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

Summary of article

This article compares solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) in a desktop computer system. The benefits and drawbacks of each storage technology are discussed in detail. Key factors like performance, durability, capacity, and cost are analyzed to determine if it is better to use SSD only or a combination of SSD and HDD storage. The article concludes that for most home desktop users, a smaller SSD for the operating system and key applications combined with a larger HDD for data storage offers the best balance of performance, capacity, and cost-effectiveness.

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

When configuring storage for a desktop computer, one of the main decisions is whether to use only solid state drives (SSDs), only traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), or a combination of both SSDs and HDDs. There are compelling benefits to using SSDs, such as much faster read/write speeds, better reliability, and faster boot times. However, SSDs have historically been quite expensive per gigabyte compared to HDDs. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of the three main storage options to determine which choice makes the most sense for most home desktop users.

SSD Only Storage

Using only SSD storage means the operating system, applications, and all data files are stored on SSDs only. Here are the key benefits of SSD only storage:

SSDs provide extremely fast data transfer speeds, with typical read speeds of 500-3500 MB/s and write speeds of 200-2500 MB/s, depending on the specific drive. This is orders of magnitude faster than HDDs. So an SSD-only system will boot up far more quickly and launch applications much faster.

Because they have no moving parts, SSDs are less prone to mechanical failure resulting from shock or vibration. They are also completely silent.

Managing one storage device is easier than managing multiple drives. Upgrades are also simpler with a single SSD.

However, there are some downsides to an SSD-only configuration:

Cost per gigabyte
SSDs are still much more expensive than HDDs per unit of storage. While costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, SSD pricing is still roughly $0.20/GB compared to around $0.03/GB for HDDs.

Limited capacities
Consumer SSD unit capacities max out at around 8TB currently, while HDDs reach up to 20TB per drive. So reaching high storage capacities requires multiple SSDs.

Overall, SSD-only storage provides excellent performance and reliability, but at a significantly higher cost for a given capacity. For systems focused purely on speed, an SSD-only approach makes sense, but most home desktop users require substantial storage capacity as well.

HDD Only Storage

Many desktop PCs use only HDDs for storage due to their low cost per gigabyte. However, there are some downsides with HDD-only storage:

Slower performance
Even the fastest HDDs have read/write speeds of only 200MB/s at most. So an HDD-only system will have noticeably slower boot, application launch, and data transfer speeds.

Greater fragility
The mechanical nature of HDDs means they can fail due to physical shocks and vibration. Proper backups are critical to prevent data loss. HDDs also generate noise and heat.

Frequent fragmentation
As HDDs fill up, data gets fragmented across different parts of the physical platter. This requires periodic defragmentation to maintain performance.

For very budget-constrained desktop builds where large storage capacity is the top priority, an HDD-only system may make sense. But the dramatically slower performance means a suboptimal overall user experience for most mainstream users.

SSD and HDD Combination

A very popular compromise is to use a smaller SSD along with one or more larger HDDs. Here is a typical setup:

SSD (256GB – 1TB) – houses the operating system, key productivity applications, and games

HDD (1TB – 6TB) – stores data files like documents, media, backups, etc.

This balances the strengths of each storage technology:

SSD Benefits

– Fast boot and app launch times
– Great performance for frequently used programs
– Durability and silent operation

HDD Benefits

– Very low cost per gigabyte
– Massive storage capacity potential

There are also some best practices around SSD/HDD combo setups:

– Use the SSD as the boot volume and primary drive
– Enable AHCI mode in BIOS for best SSD performance
– Keep at least 20% of SSD storage free to avoid slowing down
– Store rarely accessed data files on the HDD
– Perform periodic SSD firmware updates
– Maintain backups on the HDD as well as the cloud

One downside is that managing two different drive types adds a small degree of complexity. File locations need to be consciously managed between SSD and HDD. Overall though, a combination SSD and HDD setup nicely balances cost, performance, and storage capacity for most desktop users.


For most home desktop PC users, an SSD and HDD combination is the best approach for storage. Here’s a quick summary of the key differences:

Storage Type Benefits Drawbacks
SSD Only – Blazing fast performance
– Very reliable and durable
– Expensive per gigabyte
– Limited capacities
HDD Only – Very low cost per gigabyte
– Huge capacity potential
– Slow system performance
– Fragility and noise
SSD + HDD Combo – Fast boot and loading times
– Massive data storage capacity
– Slightly more complex to manage

The SSD can be used for the operating system, programs, and games to deliver a fast and responsive computing experience. The HDD provides expansive, low-cost storage capacity for all the user’s data. This balance of speed, capacity, and value makes an SSD and HDD combination the best solution for most desktop PC storage needs. Configuring a 256GB-1TB SSD along with a 1TB-6TB HDD provides an excellent combination of fast performance and ample storage capacity.

Typical SSD + HDD Configuration

– 500GB SSD for operating system and daily applications
– 2TB HDD for documents, media files, backups, etc.

The 500GB SSD has enough room for Windows, office applications, creative programs, and some games while still having free space to avoid slowdowns. The 2TB HDD provides massive storage capacity for all other data at minimal cost. With strategic storage file management, this SSD and HDD setup will deliver top-notch performance with plenty of high-value storage capacity. Of course, the exact SSD and HDD capacities can be tailored based on individual needs and budget. But for most home desktop PC users, a balanced SSD + HDD paired storage configuration gets the job done very effectively!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an SSD or HDD more reliable?

SSDs are generally much more reliable than HDDs due to the lack of moving parts. HDDs can fail due to mechanical issues like disk head crashes or physical damage to platters. SSD reliability is predicted to be nearly double that of HDDs.

How much faster is an SSD compared to HDD?

SSD speeds are about 3-5 times faster than HDDs for sequential reads/writes. For random access, SSDs are up to 100x faster than HDDs. The performance gap is very noticeable when booting up and launching programs.

Should the SSD or HDD be the C: drive?

For optimal performance, it is best to install Windows and other critical software programs on the SSD. The mechanical nature of the HDD makes it better suited for data storage rather than apps/OS.

Which files should go on the SSD vs HDD?

The SSD is great for the operating system, applications, games and any files needing quick access. The HDD is ideal for storing documents, media, backups and other data files that don’t need fast access.

How large should the SSD and HDD be?

As a minimum, a 256GB SSD is recommended for the OS and apps, with at least a 1TB HDD for data. For power users, a 500GB+ SSD and 2TB+ HDD offers a better performance/capacity balance.