Is SSD and HDD a good combo?

Using both a solid state drive (SSD) and a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) together in one computer system has become a popular setup for many users looking to get the benefits of both storage technologies. SSDs provide much faster access times and better overall performance compared to HDDs, while HDDs offer more affordable mass storage capabilities. Combining the two can provide a good balance of speed, capacity, and cost-effectiveness. But is this SSD and HDD combo really all that beneficial? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

The Advantages of Using an SSD + HDD Combo

There are several potential advantages to using both an SSD and HDD together in one system:

  • Improved System Performance – Installing the operating system, applications, and games on the SSD will allow them to load much faster,while storing bulk data files like movies, music, photos, etc. on the HDD avoids taking up valuable SSD capacity.
  • Cost Savings – SSD prices have dropped but are still more expensive per GB than HDDs. Using a small SSD paired with a larger HDD allows you to get the performance boost of SSD without having to pay for an all SSD setup.
  • Capacity – HDDs generally offer much higher maximum capacities than SSDs. A 1 or 2 TB HDD combined with a 512GB SSD gives you ample storage space for most users.
  • Data Security – Storing important files and documents on the SSD provides an extra layer of protection against drive failure, as SSDs are less susceptible to physical damage.
  • Flexibility – The SSD can handle the OS and apps, while the HDD stores bulky media files, allowing each drive to play to its strengths.

When configured properly, an SSD boot drive with an HDD storage drive as a secondary can provide a responsive, robust experience, with fast boot and load times combined with enough affordable storage capacity for the majority of users.

The Potential Downsides of the SSD & HDD Combo

Using an SSD and HDD together also comes with some potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Increased Complexity – Using two different drives together in one system can make storage setup and management more complicated compared to a single drive.
  • Potential Compatibility Issues – There is a small chance of compatibility or driver problems when combining certain SSD and HDD models.
  • No Performance Gain for HDD Data – Files stored on the HDD will still have the same slow access times as a regular HDD, SSD cache or not.
  • Cables and Mounting – Running two drives requires mounting points, power cables, and data cables for both the SSD and HDD.
  • Potential Bottlenecks – Using a very fast SSD with a slower HDD may result in the HDD becoming a data transfer bottleneck in some scenarios.

While most of these potential cons can be avoided with proper configuration and compatible components, they are worth keeping in mind when deciding between a single drive or SSD/HDD combo setup.

Ideal Setup for an SSD & HDD Combo

If you do decide to use an SSD and HDD together in your system, there are some best practices to follow:

  • Organize Data Appropriately – Reserve the SSD for your operating system, applications, games, and frequently accessed files. Use the HDD for media storage and files accessed infrequently.
  • Align Capacities – Size the SSD capacity to your OS/apps/games needs (often 512GB or less is sufficient) and the HDD to your mass storage needs.
  • Check Compatibility – Research SSD/HDD compatibility and verify your system has the ports, cables, and bays to support both together.
  • Enable AHCI Mode – Ensure AHCI mode is enabled in BIOS for best performance with an SSD boot drive.
  • Install OS and Apps on SSD – To benefit from the speed boost, always install Windows and productivity apps on the SSD side.
  • Leverage Data Tiers – Use storage spaces, PrimoCache, tiering, or other software to best utilize both the SSD and HDD.

Following these best practices will help ensure your SSD and HDD setup complements each other instead of causing conflicts. Consulting your motherboard manual, researching component compatibility, and understanding drive configurations is also advised when planning this type of setup.

SSD vs HDD Comparison

To help understand why an SSD & HDD combo can be beneficial in many cases, let’s briefly compare some key specifications between SSDs and HDDs:

Read Speeds Up to 3500MB/s Up to 200MB/s
Write Speeds Up to 3400MB/s Up to 180MB/s
Random Access Highly Variable Very Slow
Capacity Typically up to 4TB Typically up to 10TB+
Latency Virtually Zero 5-10ms Average
Cost Per GB Around $0.20 Per GB Around $0.03 Per GB

As you can see, SSDs are much faster in almost every regard, but suffer from lower maximum capacities and significantly higher costs per gigabyte. This is why many users opt to use a smaller SSD paired with a larger HDD – you get the speed benefits of SSD for your active data while still having abundant bulk storage capacity via HDD.

