Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Data storage continues to be a battle between the incumbent HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and the SSD (Solid State Drive). But on first blush, it might seem like the newer, faster SSDs are far better suited for every task than HDDs, and that there's no reason to consider HDDs anymore.
Unlike an SSD, where the data is stored on flash memory chips, HDDs store their data on rotating disks called platters. While not as fast as SSDs, HDDs are much cheaper and come in far bigger sizes, up to 22TB.
However, the rotating platters and other moving parts do mean that hard drives are move vulnerable to wear and tear and are not as robust as SSDs are.
SSD vs HDD specs comparison
Typical cost per GB
$0.08 - $0.10
$0.03 - $0.06
Peak read/write speeds
3000 - 7000MB/s
Low level ticking and whirring
Typical power consumption
5 - 10 years
3 - 5 years
Impervious to vibration and impact
Spinning platters means data is at risk from vibration and impacts
You should buy an SSD if...
1. You want speed.
If you're looking for fast boot speeds or you want to load games or applications effortlessly, then an SSD will blow even the fastest HDD out of the water. The slowest SSDs is easily ten times faster than the fastest HDD, so there's just no comparison to be made. If you need speed, you need an SSD!
2. You're handling big files.
Handling big files, such as big video files, is a quick and simple way to bog down an HDD. SSDs allow professionals to load and save big files far more effortlessly, speeding up workflow and making your desktop or laptop seems a lot faster. SSDs will also speed up backups, which means that you spend less time protecting your work from possible loss of accidental deletion.
3. You need rugged reliability.
Thanks to there being no moving parts, SSDs are far more rugged and resistant to vibrations and impacts than HDDs are. You can literally throw SSDs in your bag with no worry that they are going to be damaged and your data lost. SSDs are the perfect choice both for laptops and desktops, but also for external storage drives that you take with you when out and about.
Want the best bang for your bucks? Go for an HDD. A 2TB HDD will cost you less than $50 (this is currently the sweet spot for price vs capacity), and while SSDs are rapidly dropping in price, you'd be lucky to get an SSD half that capacity for the same money. And while for most people, 2TB is enough storage, if it isn't, then you can also ways grab another 2TB drive, or even a 4TB drive (which, at the time of writing, is about $70).
3. You're using it for backup.
HDDs are the best when it comes to backups because of their high capacity and low cost per gigabyte. Unless money is no option, if you need the fastest possible backup, it doesn't make sense to use SSDs for backup purposes. No matter whether you're using a single HDD in an external enclosure, or multiple drives in a external storage box or NAS device, HDDs will give you all the storage space you need. And because backup devices aren't being heavily used, HDDs will offer a high level of reliability.
The slowest SSD is ten times faster than the fastest HDD, so there's just no comparing the two when it comes to performance. If you want speed, you need an SSD. Even a budget SSD such as 1TB WD Blue is a massive upgrade over a HDD.
Is an SSD or HDD better for gaming?
I'd go for both!
I'd have the operating system loaded onto an SSD for speed, and the games loaded onto an HDD for the sheer storage capacity. This offers the best of both worlds without breaking the bank.
However, for a gaming PC, if I had to choose one, I'd pick a fast HDD (something like a 4TB WD Black drive), because unless the sky's the limit for budget, I'd be paying really big money for a high-capacity SSD.
Which has a longer lifespan: SSD or HDD?
This is a tough question because I've had drives fail within days and others live for over a decade, however, as a good rule of thumb, you should expect 3 to 5 years from an HDD, and 5 to 10 years from an SSD.
Is a 256GB SSD better than a 1TB hard drive?
It ultimately depends on whether you prioritize speed or storage space. However, I find that most people either overestimate how much space they need or end up filling a big drive with all sorts of rubbish that could be deleted (or put into storage), so I'd say that a 256GB SSD would be enough storage for the average user while at the same time offering much better speed and performance.