that an SSD provides over an HDD. And 256GB is a relatively affordable capacity tier these days for SSDs.

Cons of 256GB SSD

On the downside, some potential limitations of a 256GB SSD include:

  • Limited capacity for large files – May need external/cloud storage for media libraries, etc.
  • More expensive per GB – SSDs cost more per gigabyte than HDDs.
  • Moving files can be tedious – Juggling files between SSD and external storage is annoying.
  • Shorter lifespan – SSDs can wear out after thousands of write cycles.
  • File fragmentation – Performance can drop over time as files get fragmented.

The main drawback is capacity. While fine for the OS and everyday programs/files, 256GB can quickly get filled up with large media files, games, disk images, etc. This may require frequently moving files on/off the SSD or investing in external storage options.

Is 256GB Enough for Operating System?

For just the operating system, 256GB is more than enough space. Here are some examples of how much space common OSes typically take up:

Operating System Installation Size
Windows 10 ~30-50GB
Windows 8 ~20GB
MacOS ~15-20GB
Chrome OS ~10GB
Linux distros ~5-15GB

As you can see, even with the storage space needed for updates, swap files, caches, etc., there is plenty of room left over on a 256GB SSD just for the OS alone. So capacity should not be a concern when it comes to installing an operating system.

Is 256GB Enough for Programs and Apps?

In addition to the operating system, a 256GB SSD provides ample space for dozens of productivity apps, creative suites, gaming clients, and other common programs. Here are some examples:

  • Microsoft Office: ~5GB
  • Adobe Creative Cloud: ~15GB
  • Puzzle/adventure games: 500MB – 2GB
  • Steam game client: ~20GB
  • Epic Games client: ~1.5GB

Most common tools and programs people use on a daily basis only take up a few gigabytes each. So there is usually room for plenty of everyday apps and gaming clients on a 256GB SSD.

Is 256GB Enough for Files and Documents?

In terms of capacity for personal documents, media, downloads and other files, 256GB provides a good starting amount of space. Here’s an overview of how much storage common file types normally take up:

  • Documents – 250KB per Word doc, 500KB per Excel sheet.
  • Photos – Smartphone photos average 2-4MB each.
  • Music – MP3 songs around 3-5MB each.
  • Video – HD video approx 1GB per hour.
  • Games – AAA titles range from 30-100GB.

Considering those file sizes, 256GB gives you room for tens of thousands of office documents, thousands of photos, hundreds of songs, dozens of smartphone videos and a several modern 3D games. With a bit of care to not go overboard on keeping huge media files or game installs, 256GB provides very reasonable capacity for a typical user’s everyday files.

Typical Uses for 256GB SSD

Here are some of the most common computing uses where a 256GB SSD provides sufficient storage capacity:

  • Office/productivity use – Documents, spreadsheets, emails, etc. Don’t require much space.
  • Schoolwork – Word processing, presentations, research, coding projects.
  • Casual gaming – Smaller indie games, emulators, cloud gaming.
  • Light photo/video editing – Editing smartphone pics and video clips.
  • Everyday computing – Web browsing, streaming, social media, bills.
  • OS drive replacement – Faster boot times than HDD system drive.

For all these common computing uses, 256GB is sufficient. But for uses like video production, 3D rendering, high-end gaming, or storing massive media libraries, a higher capacity SSD may be warranted.

Tips for Maximizing 256GB Storage

If you want to get the most mileage out of a 256GB SSD, here are some tips to effectively manage storage:

  • Use cloud/external storage for files accessed infrequently.
  • Regularly delete unneeded downloads, caches, temporary files.
  • Uninstall games/apps you no longer use.
  • Store rarely used data like photos, videos on an external HDD.
  • Enable storage optimizations in Windows, MacOS settings.
  • Use hard links to have single files in multiple folders.
  • Compress larger files like photos and videos.

Following these tips will help prevent filling up 256GB too quickly and allow you to maximize the fast performance of the SSD for the files you access most often.

Alternatives to 256GB SSD

If 256GB seems too limiting for your storage needs, some alternatives to consider include:

  • 512GB+ SSD – If budget allows, choose a larger capacity SSD.
  • 256GB SSD + HDD – Use a smaller SSD paired with a large HDD.
  • External storage – USB flash drives, external HDDs, cloud storage.
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage) – Centralized home storage server.
  • SSD caching – Small SSD to cache frequently used data.

Dual drive setups with a smaller SSD and larger HDD are a popular way to balance speed and capacity. External storage or NAS can provide virtually unlimited space for large media libraries. For most mainstream users though, a 256GB SSD alone often fits the bill.

Is 256GB SSD Good for Gaming?

For gaming, 256GB can be a bit restrictive for storing large modern game installs that can reach over 100GB each. However, a 256GB SSD still offers advantages for gaming:

  • Faster level load times – Games load much quicker.
  • OS and client speed – Fast boot and game client launch.
  • Quick save/loads – Much improved for large open world games.
  • Play some games – Enough room for a few small/medium sized games.

A 256GB SSD is generally best suited for storing a couple favorite games at a time. Less frequently played games can be stored on a high capacity HDD instead. Using cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming helps as well since games are streamed rather than installed locally.

Is 256GB Enough for a Gaming PC?

Considering the storage demands of modern games, having only a 256GB SSD in a gaming PC is often insufficient. Here are some better options for gaming PC storage:

  • 500GB+ SSD – Provides room for more installed games.
  • 1-2TB HDD + smaller SSD – An affordable high capacity + faster speed combo.
  • External SSD over USB 3.0 – Allows quickly installing games to external SSD.
  • NAS for game storage – Central network location for games.

While a 256GB SSD can work on a gaming PC, it will likely require constantly uninstalling and redownloading games. Using a larger standalone SSD, an additional HDD, or external storage leads to a better overall experience.

Should You Get an SSD or HDD?

When choosing computer storage, both SSDs and HDDs have benefits:

  • SSD
    • Much faster read/write speeds
    • Greatly improved responsiveness
    • Silent operation
    • More shock/drop resistance
    • Typically cost more per GB
  • HDD
    • Larger capacities for less money
    • Good sequential speed for large files
    • Established reliable technology
    • Can be prone to vibration/movement damage

In most cases today, choosing an SSD as the primary system drive for faster performance is recommended. Larger HDDs are best used for data that doesn’t require fast access like media storage or game libraries. Many PCs now use a smaller SSD paired with a larger HDD to get the best of both worlds.


At the end of the day, a 256GB SSD provides a solid starting point for meeting the storage needs of most mainstream PC users. The SSD form factor delivers a massive speed boost over traditional hard drives. And 256GB gives enough room for essential programs and files without breaking the bank.

Power users who work with large media assets or have huge game libraries may want more capacity. But 256GB SSDs are an affordable “sweet spot” that offer the perfect balance of speed, capacity and price for many laptop and desktop needs.