Ideal SSD Sizes for a Combo Setup

When choosing the right SSD size for your SSD + HDD setup, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • 120-256GB SSD – Suitable for a boot drive with core applications and some limited game storage.
  • 512GB SSD – Considered the sweet spot for most SSD + HDD setups, providing enough capacity for OS, apps, and a few games.
  • 1TB SSD – A good choice if you have a large game library or deal with creative applications and large files regularly.
  • 2TB+ SSD – Typically overkill for most users combining SSD and HDD, but can be useful for professional workstations.

In most cases, a 512GB or 1TB SSD is perfectly sized to complement a larger 2TB-8TB HDD while not being overly expensive. Prioritize putting your operating system, programs, primary games, and active projects on the SSD. The HDD can handle media files, archives, backups, and other data accessed less regularly.

SSD vs. HDD: Which is More Reliable?

SSDs help systems boot faster, load programs quicker, and improve performance across the board. But are they more reliable than traditional hard disk drives when it comes to safely storing your data?

Overall, SSDs are considered more reliable than HDDs for a few key reasons:

  • No Moving Parts – With no platters or read/write heads, SSDs are much less susceptible to mechanical failure or damage from vibration, movement, or drops.
  • Lower Heat Output – HDDs generate more heat due to their mechanical nature, while SSDs run silent and cool.
  • Shock Resistance – Dropping or jarring a HDD can damage internal components. SSDs are very resistant to shocks and impact when not powered on.
  • Endurance – Modern SSDs can withstand hundreds of terabytes written. HDDs have lower write endurance overall.

However, HDDs do have some reliability advantages of their own:

  • Recovery – HDD data is often recoverable even after physical damage. SSD data is difficult to recover if NAND chips become damaged.
  • Long-Term Storage – HDDs retain data safely for years when powered off. Unpowered SSDs can start to lose data over time as cells discharge.
  • Proper Wear Leveling – HDDs have no write limit. SSDs require wear leveling and spare capacity to ensure endurance.

Overall, for actively used drives, SSDs provide the most reliable solution. But for archival storage that will be powered off for extended periods, HDDs are a safer long-term option. Using both together provides excellent reliability for active data and backup storage.

SSD vs. HDD: Which is Faster?

When it comes to speed, SSDs are the clear winner over traditional HDDs. The basic architectural differences between these two types of storage make SSDs inherently faster across almost every metric.

Some key speed comparisons:

  • Boot Times – SSDs can boot in 10-13 seconds. HDD boot times range from 30 seconds to over a minute.
  • Game/App Loading – Apps and games load significantly faster – often twice as fast – on SSDs.
  • File Transfers – SSDs have up to 5x the read/write speeds of HDDs, copying files much quicker.
  • Random Access – SSDs have near instantaneous random access. HDD random access relies on the read head location.

The only metric HDDs are faster at is sustained sequential read/write. But for virtually every other common usage scenario, SSDs provide significantly faster performance. Upgrading to an SSD provides one of the biggest perceived performance gains available for most PCs.

Choosing the Right SSD + HDD Combo

If you’ve decided to go with an SSD and HDD setup in your system, here are some tips for selecting compatible and well-matched components:

  • Storage Interface – Match connection types between SSD and HDD (SATA, NVMe, etc.)
  • Form Factors – Select SSD and HDD form factors (2.5-inch, M.2, etc.) supported by your PC case and motherboard.
  • Capacities – Choose SSD size based on OS and app needs, and HDD size based on total storage needs.
  • Performance – Seek speed parity between SSD and HDD to prevent bottlenecks.
  • Cabling – Ensure you have necessary power and data cabling for both drives.
  • Mounting – Verify both drives will fit into case drive bays and motherboard M.2 slots as needed.

With compatible components selected, organizing data across the drives appropriately, and OS/apps installed on the SSD, you’ll be set up to enjoy the ideal balance of speed, capacity, and value that this popular combo can offer.


Using both a speedy SSD boot drive and a higher capacity traditional HDD side-by-side in one system is a setup that offers tangible benefits for many users. You get the snappy OS and app loading performance of solid state drives alongside abundant storage capacity for large files and archives via traditional hard disks.

With careful planning and configuration, an SSD and HDD combo provides a responsive feel, robust storage, and a good value. Following best practices for aligning capacities appropriately between the SSD and HDD, managing where data is stored, checking component compatibility, and enabling SSD-optimized features allows this type of setup to function optimally.

While an all SSD setup provides the absolute best performance, and a lone larger HDD the cheapest bulk storage, combining these two different drives together in one system can give you the right balance of speed and space. Used together, SSDs and HDDs complement each other’s strengths for one of the most compelling and cost-effective storage configurations available.