Is A hard drive good for video storage?

Quick Answers

A hard drive can be a good option for storing large video files, but it has some limitations. The main advantages of using a hard drive for video storage are large capacities available at relatively low costs. However, hard drives are mechanical which makes them slower, more prone to failure and less portable than solid state drives. For most home users, an external hard drive is a cost-effective way to store a video collection, but professional videographers may prefer SSDs for performance, durability and portability.

With video file sizes continuing to grow larger due to improving quality and resolutions, finding enough storage capacity can be a challenge. While cloud storage provides virtually unlimited capacity, internet speeds may not allow for smooth streaming or transfer of large video files. This makes local storage a necessity for many video creators and collectors. But with many options available like hard disk drives (HDDs), solid state drives (SSDs), RAID arrays and more, which is best for storing videos?

Hard disk drives have been the traditional go-to solution for mass storage needs. Their low cost per gigabyte makes them appealing for storing large media libraries. But solid state drives are becoming viable options too, especially as their prices drop. So should you use a traditional hard drive or modern SSD for storing your video files?

In this article, we’ll compare HDDs and SSDs for video storage, looking at factors like cost, capacity, speed, lifespan and more. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which storage technology works best for your video storage needs.

Cost and Capacity

One of the main reasons hard disk drives remain popular for mass storage is the high capacity available at relatively low prices. For example, a 10TB external HDD currently costs around $200, which breaks down to just 2 cents per gigabyte. Solid state drives have been dropping in price but still can’t match HDDs in price per gigabyte—a 10TB SSD would cost over $1000.

This makes HDDs much more affordable for storing large video libraries. A videographer shooting 4K footage at 100Mbps would fill up 1TB after just 4 hours of footage. Storing a large project or archive may require petabytes of storage—clearly HDDs provide the only sensible solution at their sub-3 cent per gigabyte pricing.

SSDs up to 8TB can now be purchased for under $1000. But beyond that capacities remain prohibitively expensive compared to HDD equivalents. So if you need 10TB or more of video storage, HDDs currently offer the best value by far.

However, HDD capacities are plateauing around 10-20TB for consumer models. SSD capacities continue growing, with 30TB models already available. So looking forward, SSDs will close the price-per-gigabyte gap while offering capacities better suited for mass video storage.


– HDDs are far cheaper per gigabyte, especially at higher capacities.
– 10TB+ HDDs widely available for under $200, much cheaper than equivalent SSDs.
– HDD capacities plateauing around 10-20TB, while SSD capacities continue growing.
– For budgets, HDDs make most sense for large video libraries. But SSD may reach price parity in future.


When it comes to transfer speeds and load times, SSDs easily outclass HDDs. Solid state drives use flash memory rather than rotating platters, so they have much faster data access. HDDs must physically move read-write heads to different parts of the disk to access data, which is slow.

SSD speeds vary by model but can reach over 3,000 MB/s sequential read and write speeds for top models. HDDs max out around 150 MB/s even for fast 7200 RPM desktop models. This 20x speed advantage means transferring large video files will be much quicker with an SSD.

Faster access speeds also translate to faster loading of videos into editing programs. This reduced loading latency can save significant time when editing large projects with many video clips. Video encoding times can also be slightly faster with an SSD.

However, HDDs are unlikely to cause lag or bottlenecking during playback of stored videos. Even 150MB/s sequential speeds are enough to support playback of high bitrate 4K or 8K footage. So for simply watching stored videos, HDDs and SSDs will provide similar performance.

In summary, while HDDs are fast enough for smooth playback, SSDs will provide significantly quicker transfer and load times. This makes them better suited for active projects still in progress. HDDs are fine for finished project archives that don’t require frequent access.


– SSDs much faster than HDDs for data transfer and loading (up to 3000MB/s vs 150MB/s).
– Quicker copying and loading of videos with SSD greatly speeds up workflows.
– HDDs still fast enough for smooth playback of stored videos.
– SSD better for active projects, HDD suited for finished archives.

