Is it better to have only SSD or SSD and HDD?

Solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) are two common types of computer storage devices. SSDs use flash memory to store data, while HDDs use spinning magnetic disks. Both have their own pros and cons.

SSDs are faster, quieter, smaller, more durable, and consume less power than HDDs. However, SSDs tend to be more expensive per gigabyte and offer less storage capacity. HDDs are cheaper per gigabyte and offer more storage, but are slower, louder, bulkier, less durable, and use more power.

With the pros and cons of each, many users debate whether it is better to use only SSD storage or use a combination of SSD and HDD. Using only SSDs provides faster speeds and a quieter system, but may be prohibitively expensive for large storage needs. Combining an SSD for the operating system and apps with an HDD for data storage offers a balance of speed and capacity. This article will dive deeper into the comparison to help determine the best storage configuration.

Cost Comparison

SSDs generally cost more per gigabyte than HDDs. According to AWS, data storage on an SSD can cost $0.08–0.10 per GB, while an HDD only costs $0.03–0.05 per GB (source). For a 1TB drive, you’d be looking at $80-100 for an SSD versus $30-50 for an HDD.

However, SSD prices have been steadily dropping over time while HDD prices have remained relatively flat. An analysis by Reddit user NewMaxx shows that in 2013, SSD storage cost around $625 per TB, versus $35 per TB for HDD (source). Today, 1TB SATA SSDs can readily be found for under $100.

For lower storage needs like 500GB, SSDs start around $50 while HDDs are $15-20. So for system drives or boot drives, the price premium of SSDs is reasonable. But for mass storage needs of 1TB or higher, HDDs are far more cost effective.


When it comes to speed and performance, SSDs are far superior to HDDs. SSDs have much faster read/write speeds, lower access times, and better IOPS (input/output operations per second).

For typical consumer use, SSDs can have sequential read/write speeds over 500MB/s, while HDDs top out at around 200MB/s. The random read/write speeds of SSDs are even more impressive, often 10-100x faster than HDDs.

This performance advantage makes a huge difference in real world use. Boot times are significantly faster with SSDs, often booting in 10-25 seconds rather than 30-90 seconds for HDDs. App and game launch times are also faster. File transfers complete quicker, with SSDs able to copy GBs of data in seconds compared to minutes with HDDs.

Overall, the snappiness and responsiveness of a system is greatly improved by utilizing SSD storage. Operations that previously involved lengthy wait times with HDDs are now near instantaneous with SSDs.

Durability and Lifespan

When comparing SSDs and HDDs, one key factor to consider is durability and lifespan. In the past, HDDs tended to last longer than SSDs. However, modern SSDs have closed the gap and can now match or exceed the lifespan of HDDs.

SSDs have no moving parts, making them more durable and shock-resistant than HDDs with platters and read/write heads. SSDs are not susceptible to fragmentation or impact damage. However, HDDs may be more prone to failure from drops, vibration, or fragmentation over time.

The average HDD lifespan is around 3-5 years, depending on usage and environmental factors. High-quality SSDs today also typically last 3-5 years on average. For light usage, SSDs may last 5-10 years. Both HDDs and SSDs usually have warranties for 3-5 years from most major manufacturers.

One downside of SSDs is that each memory cell has a limited number of erase/rewrite cycles before it becomes unusable. However, modern SSDs include wear leveling algorithms to distribute writes across all cells evenly. High-quality SSDs are rated for 1,500 to 2,500 write cycles per cell, equating to hundreds of terabytes written over the SSD’s lifespan.

While HDDs can theoretically endure more writes due to no per-cell rewrite limit, fragmentation can decrease performance and lifespan over time. Defragmenting helps but is unnecessary for SSDs. For most typical consumer workloads, SSDs can match or exceed the effective lifespan of HDDs.

Power Efficiency

SSDs are significantly more power efficient than HDDs. An SSD typically uses 1-2 Watts when active, whereas a HDD can use up to 6-7 Watts (1). The lower power draw of SSDs has a noticeable impact on battery life for laptops. One study found that switching from a HDD to a SATA SSD improved laptop battery life by 32-68% depending on workload (2). For mobile devices, the power efficiency advantage of SSDs is substantial.

For desktop PCs, SSDs can also save on electricity costs in the long run. Although HDDs use less power when idle, SSDs use much less power during active use. For frequently used drives, SSDs consume less overall energy (3).

