Choosing The Best Gaming Hard Drive

Updated May 11th, 2018 by Headshot Jacob Tuwiner

Finding the right storage solution for your gaming PC can be difficult, especially with all of the options available to you.

This guide was designed for those of you who aren’t sure what is best suited for your needs. We’ll be taking a look at three storage solutions: mechanical drives, solid state drives, and external storage.

Best Gaming Hard Drives

Name Image Benefits More
Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Significantly Increases Boot Speed
  • Games Load Quickly
  • Windows Operates Smoothly
View SSDs
Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
  • Cheap
  • Mass Storage
  • Best Gigabyte/$ Ratio
View HDDs

Which is Best: A Hard Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)?

Mechanical hard drives (HDDs) are a staple of every gaming PC. You can easily find a 1TB mechanical drive for under $50. For most people, 1TB of storage is more than enough.

Evidently, mechanical hard drives are cheap, which is great for a gamer on a budget. For just $50, you’re getting one thousand gigabytes for your OS, games, drivers, movies, music, etc.

HDD vs SSD

On the other hand, mechanical drives are slow, especially when compared to more modern storage solutions.

According to Explain That Stuff, here’s how HDDs work:

In your computer's hard drive, there's a large shiny and circular "plate" of magnetic material called a platter, divided into billions of tiny areas. Each one of those areas can be independently magnetized (to store a 1) or demagnetized (to store a 0). Magnetism is used in computer storage because it goes on storing information even when the power is switched off. If you magnetize a nail, it stays magnetized until you demagnetize it. In much the same way, the computerized information (or data) stored in your PC hard drive or iPod stays there even when you switch the power off.

Mechanical hard drives with a higher RPM (revolutions per minute) are much faster. It’s important to stay away from 5400 RPM drives – they take forever! Instead, look for a 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive.

Although, even a 7200 RPM drive could take some time to load. If you have ever felt like you have to let your computer “warm up” for a few minutes (or longer) after you turn it on, the culprit is most likely your hard drive.

If you want your computer to boot up in 30 seconds or less and remain lightning fast, we recommend buying an SSD instead. They’re more expensive but well worth the price.

A 240GB SSD will cost you around $60 – that’s less than 1/4 the size of a 1TB mechanical drive for an extra $10!

Despite their costliness, they significantly improve the performance of a PC. If Windows and drivers are installed on the SSD, the computer will boot from being completely off in just 30 seconds or less – moreover, if you load some of your favorite games on the SSD, they’ll load incredibly quickly.

HDD vs SSD2

240GB is the perfect amount to store your Windows, drivers, and some games. If you have the money, we highly recommend investing in a 1TB hard drive for movies, music, applications, files, etc. and a 240GB SSD for Windows, drivers and games.

Ideally, you have enough money in your budget to include both a mass storage mechanical hard drive and a solid state drive – but what if you can only afford one?

Well, in that case, I’d say it really depends on how much storage you think you’ll need. 240GB is a decent amount of space. You will be able to load your operating system, drivers, web browser etc. on the drive with plenty of space left over.

However, the drive fills up quickly once you begin downloading games. My 240GB SSD usually has enough room for 4-5 games at one time, with a comfortable 50GB of wiggle room. If you’re someone who downloads a whole lot of files, and you like having all of your games downloaded at once, you’ll probably want to go with a 1TB drive – you can always upgrade in the future.

On the other hand, if you can get by with 240GB, I’d highly recommend coughing up $60 for it. SSDs make a whole world of a difference. Besides, you can always add a mechanical mass storage drive in the future.

What About an External Drive?

External drives are rare in the gaming community. They are convenient because they are portable, but I’d advise against purchasing one as your main form of storage, or even as secondary storage.

Firstly, external drives may not always be as reliable as internal drives. Secondly, they connect via a USB port which isn’t as fast as a SATA 6 port that an internal hard drive would use.

Lastly, external hard drives’ USB cable can easily be disconnected if wiggled the wrong way or someone bumps into the cable. If your Windows OS or the game you are playing is loaded on the drive, it would result in a system crash.

External drives are best used for backing up files that you don’t want to use. Other than that, I’d stay away from them.

The Best Mechanical Drive for Gaming

WD Caviar Blue

If you’re looking for a solid hard drive, you really can’t go wrong with the Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 7200 RPM mechanical hard drive. It’s a favorite amongst the members of the PC Master Race, and for good reason.

The drive is cheap, sitting comfortably below $50. Moreover, the price usually doesn’t fluxuate a whole lot like we’ve seen with GPUs – in fact, I’ve never seen this drive sell for more than $50.

Secondly, it has a ton of storage for all of your games, movies, applications, etc. You could always go for a 2TB, 3TB or 4TB drive, but 1TB is more than enough for most people.

Lastly, the drive is reliable, which is the most important characteristic of a good drive, or any PC component for that matter. I’ve had my WD Caviar Blue 1TB for over 3 years now, and I haven’t had a single issue.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 1TB
  • Interface: SATA 6 GB/s
  • Cache: 64 MB
  • RPM: 7200
  • Form Factor: 3.5”

View on Amazon

The Best Solid State Drive (SSD) for Gaming

Samsung 860 Evo SSD

When it comes to an SSD, the Samsung 860 EVO 250GB is the drive of choice. It is a bit more expensive than traditional SSDs of this size, but well worth the money.

Samsung is a reliable brand – their drives have withstood the test of time, and proven themselves reliable and worth the extra money. I have one in my PC and I absolutely love it!

I’ve never had an issue with the drive, and the difference in speed between the Samsung EVO and my mechanical hard drive is like night and day.

Specs:

  • Capacity: 250GB
  • Interface: SATA 6 Gb/s
  • Cache: 512 MB
  • Form Factor: 2.5”

View on Amazon

Does Your Hard Drive Affect Framerate?

In short, no, the speed of your hard drive does not affect your in-game performance.

Hold your horses – before you decide to eliminate the SSD from your build, you should know that an SSD does significantly increase loading speed, as well as improve the overall performancce of your build.

If your OS and drivers are installed on your SSD, you’ll notice the PC is far more responsive and loads far quicker. In fact, I’d say my gaming PC goes from completely off to ready for battle faster than my Xbox One. Seriosuly, buy an SSD!

SSDs vs Hard Drives As Fast As Possible