Lifespan and Reliability

Since HDDs rely on moving parts like drive heads and platters, they are more prone to mechanical failure over time. SSDs have no moving parts and so better long-term reliability.

Average HDD lifespan is around 3-5 years with moderate usage. Heavy use or poor operating conditions can shorten this. Properly stored archival HDDs can last 10+ years, but this requires ideal temperature/humidity.

SSDs are rated for much longer—most models are warrantied for 5-10 years, with projected lifespans of 10-20+ years. The lack of moving parts eliminates most wear-related failures.

This gives SSDs a clear edge for storing irreplaceable video content like wedding footage or creative projects. With HDDs you must be diligent about backups and drive replacements to prevent loss from drive failure. SSDs are much more “set and forget” for long-term storage.

Portable and mobile HDDs also have higher failure rates due to physical shocks and drops. SSDs are more resistant making them better suited for on-location video storage.

Overall HDDs require more active data management for long term reliability. But SSDs can reliably store videos for years or decades with minimal maintenance.


– HDDs last 3-5 years typically, prone to mechanical failure over time.
– SSDs rated for 10+ years and better shock resistance.
– No moving parts makes SSDs better for long-term irreplaceable video storage.
– SSDs more reliable with minimal maintenance required.

File Management and Editing Features

When used as scratch disks and storage drives within video editing programs, SSDs provide a few advantages over HDDs.

First, the higher speed of SSDs allows for quicker loading of video clips into the editing timeline. This improved responsiveness can save significant time when editing projects with large numbers of clips.

Second, SSDs allow for smoother scrubbing and playback during editing thanks to faster random access speeds. HDDs are prone to lagging and stuttering, especially with high resolution footage.

Finally, SSDs can speed up render times when exporting final edited videos. The advantages are most noticeable when exporting to compressed formats like H.264, which are processor and storage intensive.

While HDDs are adequate for video editing, SSDs noticeably improve the responsiveness and interactivity. Faster storage can prevent storage bottlenecks and speed up portions of the editing workflow.

However, when used solely for storage after editing is complete, HDDs and SSD provide similar functionality. Features like organizing files in folders, searching for clips, and integrating with media server software work equally well on both storage types.


– SSDs allow faster clip loading and smoother scrubbing during video editing.
– Exporting final renders can be quicker with SSD scratch disks.
– For finished video storage and playback, HDD and SSD functionality is similar.

Noise and Heat

Being mechanical devices, HDDs produce audible noise during operation from spinning platters and moving heads. Noise levels are not intrusive but can be distracting in quiet environments. SSDs produce absolutely no audible noise when running.

Likewise, the moving parts of HDDs generate more waste heat than SSDs. In a multi-drive enclosure this can add up, increasing cooling needs. SSDs run silently and cooler overall.

So for home media centers and living room setups, an SSD is better suited. HDD noise and heat may require extra isolation or cooling efforts to mitigate. But in a dedicated server room or closet, HDD operation is rarely an issue.

Overall HDDs and SDDs are both suitable for consumer use noise and heat-wise. But for noise-sensitive environments, SSDs have a clear advantage.


– HDDs generate audible noise and more heat due to mechanical operation.
– SSDs are completely silent and cooler.
– For living room setups, SSDs avoid noise and excess heat issues.
– HDDs fine for dedicated closets or server rooms.

Form Factors

For desktop usage, HDDs and SSDs come in standard 3.5″ and 2.5″ form factors, allowing easy installation in computers. But SSDs have major advantages when it comes to portable and mobile storage.

First, SSDs come in much smaller forms like M.2 2280 sticks ideal for laptops and ultrabooks. HDDs cannot physically fit in the tight confines of modern ultra-portables. External SSDs with USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt interfaces are also widespread, allowing for compact high-speed storage.