With their lower power draw and minimal moving parts, SSDs generate less heat and allow computers to run cooler and quieter. For laptops, this improves comfort on your lap. In servers and PCs, reduced heat output decreases the need for cooling fans to dissipate heat.

Overall, the power efficiency advantage of SSDs is significant, especially for mobile devices. The lower power consumption directly translates into improved battery life compared to HDDs.


(1) Reddit Discussion on SSD vs HDD Power Efficiency

(2) A Good CPU, Storage and Lots of Memory – Revisiting Apple’s Base 13″ MacBook Pro

(3) SSD vs HDD: Power Consumption & Heat Dissipation

Noise Level

SSDs have no moving parts and are completely silent in operation. HDDs contain spinning platters and moving read/write heads which can generate audible noise. The noise levels vary across different HDD models but are noticeably louder than SSDs. As PCMag notes, “Faster hard drives tend to make more noise than those that are slower. SSDs make no noise at all; they’re non-mechanical.” For those wanting a silent PC build, SSDs are the clear choice.

Some key differences on noise according to Quora: “SSDs are silent, while HDDs generate some noise from the motor and head mechanisms. SSDs weigh less than HDDs, for comparable amounts of storage.” If low noise levels are important to you, SSDs are preferable over HDDs.


When it comes to encryption and data protection, there are some key differences between SSDs and HDDs. HDDs can be fully encrypted using software like BitLocker or hardware encryption, making data virtually impossible to recover if the drive is stolen. SSDs are more challenging to fully encrypt due to their complex architecture. However, some SSDs have built-in hardware encryption, like self-encrypting drives (SEDs) that automatically encrypt data at the hardware level.[1]

SED SSDs use AES-256 bit encryption and make use of cryptographic keys to protect data. Studies have shown these hardware encrypted SSDs provide comparable security to fully encrypted HDDs. Software encryption like BitLocker can also be used on SSDs for added security, but may impact performance. Overall, while HDDs can achieve full drive encryption more easily, SSDs like SEDs can match HDDs in encryption and data protection.[2]


When it comes to storage capacity, HDDs currently offer a lot more than SSDs for less money. As of 2022, common HDD capacities range from 500GB all the way up to 10-14TB for desktop models. Standard 3.5″ desktop HDDs in the 8-10TB range typically cost around $150-250.

In comparison, SATA SSD capacities top out at around 4TB currently, with prices in the $400-600 range for 4TB models. M.2 NVMe SSDs have capacities up to 8TB but cost significantly more. Typical SATA SSD capacities are 240GB to 1TB, while NVMe SSDs range from 250GB up to 2TB for mainstream consumer models. So HDDs offer a clear capacity advantage over SSDs at lower price points.

Use Cases

SSD-only setups make the most sense for lightweight computing tasks where portability is a priority. The lack of moving parts makes SSDs better suited for laptops and mobile devices where size and weight matter. SSDs also provide faster boot times and application launches, which improve overall responsiveness for common tasks like web browsing, email, and basic document editing. These advantages make SSDs ideal for basic home and office use.

For more demanding tasks like gaming, media production, and storage-heavy workloads, a combination of SSD and HDD storage provides the best balance of speed and capacity. The SSD can be used as the primary drive for the operating system, applications, and active projects, taking advantage of the performance boost. Meanwhile, an HDD provides abundant storage for media libraries, game installs, and archives at a much lower cost per gigabyte. This hybrid approach gives both a responsive system drive and plenty of room for large files and backups.

Overall, light general use cases favor SSD-only setups, while demanding applications and large storage needs benefit from an SSD+HDD combination.


There are several key differences between SSD and HDD storage to consider when choosing what’s best for your needs. SSDs are faster, more power efficient, and quieter, while HDDs have larger maximum capacities and are cheaper per gigabyte.

For most everyday computing needs, SSDs provide substantial benefits over HDDs. The increased speed and responsiveness make a huge difference in how quickly apps and files can be accessed. For gaming, content creation, and typical productivity uses, SSDs are recommended.

HDDs work well for bulk data storage at a lower cost, especially for things like video/image archives, music libraries, backups, and other data that does not need quick access. For tasks like media streaming, HDDs can perform well and provide plenty of affordable storage space.

For power users, a combination of a smaller SSD boot drive paired with a higher capacity HDD data drive can give the best of both worlds. The SSD provides fast boot and app times, while the HDD stores bulky media files without costing as much as a large SSD.

In the end, SSDs are the superior choice for most PC builds today, thanks to dropping prices and increased capacities. But HDDs still serve a purpose when cheap bulk storage and maximum space are needed.