Avast Academy Performance Hardware SSD vs. HDD: Which Do You Need?

SSD vs. HDD: Which Do You Need?

Are you running out of storage space? Has your hard disk slowed to a crawl? Or are you simply looking for optimal computer performance? It may be time for a hardware upgrade. But should you get a cheaper hard disk drive or a faster SSD? We’ll explain the differences between HDDs and SSDs in terms of speed, capacity, cost, and lifespan. And get specialized optimization software to keep your computer clean and fast.

Written by Sandro Villinger
Published on June 30, 2023

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What's the difference between an HDD and an SSD?

HDDs are traditional storage devices with spinning platters that read and write data. SSDs use newer technology to store data on instantly-accessible memory chips. SSDs are faster, quieter, smaller, more durable, and consume less energy, while HDDs are cheaper and offer more storage capacity and easier data recovery if damaged.

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    SSDs and HDDs are both storage devices, but the way they work is quite different. The main difference between a solid state drive (SSD) and a hard disk drive (HDD) is how data is stored and accessed. HDDs use mechanical spinning disks and a moving read/write head to access data, while SSDs use memory chips.

    If price isn’t an issue, SSDs are a better option — especially since modern SSDs are just about as reliable as HDDs. In the image below, the laptop on the left has a traditional hard disk drive, while the one on the right has a solid state drive.

    Laptops with SSDs are usually more expensive than laptops with HDDs.

    What is a solid state drive (SSD)?

    Solid state drives (SSDs) are newer types of disks that store information on flash memory, which consists of individual memory cells storing bits that are instantly accessible by the controller. SSD speeds vastly outpace those of HDDs, and the rapid data transfer will improve your computer’s performance drastically.

    How do SSDs make your computer faster? SSDs improve the speed at which large amounts of data are loaded at once. The following processes work faster with an SSD:

    • Booting up your operating system

    • Starting a program

    • Loading a new video game level

    • Opening a huge file in a resource-intensive program

    • Importing and exporting video files

    • Previewing video files in editing software

    When we talk about performance, we mean the transfer of large bunches of data all at once. An SSD won’t necessarily help Chrome run more smoothly when 100 tabs are open and your overall RAM is low, and video editing software will struggle if your processor is many years old.

    What is a hard disk drive (HDD)?

    An HDD enclosure contains a series of platters covered by a ferromagnetic coating. The direction of the magnetization represents the individual bits. Data is written and read by a fast-moving head, similar to the way vinyl record albums work. The disk spins at 7200 RPMs so data can be read very quickly.

    Since all of these pieces are mechanical, the hard disk is the slowest and most fragile component of any computer. But HDDs can be extremely cost efficient for long-term offline storage, as most of the benefits of an SSD over HDD are only related to day-to-day usage — for example, the rate at which they can load large files and programs.

    If you’re wondering whether you have an SSD or HDD, here’s how to find out: Type defrag in the Windows start search bar, and click Defragment and Optimize Drives. You’ll see a list of drives connected to your computer and their type.

    Checking your other PC specs is easy, too: type About in the taskbar and click About My PC.

    Pros and cons of SSDs and HDDs

    Whether to include an SSD vs. hard drive in your new desktop or laptop mainly comes down to your budget. SSDs are generally more expensive, but they can help you access large files over and over again. The main benefit of HDDs is that they’re cheaper, but they work best for moderate computer users.

    Here’s a handy comparison of the advantages of an HDD vs. SSD:

    A graphic describing the main differences between an SSD vs HDD.

    For detailed comparisons between SSDs and HDD, jump straight to the following sections lower down in this article:

    SSD and HDD form factors

    SSD storage comes in several shapes and sizes. Initially, SSDs were made to mimic the size and shape of the most common HDDs to make upgrading as easy as possible. Now, many SSDs are very small devices, because they don’t have moving parts.

    You can find SSDs in much smaller form factors, like the M2 SSD. While more expensive, these SSDs save a ton of space and install directly into the motherboard without the need for a cable. M2s can use either SATA or NVMe to communicate with the motherboard; however, you’ll need to check if your motherboard is compatible with the M2 drive you want.

    Why are SSDs useful for laptops?

    SSDs are often used in laptops because they're non-mechanical. Solid state drives require less power, which translates into better battery life. While lower-priced laptops can still come with traditional, cheaper hard drives, most mid-range to high-end machines now come with an SSD.

