Is SSD or hard drive better for video editing?

Quick Answers

SSDs are generally better than hard drives for video editing because of their faster read/write speeds, lower latency, and higher reliability. However, hard drives have more storage capacity per dollar spent. For best performance, use an SSD for your operating system, applications, scratch disks, and current project files, and store archived projects on a hard drive.

Advantages of SSDs for Video Editing

Solid state drives (SSDs) offer several advantages over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) for video editing and motion graphics work:

  • Faster read/write speeds – SSDs have much faster data transfer rates, with sequential read/write speeds over 500MB/s compared to under 200MB/s for HDDs. This allows for smoother playback and faster project exports.
  • Lower latency – SSDs can access data almost instantly, while HDDs require time for the read/write head to physically move to the right location. This reduced latency results in better scrubbing and preview performance.
  • Better reliability – With no moving parts, SSDs are less susceptible to damage or failure from vibration, movement, or drops. Data is also safer in the event of power loss.
  • Faster boot and app launch times – Putting your operating system and applications on an SSD reduces loading times. Projects also open faster.
  • Improved multi-tasking – The combination of fast speeds, low latency, and random access makes it easier to run multiple demanding creative applications at once.

For video editing and motion graphics, storage speed is critical. Using an SSD improves response times and throughput when working with high-bitrate video, large media files, 3D elements, complex visual effects, and massive projects. For laptop editing, SSDs allow working on the go without being slowed down by standard HDD speeds.

Advantages of Hard Drives for Video Editing

Although SSDs are ideal for performance, traditional hard disk drives still have benefits for video production use:

  • More storage capacity – HDDs provide far more storage per dollar spent. 1TB SSDs cost several times more than 1TB HDDs. Large archived video projects take up massive space.
  • No size limitations – Consumer SSDs currently max out at 4TB, while HDDs can store 10TB or more. For unlimited storage, larger HDDs are required.
  • Proven technology – HDDs have been used and improved for decades making them reliable. SSD technology is newer with some bugs still being resolved.

While SSDs are better for active projects, HDDs have a place for finished videos and archiving purposes. After a project is complete, the files can be transferred to a HDD for affordable long-term storage.

SSD and HDD Usage Recommendations

To optimize performance and storage capacity, consider this general guideline for using both SSDs and HDDs for video editing:

  • Use an SSD for your operating system and applications. This improves boot speeds and performance.
  • Use an SSD for your page file and scratch disks. The faster speeds handle playback caching and temp data well.
  • Store your current active projects and media on an SSD. Accessing files will be much faster.
  • Store finished, archived projects on a HDD. This provides affordable bulk storage.
  • Use large HDDs for your media libraries and asset archives. This maximizes your storage capacity.

Also consider having separate drives for your operating system/applications and your current project files to avoid competition for SSD resources.

Optimal SSD & HDD Configuration

An optimal use of SSDs and HDDs for video editing might look like:

  • 500GB SSD for operating system and applications
  • 1TB SSD for active project files and scratch disks
  • 2TB HDD for finished project archives
  • 4TB HDD for raw media libraries and assets

This balances fast SSD speeds for active work with massive HDD capacity for inactive storage. The numbers can be adjusted based on your specific needs.

Tips for Improving SSD Performance

Follow these tips to maximize SSD performance for video editing:

  • Enable disk write caching in Windows for faster write speeds. But disable on external SSDs to prevent data loss if power is interrupted.
  • Keep at least 10-20% of the SSD space free. This improves write performance as the drive fills up.
  • Align SSD partitions properly. Misaligned partitions reduce read/write speeds.
  • Update SSD firmware and device drivers to the latest versions for performance improvements.
  • Avoid excessive drive fragmentation which impacts HDDs more but can still affect SSDs.

SSD vs HDD: Benchmark Comparison

Here is an example benchmark comparison of a SATA SSD versus HDD:

Drive Type Sequential Read Sequential Write Random Read Random Write
SATA SSD 500GB 560 MB/s 530 MB/s 98,000 IOPS 88,000 IOPS
SATA HDD 1TB 190 MB/s 180 MB/s 1,200 IOPS 1,100 IOPS

This shows the SSD with about 3x faster sequential speeds and over 80x faster random access speeds compared to the HDD. The random performance is especially important for demanding creative work.

NVMe SSDs For Even Faster Speeds

For the absolute fastest speeds, NVMe solid state drives are a good step up from SATA SSDs. NVMe drives utilize PCIe connectivity for blazing fast read/write speeds and low latency. They are ideal for tasks like 4K/8K video editing, 3D modeling/animation, VR/AR content creation, and high-resolution compositing.