Second, SSDs have no moving parts and so withstand vibration, shocks, and motion much better than HDDs. Bumping or jostling an HDD during operation can damage the drive. Small portable HDDs mitigate this issue somewhat via shock absorbers, but are still prone to failure if treated roughly. Rugged external HDDs provide robust protection but are bulkier.

These factors make SSD the only viable option for on-location video storage and editing. Mobile video production requires compact, durable storage. Only SSDs can reliably provide high capacities in spaces as small as an M.2 stick. This allows easy integration into DSLR camera rigs, drones, and other portables.

For studio work HDDs work fine given proper physical installation and vibration isolation. But video production in the field demands SSDs.


– SSDs available in compact forms like M.2 for mobile computing.
– Durable, vibration resistant SSDs suitable for on-location video production.
– Rugged external HDDs an option but larger and less reliable.
– For studio use HDDs work well, but SSDs excel for field use.

Power and Portability

In general SSDs consume less power than HDDs, especially when idle or asleep. Most 2.5″ SSDs draw well under 3W in operation versus 5-6W for HDDs. For desktop operation this power difference is negligible. But it matters greatly in mobile and off-grid scenarios.

Lower power draw allows SSDs to operate much longer on laptop and mobile device batteries. HDDs spin up and down frequently as heads park and un-park, consuming extra juice. An external USB SSD backup drive won’t noticeably impact battery runtime like an equivalent HDD.

With Thunderbolt 3 connections using bus power, portable SSDs can even be powered entirely through the host computer. No AC adapter is required giving tremendous portability. Small external HDDs still need a dedicated power connection limiting flexibility.

The minimal power requirements and compact form factors make SSDs a perfect choice for remote field work. Powering and transporting multiple large HDDs on location is impractical, whereas SSDs easily slot into any production kit.

Lightweight SSDs with high capacities let videographers easily take their entire working storage on shoots. Location independence and quick editing turnaround become possible.


– SSDs more power efficient, especially when mobile on battery.
– Thunderbolt SSDs can be bus powered for true portability.
– Rugged, compact and lightweight nature of SSDs suits field work.
– SSD capacities allow entire projects to travel without compromising power.

Cost Analysis

Upfront HDDs are far cheaper than SSDs for buying large amounts of storage. But factoring in the total lifespan cost of ownership can shift the equation.

For example, purchasing a 10TB HDD for $200 and replacing it every 4 years (avg. HDD lifespan) costs $600 over 12 years.

Buying a 10TB SSD for $1000 and keeping it for 12 years with minimal failure risk costs $1000 over the same period.

In this scenario the total cost of ownership is nearly equal over time. However SSDs provide much better speed, reliability and mobility during those 12 years. So the higher initial outlay can pay off long term depending on workload.

Of course most consumers have budget limitations. So getting the most storage for the least money upfront remains a key factor. In that case starting with an HDD maximizes capacity, then add SSDs later as budgets allow. Mixing storage types provides a balance of affordability and performance.

But with SSD prices dropping rapidly, the crossover point where they match HDD total cost is approaching. For many videographers SSDs are already competitive over 3-5 year timeframes.


– HDDs cheaper upfront, but replacement costs add up over time.
– SSD higher initial cost but with minimal failure and replacement.
– Total cost of ownership becomes comparable over long term.
– Starting with HDDs maximizes budget, adding SSDs later ideal.
– SSD pricing declines making them more competitive overall.


For most home users and indie videographers, hard drives continue to offer the best balance of overall affordability and capacity for video storage needs. The low cost per gigabyte of HDDs allows building large media libraries economically. Performance is sufficient for playback and casual editing. Just be sure to have good backups to avoid data loss.

But for professional media productions and intensive video editing, SSDs provide tangible benefits. Their speed, ruggedness, silence and scalability improve workflow efficiency and mobility. As prices fall, SSDs become increasingly viable for all types of video storage.

In the future high density SSDs will likely become the default across consumer and professional spheres. But currently HDDs still excel on affordability for bulk storage. Combining both types provides a flexible solution able to serve wide-ranging video storage needs.