    While hard disks have moving parts, solid state drives are shock-resistant. If you drop your laptop while the read/write head of a hard drive is in motion — which it usually is — it could result in data failure. This doesn’t happen with SSDs.

    But it isn’t always an either/or choice. “Hybrid” computers have both drive types — the operating system (OS), apps, and the most-used files are installed on an SSD, while other data sits on an HDD, which is typically larger and less expensive. Using your SSD to run your OS and apps in a hybrid setup is a great way to increase SSD performance .

    How much faster are solid state drives compared to hard disk drives?

    Solid-state drives are much faster than hard disk drives, and the speed difference between the two types is significant. When moving big files, HDDs can copy 30 to 150 MB per second (MB/s), while standard SATA SSDs perform the same action at speeds of 500 MB/s. Newer NVMe SSDs can get up to astounding speeds: 3,000 to 3,500 MB/s.

    With an SSD, you can copy a 20 GB movie in less than 10 seconds, while a hard disk would take at least two minutes. Upgrading your Mac to an SSD or installing an SSD in your PC will give it a significant speed boost.

    To demonstrate the speed difference between an HDD vs. SSD, compare the benchmarks below (we used CrystalDiskMark). The numbers on the left are from an older HP 630 laptop. On the right, we used a newer MacBook Pro running Windows 10 with an NVMe SSD.

    for combined image: Comparing speed differences between an HDD and an SSDSpeed differences between an older HP laptop with an HDD (left) and a newer MacBook Pro with an SSD (right).

    That should tell you how much faster an SSD is than an HDD. When it comes to loading large amounts of data — like a video file you’re editing — an SSD is the fastest option. That speed can improve your computing experience significantly, making it one of the biggest advantages of SSD over HDD.

    SSD speed

    On our Mac with an SSD, sequential reads were nearly 56 times faster and small 4K read operations were about 226 times faster. Windows took just 10 seconds to boot, and there was no visible delay when launching Chrome — it was just there. Upgrade to an SSD if you want to speed up your Mac or make your PC faster.

    HDD speed

    In our tests, the HP computer with an HDD was painfully slow. Booting Windows took a full four minutes, and Chrome launched in 15 seconds — longer than it took our SSD computer to start up. Daily tasks take noticeably longer on an HDD, and the effect on productivity can be massive.

    Whether you’re using an SSD or HDD, you’ll want to make sure it stays clean, so that your machine can operate at its best. Avast Cleanup will tune up your drive, update your apps, and fix other annoying problems, freeing up your computer to run as fast as it should.

    What’s the lifespan of an SSD?

    These days, the lifetime of an SSD is nearly the same as that of an HDD: around five years on average. A bad device may fail after three years, but a good one can last you ten or more. SSDs used to have shorter lifespans, but SSD technology has improved substantially.

    While it’s true that SSD cells can’t be written to as many times as the disk in an HDD, this isn’t really an issue in practice. In theory, if more data is written to a cell, it wears out faster. But thanks to wear leveling, the SSD spreads write operations evenly across all cells to minimize cell death and prolong the lifespan of the drive.

    Additionally, modern SSDs contain spare cells that replace dead cells. This is called bad block management, and it’s why the larger the SSD, the longer its lifespan. If you were to write data to an SSD 24/7, it would still take decades for the drive to break down. SSD vs. HDD lifespan is now about equal. But if you’re worried, you can always run a hard drive test to monitor your drive’s health.


    Since SSDs don’t contain moving parts, they’re less prone to damage if you drop or bang your computer. This also makes SSDs more reliable in extreme environments and in high or low temperatures. You can typically expect a modern SSD to last at least as long as an HDD.

    SDDs fare better than HDDs in laptops because they’re portable; the rough handling of a laptop can more easily damage the intricate moving parts of an HDD.

    You can safely run Windows CHKDSK on an SSD so that it avoids the parts that have decayed and died, but never try to defrag an SSD. Defragmenting the drive writes and rewrites data, which can age your SSD faster. If you’re still working with an HDD, it’s good to know how to defrag on Mac or PC.

    Security and data recovery

    If your drive fails, you can usually recover the data on it. This is true with both HDDs and SSDs, though with a few key differences. Since SSDs are newer, many data recovery services charge more to work with them. But since they’re faster, you might be able to recover your data faster than with an HDD.

