Is flash storage or SSD better?

When it comes to data storage, two popular options are flash storage and solid state drives (SSDs). Both offer faster read and write speeds compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). But which one is better? Here is an in-depth comparison of flash storage vs SSD to help you decide which is the right choice for your needs.

What is Flash Storage?

Flash storage refers to any data storage device that uses flash memory chips to store data. This includes USB flash drives, memory cards, and some external solid state drives. The main benefit of flash storage is speed. Reading and writing data to flash memory is much faster than reading/writing to an HDD.

Flash storage is non-volatile, meaning it retains data even when powered off. It is also more durable and resistant to physical shocks compared to HDDs with moving parts. Additionally, flash storage consumes less power, generates less heat, and makes no noise when accessing data.

However, flash storage devices generally offer less storage capacity compared to HDDs. Typical flash drives provide up to 2TB of storage space, while HDDs can store 10TB or more.

What is an SSD?

A solid state drive or SSD is flash storage designed to function as an internal drive for computers. Like flash drives, SSDs use interconnected flash memory chips to store data. But inside the SSD, the flash memory is connected to a circuit board via an interface that allows it to communicate with the computer.

SSDs were designed as an upgraded replacement for the HDD. They provide similar storage space as internal HDDs. Consumer SSDs typically range from 120GB to 4TB capacity. But SSDs are much faster at reading/writing data compared to HDDs because they don’t have moving parts.

SSDs are often used as the primary internal storage drive for laptops, desktop PCs, and servers to improve performance. However, SSDs are more expensive per gigabyte than HDDs. They are also prone to wear over time after excessive data writing and erasing.

Flash Storage vs. SSD Comparison

Now let’s compare flash storage devices like USB drives and SSDs across several factors:


SSDs are faster than flash storage like USB drives. Typical SATA SSDs can reach sustained read/write speeds of around 500-550MB/s. High-performance PCIe NVMe SSDs are even faster, with over 3,000MB/s sequential read/write speeds.

Flash drives max out at around 300-500MB/s reads and writes. This is still much faster than HDDs at 100-200MB/s. But SSDs are the fastest options, especially NVMe PCIe SSDs in higher end PCs.


In terms of storage capacity, SSDs can match or exceed HDDs. Consumer SSDs range from 120GB laptop drives to 8TB data center models. Comparatively, flash drives typically top out at 2TB.

However, at the cutting edge, flash storage can beat SSD capacities. For example, Nimbus Data offers a 100TB flash drive. Most high capacity SSDs currently reach around 30TB. So for sheer density, flash can win. But for practical capacity in computers, SSDs are ahead.

Storage Type Typical Capacity Range
Flash drive 8GB – 2TB
SSD (SATA) 120GB – 8TB
SSD (NVMe PCIe) 250GB – 30TB


For long term durability, flash drives last longer than SSDs. Flash storage can withstand hundreds of thousands to millions of write cycles before wearing out. But SSDs are typically rated for 1,500 to 10,000 write cycles due to how they spread writes across many storage blocks.

However, modern SSDs include wear leveling algorithms that help distribute writes evenly to extend lifespan. Overall SSDs should still last 5+ years under normal use. Heavier workloads like video editing may require replacing SSDs more often.

Power Usage

Flash storage consumes very little power. Flash drives use less than 5V power from the USB port. Idle power draw is under 100mW. SSDs use a bit more power around 2-5W idle since they have a controller chip and memory banks that need power.

But SSDs are still far more power efficient than HDDs. A typical 7200 RPM 3.5″ HDD can use 6-10W idle. SSDs consume at least 50% less power than HDDs, which helps improve laptop battery runtime.

Cost Per GB

HDDs offer the lowest cost per gigabyte for storage. As of 2023, HDD cost is around $0.02/GB. An 8TB HDD costs around $150. SSDs are around 6-7X more expensive. A 2TB SATA SSD is around $150, putting cost at $0.08/GB.

Smaller flash drives have the highest cost per GB since you are paying for the enclosed flash memory and USB interface. A 256GB flash drive can cost $20+, or around $0.08/GB. At the top end, advanced PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs can cost up to $0.50/GB.


USB flash drives are universally compatible with PCs and devices having a USB port. SSDs come in SATA and NVMe PCIe interfaces. SATA SSDs work with SATA ports on laptops or desktops. NVMe drives require an M.2 PCIe slot or PCIe add-in card adapter.

So in terms of plug and play compatibility, flash drives are the most flexible. SSDs may require verifying your PC has the right interface. However, USB drives lack the bandwidth for running programs or OS. SSDs are compatible as bootable storage.

Verdict: Which is Better?

For most users, SSDs are the better choice over flash drives for primary storage:

  • SSDs are much faster than flash drives and drastically accelerate system performance.
  • SSDs match or exceed the capacities of HDDs for storing games, media, applications, etc.
  • SSDs have fast enough speeds to serve as the primary boot drive.
  • Although more expensive than HDDs, SSD prices have dropped to affordable levels for most budgets.

However, flash storage retains some advantages that make it ideal for secondary portable storage:

  • Flash drives are compact and extremely portable for transferring files.
  • Flash memory cards serve as removable storage for phones, cameras, and other devices.
  • Very durable flash drives are great for long term archival storage.
  • High capacity flash storage can offer densities larger than typical SSDs.

In summary:

  • For performance – SSDs are better as primary storage
  • For portability – Flash drives are better as external storage

Most PCs work best with an SSD providing fast primary storage, and supplementing with flash drives or HDDs for additional external storage. This combination allows you to enjoy both speed and ample capacity at an affordable overall cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are flash drives better than SSDs?

No, SSDs are generally better than flash drives for primary storage. SSDs have faster speeds, higher capacities, and can serve as system boot drives. Flash drives are only better for portability and removable storage uses.

Is a USB flash drive considered an SSD?

No, flash drives are a type of flash storage, but not solid state drives. SSDs are specifically designed as internal storage upgrades for computers and servers to replace hard disk drives.

Do SSDs wear out faster than flash drives?

Yes, SSDs typically last for around 5 years of normal use before wearing out. Heavier workloads can shorten SSD lifespan. Flash drives can withstand hundreds of thousands to millions of writes before failing, so they generally last longer.

Is flash memory the same as SSD?

Not exactly. Flash memory refers to a type of non-volatile memory chips that retain data without power. This flash memory is used in both flash drives and solid state SSDs. But SSDs have specialized controllers to manage the flash memory and interface with computers.

Which has higher capacity – SSD or flash drive?

Currently, consumer SSD capacities can match or exceed flash drives. SATA SSDs go up to 8TB, while high capacity flash drives max out around 2TB. However, cutting edge flash storage can reach up to 100TB in specialty products.