SSD vs. HDD: Comparing Performance, Cost, and Longevity

If you are planning to build or upgrade your computer and are wondering whether to choose an SSD or HDD, this comparison will help you understand all the pros and cons of each option, allowing you to make the best decision for your needs and budget.

It’s true that many companies are turning to solid-state drives (SSD) because they are much faster than hard disk drives (HDD). This means your computer will boot and operate significantly faster with an SSD compared to an HDD.

For instance, a SATA SSD could be twice as fast as a SATA HDD, while some NVMe SSDs can be 35 times faster than an HDD. That’s a huge difference.

However, there are still some instances where hard drives come in handy.

Even though sales of hard drives are declining, corporations still manufacture them for business storage needs at a lower cost compared with their counterparts, which are solid-state drives.

Although SSD prices have started to rise, for this reason, HDDs can be cost effective for businesses.

So, it’s important for businesses to understand the differences between SSDs and HDDs to decide which is better for their needs, like fast data processing or long-term storage, and how to use them in their overall storage plans.

This article compares the performance, speeds, cost and longevity of both types of storage devices. In addition, we will highlight what sets these two types of storage apart so that you can easily choose what suits you best.

Find out who wins the ultimate contest: SSD vs HDD! Before we dig deep, here are key points:

Key Points SSDs HDDs
Performance & Speed Significantly faster (SATA SSDs: 2x to 35x faster) Slower
Price More expensive (1TB SSD: ~$130) More affordable (1TB HDD: ~$60)
Lifespan & Durability Last about 10 years, Improved durability, no moving parts Last about 10 years
Capacity Available in terabyte sizes Larger capacities
Use Cases Ideal for fast data access (multimedia editing, gaming) Suitable for large storage needs with infrequent access

What is a traditional hard disk drive (HDD)?

A traditional hard disk drive (HDD) is a common storage device on many desktop PCs. It’s where your computer’s operating system, your programs, and all your files and folders are kept.

Inside a hard drive, there’s a circular disc called a platter. This platter is where your data is stored. When you want to access your data, the disc spins around, and a tiny arm reads or writes information as the platter moves beneath it.

The speed at which the platter spins affects how fast your computer can access and save data. Faster spinning means quicker response times for your operating system and faster loading times for your applications.

Older HDDs connected to the computer using an IDE port, but modern ones use a SATA connection. The latest version, SATA III, allows for the fastest data transfers, making your computer run more efficiently.

What is a Solid-State Drive (SSD)?

A Solid-State drive (SSD) is one of the newer storage devices that will most probably be found in modern laptops and desktops. 

There are no moving parts in SSDs, unlike traditional hard drives. Instead, they use the NAND flash memory to store data. The more NAND chips an SSD has, the more storage it can hold. Due to improvements in technology, they now have capacities comparable to those of conventional hard disk drives.

Many SSDs use SATA III connections, so they can replace hard drives easily and fit into the same 2.5-inch slots. However, SATA III has a maximum speed of 600 MB/s, which is fast for hard drives but can limit the performance of an SSD.

For even faster speeds, some SSDs use PCIe connections. These slot into the PCIe lanes on the motherboard, offering much higher data transfer rates. But if your motherboard is small or you’re using PCIe lanes for other devices like graphics cards, you might not want your SSD taking up a lane.

Another common connection for SSDs is M.2. Most modern laptops and desktop PCs use M.2 SSDs, which are smaller and don’t interfere with other components. M.2 SSDs often use NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) technology, providing incredibly fast data transfer speeds.

In short, SSDs are great for speeding up tasks that involve moving a lot of data at once. However, they won’t help much with tasks like running many browser tabs if your computer has other issues like low memory (RAM) or an old processor.

SSD vs HDD: Price

The cost of flash storage can change a lot because it depends on how much is available and how many people want it. Formerly, solid-state drives (SSDs) were very cheap, but today they are costly.

They still tend to be more expensive than hard disk drives (HDDs). For instance, in 2024, one terabyte SSD went up to $130, two terabytes sold for around $200, and a one terabyte HDD went for $60.

SSD prices were on a downward trend for about two years due to a downturn in the memory market back in 2021.

According to Trendforce, SSD prices, both in the enterprise and consumer markets, have been steadily increasing due to rising demand and production reduction strategies by NAND Flash manufacturers. 

This might make SSD prices go up, and that increase might get passed on to customers. If you are planning to purchase a new PC or laptop, especially a gaming laptop with a decent amount of SSD, it may be better not to wait, as the price of storage may rise next year. This already seems true because prices of SSD’s have gone up in recent times.

However, if you need a lot of storage for a low price, HDDs are the better choice. They are cheaper to make, which makes them more affordable for you.

