Solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) are two common types of computer storage devices. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to factors like speed, durability, and cost. So which one is better for you – SSD or HDD?
- SSDs are faster, more durable, and more power efficient than HDDs.
- HDDs have higher capacities and are cheaper per gigabyte than SSDs.
- For typical mainstream use, SSDs are generally recommended over HDDs for their speed advantages.
- HDDs remain useful for backup drives and other secondary storage purposes where speed is not critical.
SSDs are significantly faster than HDDs when it comes to data transfer speeds. This is because SSDs use flash memory rather than spinning platters, allowing for much faster read and write times.
Some average sequential read/write speeds:
- SATA SSD – 500 MB/s read, 350 MB/s write
- NVMe SSD – 3,000 MB/s read, 2,000 MB/s write
- 5400 rpm HDD – 100 MB/s read/write
- 7200 rpm HDD – 150 MB/s read/write
- 10,000 rpm HDD – 200 MB/s read/write
As you can see, even the slowest SATA SSD is around 3-5 times faster than a fast HDD. NVMe SSDs are even faster, with up to 6-7 times the sequential read/write performance of hard drives.
This speed advantage makes a huge difference in boot times, loading times, and overall system responsiveness. Upgrading from an HDD to an SSD is one of the best ways to make an older computer feel much snappier.
Being solid state with no moving parts, SSDs are more durable and resistant to shock damage than mechanical HDDs.
According to recent studies, SSDs have an annual failure rate (AFR) of around 0.2-0.5%, while HDDs have an AFR of around 1-2%. So statistically, SSDs are 2-4 times less likely to fail than hard drives over the course of a year.
SSDs are better equipped to survive drops, vibrations, and extreme temperatures due to their lack of fragile moving parts. HDD performance and lifespan deteriorates over time due to wear and tear on the drive heads, platters, and other internal components, especially in hot environments.
For mobile computing devices that are prone to being moved around and bumped, SSDs have a clear advantage in terms of durability and preventing potential data loss due to physical damage. Their higher shock resistance helps explain why SSDs became the default storage solution for laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
HDDs still have the edge when it comes to raw storage capacity. HDD capacities currently top out at around 10-16 TB for consumer models. Enterprise and data center HDDs can go even higher – 20 TB+ capacities are on the market.
Meanwhile consumer SSDs range from 128 GB to 8 TB, with typical capacities between 250 GB and 2 TB. Enterprise SSDs do go higher though – Samsung for instance offers an SSD with 30.72 TB capacity.
So for sheer volume, HDDs are still king. The tradeoff is their much slower performance compared to SSDs as outlined earlier. If you need terabytes of storage and transfer speed is not a major consideration, HDDs will be the better value due to their lower cost per gigabyte.
But for applications like booting an operating system, loading games, editing videos, or running demanding creative software, an SSD will provide much better performance and a smoother overall experience.
Cost Per GB Comparison
Due to their higher capacities, HDDs generally have a much lower cost per gigabyte than SSDs. Here are some average price comparisons between HDDs and SSDs:
|Storage Type||Cost Per GB|
|Hard Disk Drive (HDD)||$0.02 – $0.05 per GB|
|Solid State Drive (SSD)||$0.20 – $0.30 per GB|
As you can see, SSD pricing is around 4-15 times more expensive per gigabyte compared to HDDs. The price gap does narrow at higher capacities, but HDDs still maintain a significant value advantage in terms of storage capacity per dollar.
SSDs have a limited lifespan, meaning after a certain amount of data has been written to them, they will no longer be able to store new data. This is because data is written to flash memory cells in SSDs, and these cells have a finite number of times they can be programmed and erased.
Most consumer SSDs today have an endurance rating between 150-600 TBW (terabytes written). High-end models may go up to 5,000 TBW. Once an SSD surpasses its write endurance limit, it is no longer functional.
In comparison, HDDs have much longer lifespans assuming no catastrophic mechanical failure occurs. HDDs do not have a pre-determined lifetime write endurance limit – they are designed to function for many years of normal operation.
For typical consumer workloads, SSDs should still last 5 years or more before reaching their endurance limit. But heavy write workloads like video editing, database usage, virtualization, and data center purposes will wear out an SSD much faster. Under high-write conditions, SSDs need to be replaced more often.
Power Efficiency Comparison
SSDs use less power and run cooler than HDDs. This is because HDDs require more electrical power to spin the platters and move the read-write heads while operating.
Some comparisons in active power consumption:
- 2.5″ hard drive – 2-5W average
- 2.5″ SATA SSD – 2-3W average
- M.2 NVMe SSD – 4-8W average
SSDs have an advantage in mobile devices where battery life and heat production are considerations. But in desktop PCs, the power difference is less noticeable. Still, every bit of reduced power use and heat helps.
And when not active, SSDs use virtually no power while HDDs still use up to 5W to keep the platters spinning. This gives SSDs an efficiency edge for intermittent workloads.
Noise Level Comparison
SSDs produce no noise since they contain no moving mechanical parts. HDDs generate audible noise due to the spinning of platters and motion of drive heads. Operating noise levels are in the 20-27 dBA range.
Some users may find the operating noise of HDDs distracting, especially in quiet environments. SSDs have a distinct advantage in silent computing applications like quiet gaming PCs or home theater builds where minimal noise is desired.
Fragmentation, which is the scattering of data into different locations on a hard drive, happens on both HDDs and SSDs. But it has less impact on SSD performance.
On HDDs, fragmentation increases physical head movement, resulting in slower data access times. Performance can deteriorate over time as drives become more fragmented. Defragmenting the HDD helps optimize data layout and access times.
With SSDs, fragmentation has minimal impact on data access speeds. SSD controller firmware manages data effectively behind the scenes without relying on physical data location. So SSD optimization via defragmenting provides little if any perceivable boost in everyday operation.
Use Case Comparison
SSDs excel at:
- Operating system boot drive
- Faster loading games and applications
- Improving browser and office application response
- Video editing and production work
- Servers and data centers
HDDs remain ideal for:
- Bulk storage of media files and documents
- Gaming storage on a budget
- Backup drives
- Archival storage
For any tasks where quicker access to data is beneficial, SSD is the way to go. For simply storing large amounts of media or data where transfer speeds are not as important, HDDs are still a viable choice with their lower cost per gigabyte.
In summary, SSDs are the superior choice for mainstream computing purposes due to their huge advantages in speed, durability, power efficiency, and noise levels. The one remaining benefit of HDDs is much lower cost per gigabyte, keeping them relevant for bulk storage needs.
For building or upgrading a general use desktop or laptop, choosing an SSD as the primary boot drive is highly recommended, even if it means sacrificing some storage capacity compared to an HDD. The SSD will make the system exponentially more responsive for both work and play.
Then if needed, supplement the SSD with an HDD for additional mass storage of files, games, and media. This optimized combination gives you both the speed of solid state and the affordability of traditional hard drives.
While SSDs used to be a luxury, plummeting prices over the years have made the technology accessible for most PC buyers. Today you can get a quality 500GB SSD for under $50, a great value for dramatically enhancing computer performance.