    SSDs use the TRIM command to destroy data when files are deleted. This is part of how SSDs equalize wear across all cells, but it also makes it harder to recover deleted files. You should keep this in mind when considering SSD or HDD for storage. Data recovery for SSDs is best handled by professionals in a lab with specialized equipment and software.

    Whichever type of drive you use, the best way to protect your data is with regular backups to external storage devices or cloud storage. Look up how to clone your hard drive so you have everything handy in case of an emergency. You won’t need to worry about SSD data recovery when you already have a fresh copy.

    What about capacity differences between HDDs and SSDs?

    If you’re concerned about how much information you can store on each type of drive, don’t worry. There are no differences in storage capacity. You can get HDDs and SSDs from as small as 128 GB up to 20 TB or more. However, one of the biggest differences between HDDs and SSDs is the price per gigabyte, so the SSD will be much more expensive.

    When deciding on a hard drive vs. SSD, price is a major factor. Larger SSDs can really get up there in price, as we’ll see in the following section.

    In the meantime, if you need to radically free up disk space, you can easily format any hard drive, internal or external — no matter if it’s an HDD or SSD. And if you need to completely wipe your hard drive, there are ways to do that, too.

    The longer you use the same drive, the more cluttered it’s going to become. Not only do you keep adding more games, videos, and photos, but your computer is also full of programs generating temporary files. Learn how to delete temporary files in Windows to keep this clutter at bay, then check out how to clean up your Mac and get rid of that pesky “Other storage” on Mac too.

    Price differences between HDDs and SSDs

    The market for flash storage is volatile and varies based on supply and demand. While SSDs are much cheaper than they used to be, there is still a significant price difference. A 1 TB internal HDD costs roughly $60, whereas a 1 TB internal SSD averages around $120.

    A good source for direct price comparison of popular disk sizes can be found at PCPartPicker.

    The average price of a 3.5" SATA 1 TB SSD according to PCPartPicker.com.The average price of a 1 TB SSD. Source: PCpartpicker.com.

    The average price of a 3.5" SATA 1 TB HDD according to PCPartPicker.com.The average price of a 1 TB HDD. Source: PCpartpicker.com.

    Is an HDD or an SSD better for gaming?

    Generally, you’ll experience much smoother gaming with an SSD. Given the huge amounts of data shuffling back and forth while gaming, an SSD helps games load and run faster. You’ll also experience less stutter when gaming, as the rest of your PC doesn’t need to wait for game data to load — which offers quite an advantage, especially in the eSports arena.

    Here’s a simple example: Loading the world of GTA V takes about 25 seconds on a Samsung 970 Evo Plus with an SSD, compared to more than two minutes when using an old mechanical hard disk. It’s a game-changer, and it’s why you should always use an SSD if you’re building your own gaming PC.

    Is an SSD better than an HDD? For gamers, definitely yes. With the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X boasting SSD storage, game developers are starting to treat SSDs as the standard — meaning they’ll be ready to load up 50GB of game data in seconds.


    You’re probably familiar with the sound of an HDD spinning up as it gets to work — 7200 RPMs to be exact — or perhaps the clicking sound that indicates an impending hard drive failure. SSDs, by contrast, don’t have moving parts and are completely silent.

    The only sound you might hear is the whir of your computer’s fans while performing intensive tasks — high CPU temps can lead to performance issues, and your computer’s fans will spin up if you have many tasks running simultaneously and things start to heat up.


    With no mechanical components, SSDs draw less power than their spinning counterparts. That means better battery life, and it’s one reason why most newer laptops come with SSDs. Hard disk drives require more power because they’re constantly in motion.

    NAS (network-attached storage) drives can work well whether they’re HDD or SSD, but the low power consumption of the SSD is a major plus for whoever’s footing the energy bill for that drive. If many different people are accessing the same drive, it can really add up!

    Which drive is best?

    If you’re still not sure whether an SSD or HDD is right for you, let’s review how SSDs and HDDs stack up against each other. SSDs are faster, more durable, more compact, quieter, and consume less energy. HDDs are more affordable and may offer easier data recovery if damaged.

