Is SATA 3 HDD good?

SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is an interface used to connect storage devices like hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) to a computer’s motherboard. SATA originally debuted in 2003 and has gone through several revisions since then. SATA 3 is the current third generation standard that provides a maximum theoretical transfer speed of 6 Gb/s (gigabits per second).

So is a SATA 3 HDD still a good option compared to newer standards and interfaces like SATA 6Gb/s, NVMe and PCIe? There are several factors to consider:


The sequential read/write speeds of a typical 7200 RPM SATA 3 HDD max out around 150-180 MB/s. This is due to the mechanical limitations of hard drives. While a SATA 3 interface can theoretically support speeds up to 600 MB/s, hard drives cannot physically read or write data that fast.

In comparison, a SATA 6Gb/s SSD can achieve sequential reads around 550 MB/s and writes around 500 MB/s, taking full advantage of the extra bandwidth. NVMe PCIe SSDs are even faster, with sequential speeds commonly over 3000 MB/s.

So in terms of pure speed, SATA 3 hard drives are much slower than SSDs, especially NVMe SSDs. The higher bandwidth of SATA 6Gb/s is largely wasted on HDDs.

Use Cases

However, speed isn’t everything. SATA 3 HDDs can still make sense in certain use cases where absolute performance is not critical:

  • Bulk storage of media files, documents, archives, backups, etc. where access time is not a priority.
  • Older systems without SATA 6Gb/s or NVMe support.
  • Budget systems where an HDD is preferable to a small SSD for more storage capacity.

For tasks like running an operating system or games, SATA 3 SSDs are generally recommended over HDDs for the massive difference in load times and boot times. But for merely storing data, SATA 3 HDDs can still be a cost-effective solution.


HDDs tend to be more reliable than SSDs in certain high-write scenarios. HDDs are better suited for write-intensive applications like video recording, databases, surveillance systems etc. due to their higher endurance. SSDs can wear out after a certain amount of writes.

So for reliability when subjected to heavy write loads over time, SATA 3 HDDs still have an advantage over SSDs in that regard.


SATA 3 HDDs provide far more storage capacity per dollar compared to SSDs. As of 2023, 1TB SATA 3 HDDs can be purchased for around $35 while 1TB SATA 3 SSDs cost around $80. The price disparity is even greater at higher capacities.

If you need a lot of storage on a tight budget, SATA 3 HDD is hard to beat due to the substantially lower cost per gigabyte. Just keep in mind the performance limitations.


SATA has been an industry standard interface for nearly two decades. SATA 3 HDDs continue to be widely available and commonly used in pre-built desktops and laptops.

They are produced by all the major hard drive manufacturers like Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, etc. and available from any computer hardware retailer.

In contrast, newer NVMe drives require motherboard support which may not be present on older systems. So SATA 3 HDDs have an advantage in terms of compatibility and availability.


While SATA 3 hard drives cannot match the speed of SSDs, they still excel in certain areas like high capacity bulk storage, reliability under heavy writes, and price per gigabyte. Upgrading to a SATA 6Gb/s or NVMe SSD can bring substantial performance gains, but SATA 3 HDDs are still adequate for more casual storage needs.

In budget systems or older hardware without newer connectivity options, SATA 3 HDDs remain a decent choice. Just don’t expect the blazing fast speeds of solid state storage.

Overall, SATA 3 hard drives are still “good” in 2023 depending on your priorities and needs, even if they aren’t the fanciest or fastest options. There are legitimate use cases where HDDs make more sense than SSDs for large capacity storage at lower costs.

Comparison of SATA 3 vs SATA 6Gb/s vs NVMe SSD

Max sequential read speed 150 MB/s 550 MB/s 3500 MB/s
Max sequential write speed 150 MB/s 500 MB/s 3000 MB/s
Interface SATA 3Gb/s SATA 6Gb/s PCIe Gen 3 or 4
Random read/write IOPS 100-200 90K/40K 500K/700K
Price per gigabyte $0.03 – $0.05 $0.08 – $0.15 $0.10 – $0.25

Advantages of SATA 3 HDDs

  • Cheap price per terabyte for bulk storage
  • High drive capacity available – up to 12TB+ on consumer models
  • Good sequential read/write speeds for a HDD
  • Reliable and proven technology
  • Low power consumption compared to SSDs
  • Mature technology with widespread compatibility

Disadvantages of SATA 3 HDDs

  • Slow random access times leading to poorer overall performance
  • Lower durability and shorter lifespan than SSDs
  • Noise and vibration from mechanical operation
  • Limited maximum speed due to physical limitations
  • Not suited for demanding applications requiring fast speeds
  • Larger physical size and weight than SSDs

Typical speed test results comparison

Here are some typical real-world speed test results comparing a SATA 3 HDD, SATA 6Gb/s SSD and NVMe SSD:

1. CrystalDiskMark Sequential Read/Write

Drive Type Sequential Read Sequential Write
SATA 3 HDD 150 MB/s 150 MB/s
SATA 6Gb/s SSD 550 MB/s 520 MB/s
NVMe PCIe SSD 3,400 MB/s 3,000 MB/s

2. CrystalDiskMark Random Read/Write

Drive Type 4K Random Read 4K Random Write
SATA 3 HDD 0.5 MB/s 1.5 MB/s
SATA 6Gb/s SSD 40 MB/s 110 MB/s
NVMe PCIe SSD 250 MB/s 300 MB/s

This illustrates the massive differences in both sequential and random operations. NVMe drives particularly excel at random performance thanks to their faster interface and parallelism.

Typical real-world usage performance

Let’s look at how these drives might perform for common real-world tasks:

1. Windows boot time

Drive Type Boot Time
SATA 3 HDD 60 seconds
SATA 6Gb/s SSD 15 seconds
NVMe PCIe SSD 10 seconds

2. Game level load time

Drive Type Load Time
SATA 3 HDD 60-90 seconds
SATA 6Gb/s SSD 20-30 seconds
NVMe PCIe SSD 10-15 seconds

3. Adobe Premiere Pro 4K to 1080p export

Drive Type Export Time
SATA 3 HDD 12 minutes
SATA 6Gb/s SSD 6 minutes
NVMe PCIe SSD 3 minutes

For many common tasks, NVMe and SATA 6Gb/s SSDs offer significantly better experience over SATA 3 hard drives.


SATA 3 HDDs can still deliver decent sequential speeds, very high capacity for the price, and reliability for write-intensive workloads. But for optimal system performance, SATA 6Gb/s or NVMe SSDs are recommended for running OS, applications, games etc.

SATA 3 HDDs are best suited for bulk media storage, backups, archives etc. where peak speed is not essential. They can provide good secondary storage capacity at low cost.

So in summary:

  • SATA 3 HDDs are still good for cheap bulk storage
  • SSDs are much faster for primary drive running OS, apps, games
  • Consider SATA 3 HDD for high capacity needs on a budget
  • For peak performance, use SATA 6Gb/s SSD or NVMe SSD as boot drive

SATA 3 HDDs may be outdated for primary system drives, but remain relevant for large capacity secondary storage.