Lifespan: SSD vs HDD

SSDs typically last about ten years with regular use, similar to HDDs. In the past, SSDs had a limited lifespan because their cells could only be written to and read from a certain number of times. However, new technology like wear-leveling has improved SSD durability. 

While SSD memory still has limits, modern SSDs are so advanced that you’ll likely need to replace your entire computer before the SSD wears out. Plus, SSDs have no moving parts, so you don’t have to worry about mechanical failures.

HDDs theoretically have an infinite read/write capability, as long as their internal mechanics are working properly.

SSDs are now replaced 25% less often than HDDs, which means your computer’s lifespan improves when you switch to an SSD. 

While SSDs used to have shorter lifespans than HDDs, they’ve improved so much that they now last just as long, if not longer. Plus, SSDs have the added benefit of no moving parts, making them more reliable in the long run.

SSD vs HDD: Capacity

When comparing SSDs and HDDs, capacity is closely tied to price. If you need a lot of storage space, HDDs are generally better. HDD capacities range from 40GB to 12TB for regular use, with even larger options for businesses. 

A 2TB HDD is affordable and offers ample space. HDDs from 8 TB to 12 TB are mainly used for servers and NAS devices for backup storage. It’s often recommended to use multiple smaller HDDs instead of one large one. This way, if one drive fails, you won’t lose all your data. HDDs are ideal for storing large files like photos, videos, and games.

Initially, SSDs had smaller capacities, but now they also come in terabyte sizes thanks to technological advances. However, large SSDs are expensive. A good strategy is to use a smaller SSD (160GB–256GB) for your operating system and programs to benefit from its speed, and an HDD for other files where speed is less important.

SSD vs. HDD: Speed

Speed-wise, SSDs are vastly faster than HDDs. The HDDs have rotating disks and their speeds are measured in RPM (revolutions per minute). Inexpensive HDDs usually tend to have 5,400 RPM, which is regarded as slow.

Most modern HDDs operate at 7,200 revolutions per minute (RPM), which is much faster. However, more expensive drives with higher RPM’s of up to 10,000 exist. Both reading and writing data on an HDD take place at “MB/s” (megabytes per second).

A typical 5,400 RPM hard drive has speeds around 100 megabytes per second, whereas a typical 7,200 reaches about 150 megabytes per second.

Since SSDs have no moving parts, so their speed depends on their technology and data connection. 

An SSD with a SATA III connection usually has read speeds around 550MB/s and write speeds around 520MB/s, maxing out at 600MB/s. SSDs with PCIe/M.2 connections are even faster, with speeds ranging from 1.2 GB/s to 1.4 GB/s and some reaching up to 2.2 GB/s. 

This means SSDs can be around 10 times faster than HDDs. In terms of performance and speed, SSDs are unquestionably the best option.

SSD vs. HDD: Affordability and Performance

SSDs gained popularity about a decade ago when 64GB and 120GB SATA SSDs became affordable. Now, in 2024, SSDs dominates the market, especially among gamers who prefer the best gaming SSDs. 

However, many casual users and professionals still use high-capacity HDDs.

Even though HDDs perform much worse compared to even the slowest SSDs, they are still much cheaper. For example, a 4TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD costs around $80, while a 4TB Crucial P3 NVMe SSD costs about $200. So, if you’re on a tight budget and need a lot of storage space, HDDs are a better option.

People like creative professionals, home theater PC enthusiasts, and anyone needing lots of cheap storage for photos and videos still prefer HDDs. For storing and playing movies and TV shows, HDDs work just fine and are much cheaper. The best NAS hard drives are also still quite popular. While this might change in the next five years, HDDs are still useful for certain situations in 2024.

Who are HDDs best for?

HDDs are great for people who need to back up and store large amounts of data they don’t need to access frequently. They’re also suitable for folks with basic computing needs, like browsing the web, streaming videos, or working with simple documents. If you’re building or buying a PC on a budget, an HDD is a cost-effective choice.

For pure storage, an HDD often makes more sense than an SSD. Modern HDDs are durable and reliable, ensuring your data stays safe for a long time. As an external backup, an HDD is perfectly adequate.

Most people using Microsoft Office and similar programs will find an HDD sufficient. 

However, those working with large files or on intensive tasks will find an HDD slow and cumbersome.

The bottom line is, if you have the budget, go for an SSD. But if you’re saving money and don’t need the speed, an HDD will do. 

Who are SSDs best for?

SSDs are ideal for users of resource-intensive programs, like multimedia editing suites. Gamers will find SSDs essential for playing the latest games smoothly. If you often open and copy files, the speed of an SSD is a huge advantage.

The choice between an SSD and an HDD boils down to how often you use your storage. 

SSDs are designed for fast data transfer, making them perfect for handling huge, uncompressed video files, 3D modeling modules, and loading rich video game environments. 

If you can afford it, an SSD is far better than an old-school HDD.