    As long as price isn’t the determining factor, SSDs come out on top — especially since modern SSDs are basically as reliable as HDDs. Today, HDDs are preferable only if you’re storing large amounts of data without needing to access it very often. Otherwise, an SSD offers better performance and a faster computing experience.

    SSDs vs. HDDs at a glance:




    Average cost

    $120 per 1 TB

    $60 per 1 TB

    Average lifespan

    5 years

    5 years

    Read time*

    3238.4 MB/s

    57.01 MB/s

    Write time*

    2248.9 MB/s

    30.87 MB/s

    Time to boot Windows*

    10 seconds

    4 minutes

    Time to open Chrome*


    15 seconds

    Loading time for GTA V*

    25 seconds

    More than 2 minutes

    * Based on our internal tests

    While these numbers come from different machines, they highlight the most important general differences between an SSD and an HDD.

    Who are HDDs best for?

    These people will do just fine with an HDD:

    • Those looking to back up and store large amounts of data that they don’t need to access frequently

    • People with modest computing needs

    • Those buying or building a PC on a budget

    When it comes to an SSD or HDD for storage only, there’s less of an incentive to go for an SSD. Technology has improved the durability and reliability of the HDD, meaning you can expect it to keep your data safe for a really long time. As an external backup option, HDDs are fine.

    What does an HDD mean for employees in 2023? Those who stick to Microsoft Office and similar programs won’t be too affected, but anyone that works with very large files and on intensive tasks and programs will struggle with an HDD.

    The bottom line: Go for the SSD if you’ve got the money, and settle for the HDD if you’re budgeting and don’t need the specific benefits of an SSD. If you go with the HDD, use an HDD cleaner to free up space and keep your clutter as low as possible.

    Who are SSDs best for?

    These people will benefit the most from an SSD:

    • Those who use resource-intensive programs like multimedia editing suites

    • Gamers who want to play anything new

    • Anyone who opens and copies files from their drive often

    The question of whether to go for a solid state drive vs. HDD is all about frequency of use. Flash memory moves data extremely quickly, and SSD technology is optimized to handle many such transfers.

    An SSD is for those who are moving data. We’re talking huge, uncompressed video files or 3D-modeling modules used in engineering and medicine. We’re also talking about copying and pasting lots of data from one drive to another, as well as loading rich video game environments.

    On the whole and if you can afford it, an SSD is far more preferable than an old school HDD.

    Keep your drive in top shape

    SSDs and HDDs can both fill up with useless files and other junk from repeated use, resulting in less storage capacity and slower drive performance. Avast Cleanup automatically detects files and programs you don’t need — unused apps, temporary files, bloatware, and other useless data — and helps you clear it out with a single click.

    Regardless of whether you have an SSD or an HDD, you’ll enjoy greater storage space and smoother performance with Avast Cleanup.


    Is a 256 GB SSD better than a 1 TB hard drive?

    A 256 GB SSD and a 1TB HDD each have advantages and disadvantages. An SSD offers faster read/write speeds, consumes less power, generates less heat, and is more shock-resistant. On the other hand, a 1TB HDD provides a much larger storage capacity at a lower cost. So, the choice depends on your specific needs.

    Which lasts longer, an SSD or HDD?

    SSDs are expected to last longer than HDDs, as they have no moving parts that can wear out over time. However, the lifespan of an SSD depends on the number of write cycles it undergoes, which is determined by usage patterns and workload. Some SSDs may have warranties that guarantee a certain number of write cycles (between 3,000 and 100,000 depending on the technology used) or a certain number of years (up to 10 years).

    What are the disadvantages of an SSD vs. HDD?

    The disadvantages of SSDs compared to HDDs include higher cost per gigabyte, generally more limited storage capacity, and potential data loss if the drive fails. SSDs also have limited write cycles, meaning frequent, heavy use can degrade their performance over time. However, these disadvantages are balanced by faster performance, lower power consumption, and increased durability.

    Is it worth it to get an SSD instead of an HDD?

    Whether it's worth getting an SSD instead of an HDD depends on your specific needs and budget. SSDs are generally faster and more reliable than HDDs, but are also more expensive. If you need fast boot and load times, improved overall system performance, and can afford the higher cost per gigabyte, then an SSD is worth it. If you need a larger storage capacity at a lower price, an HDD may be the better option.

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    Sandro Villinger