Compared to SATA SSDs, NVMe drives boast:

  • Over 3x faster sequential read/write speeds.
  • Up to 10x faster random read/write speeds.
  • Much lower read/write latency.

NVMe SSDs do carry a price premium over SATA models. But for professional media productions requiring the best performance, NVMe is worth the investment.

NVMe vs SATA SSD Example

Drive Type Sequential Read Sequential Write Random Read Random Write
NVMe SSD 1TB 3,500 MB/s 3,000 MB/s 675,000 IOPS 640,000 IOPS
SATA SSD 1TB 560 MB/s 530 MB/s 98,000 IOPS 88,000 IOPS

The NVMe drive has over 6x higher sequential speeds and around 7x higher random speeds versus the SATA SSD. This brings a huge real-world performance difference.

Thunderbolt NVMe SSDs

Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 interfaces allow connecting external NVMe SSDs. This brings NVMe performance in a portable form factor. Thunderbolt NVMe SSDs provide extremely fast speeds for on-location video editing and productions.

Key benefits of Thunderbolt NVMe SSDs:

  • Nearly the same speeds as internal NVMe drives.
  • Much faster than external HDDs or SATA SSDs.
  • No need to open up computer to install drives.
  • Great for editing video in the field or on multiple machines.

With Thunderbolt 3 speeds reaching 40Gbps, the interface is no longer the limiting factor for NVMe SSD performance. But watch for Thunderbolt NVMe drives not using the latest controllers, which may bottleneck speeds.

M.2 vs PCIe NVMe SSDs

M.2 and PCIe are interfaces used by NVMe SSDs. M.2 NVMe drives connect directly to the motherboard via an M.2 slot. PCIe NVMe add-in cards install into a PCIe x4 or x16 slot.

In terms of performance, M.2 and PCIe NVMe SSDs are fairly comparable when using Gen3 x4 or higher connections. The main differences are:

  • M.2 – More compact size without cables. Limited by motherboard slot bandwidth.
  • PCIe – Larger cards with external power cables. Can use PCIe x16 for maximum bandwidth.

For most users, M.2 NVMe drives are preferable for their simpler and cleaner installation. But PCIe NVMe add-in cards work well for older systems without M.2 slots or for extreme performance needs.

RAID 0 with Multiple SSDs

Configuring multiple solid state drives in a RAID 0 array can further enhance speeds and performance for video editing and other intensive workloads.

Key advantages of RAID 0 SSD arrays:

  • Greatly improved read and write speeds.
  • Faster access and loading of multimedia files.
  • Increased productivity for processes like rendering, playback, and exporting.

The downsides are increased cost for multiple SSDs, lack of data redundancy, and greater risk of drive failure stopping all work. But for some, the speed boost is worth it.

For the fastest speeds, use enterprise PCIe NVMe SSDs in RAID 0. But even budget SATA SSDs in RAID 0 can provide a nice bump over a single drive.

RAID 0 SSD vs Single SSD

Drive Type Sequential Read Sequential Write
2x SATA SSDs in RAID 0 1,000 MB/s 900 MB/s
Single SATA SSD 560 MB/s 530 MB/s

This demonstrates nearly double the read and write speeds from two striped SATA SSDs versus a single SATA SSD.

Choosing the Right SSD

Key factors to consider when selecting an SSD for video editing and design work:

  • Interface – NVMe SSDs are much faster than SATA. Go NVMe if your system supports it.
  • Capacity – Aim for at least 1TB or more to handle large media files and projects.
  • Form Factor – M.2 for most internal use or Thunderbolt/USB-C for external.
  • Controller & NAND – Look for quality components from tier 1 brands for reliability.
  • Warranty – 5 year or longer coverage provides peace of mind.
  • Price – Determine if pro enterprise drive is needed or if a budget model will suffice.

It’s also wise to read professional SSD reviews like those on Tom’s Hardware to pick the best drive for your specific workflow and use case.


For optimal video editing and motion graphics performance, SSDs are strongly recommended over traditional hard drives. NVMe SSDs bring phenomenal speeds, but even SATA SSDs are a big improvement. Use SSDs for your OS, applications, active projects and scratch disks. Then store archived media and projects on more affordable high-capacity hard drives. With a thoughtful SSD and HDD setup, you can gain both speed and capacity to get your best work done.