Do You Need an HDD and SSD Both?

People new into the PC hardware can get confused between the different storage options you have available. This is particularly true with SSDs. 

While we are almost all familiar with the Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) with the good old spinning disks inside, Solid State Drives (SSDs) are still a novelty for many. Those who are uninitiated may thus ask, “do you need an HDD and SSD both at the same time?”.

The answer to the question is a resounding no. You do need to have both an HDD and an SSD on your PC. 

While there is nothing wrong in having both, if you either have an HDD or an SSD, your PC will run just fine.

In the following text, I will explain in detail whether you need both an HDD and an SSD on your PC.

Both SSD and HDD are Storage Devices

One of the key characteristics that you need to understand is that both the SSD and HDD are storage devices. 

While the way they operate and the way they are designed is completely different, ultimately they serve the same goal which is to provide storage capacity for your OS, files and folders.

What are Hard Disk Drives?

Can You Use a Laptop Hard Drive in a Desktop hard disk
A 3.5″ Hard Disk Drive

We are all familiar with these bulky drives. They have been the default storage option for many PCs over the years.

While they are very cheap, compared to SSDs, they are also many folds slower in comparison.

A typical hard disk drive can reach maximum transfer speeds of 200 MB/s. 

HDDs use the SATA interface. This interface has a maximum theoretical and practical transfer rate of 750 MB/s and 550 MB/s. However, due to the mechanical design of the HDDs, they do not even reach the full potential of the SATA interface.

What are Solid State Drives?

Solid State Drives are not a new phenomenon, however, they have just recently become widespread thanks to their falling prices

Unlike the HDDs, SSDs have no moving parts and hence they are much faster as compared to an HDD. 

SSDs are bit confusing to understand because there are three types of SSDs.

  1. SATA 2.5″ SSDs
  2. SATA M.2 SSDs
  3. PCIe NVMe SSDs

SATA 2.5″ and SATA M.2 SSDs both use the slower SATA interface and they have a max transfer rate of 550 MB/s. The difference is that the former uses the SATA ports, whereas the later uses the M.2 slots on the motherboard.

SATA SSD Connectors power data
2.5″ SATA SSD

The golden standard of all storage drives, however, are the PCIe NVMe SSDs. These SSDs use the much faster PCIe interface as compared to the slower SATA interface.

samsung 980 pro
Samsung 980 Pro. M.2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD

NVMe SSDs plug into the M.2 slots on your motherboard or laptop and their speed depends upon the version of the PCIe your PC conforms to and the corresponding generation of the SSD stick.

As such a Gen 3 NVME SSD such as the Samsung 970 Pro has a max transfer rate of 3500 MB/s. The Gen 4 NVMe SSD such as the Samsung 980 Pro have a max transfer rate of about 6500 MB/s.

Also Read: What is SATA 2.5?

Comparison of SSD and HDD Speeds

The following table shows typical max transfer speeds of the different storage drives. The actual speeds, however, depends upon the model of the storage drive as well as on the tasks you perform.

Storage Type
Read Speeds
Hard Disk Drive 200 MB/s
SATA SSD 550 MB/s
Gen 3 NVMe SSD 3500 MB/s
Gen 4 NVMe SSD 6500 MB/s

As you can see, the NVMe SSDs are multiple factors faster than SATA SSDs, let alone the Hard Disk Drives.

Also Read: Can You Use a PCIe 4.0 SSD On Your Existing Motherboard?

This brings us to the question in hand:

Do You Need an HDD and SSD Both on Your PC?

No you do not.

You need either of these for your PC. OR, you can also have both on the same PC.

SSDs and HDDs are both storage devices. They serve the same function.

Hence you can install your operating system on SSDs and boot from them and practically use them as you would use your normal HDD.

Do note however, that the difference in performance when using an SSD will be phenomenal to say the least.

Whereas it may take a minute for your PC to boot up if you have an HDD, the same would take mere seconds if you have an SSD.

Additionally, from installing software, to copying files everything benefits from an SSD over an HDD.

Also Read: Does SSD Improve Gaming Performance?

Almost All Newer Laptops and Pre-built Desktops Feature Only an SSD

You can find countless newer laptops and pre-built desktops that have completely ditched HDD for an SSD. 

While an NVMe SSD is still about 4 times as expensive as an HDD (if you take per GB cost), a 512 GB SSD worth $50 would give you a much needed quality of life improvement over a 2TB HDD worth $50.

Do You Need an HDD and SSD Both
A vast majority of the listings now solely feature SSDs. Source: Amazon.com

In fact, with the current trend, it is more difficult to find a laptop or a pre-built desktop with an HDD as compared to an SSD.

Also Read: What is the Difference Between SATA and SSD and HDD and NVMe?

FAQ

Can I Use SSD and HDD at the Same Time?

Yes, most certainly you can if you have the ports available.

In an arrangement where you have both an SSD and HDD on your PC, the recommended way to use them is to have the Operating System and the applications/games you use the most on the SSD.

Whereas, the HDD would be dedicated as an archival drive for storing large media files, images, videos, installation files etc.

Do You Need a Hard Disk Drive if You Have an SSD?

No, you do not need to have a hard disk drive on your PC if you have an SSD. You can install your operating system on an SSD. 

Can You Install Operating System in SSD?

Yes, you can install operating system on an SSD that is plugged into the M.2 slot. 

Just make sure you select your SSD as the main boot drive from BIOS settings in order to run the operating system – that is if you have two or more drives installed on your PC.

Final Words

So to reiterate the answer to the question “do you need an HDD and SSD both on your PC?” is a no. You do not need to have both in order for your PC to work.

You can simply have either an SSD or an HDD on your PC. You can also have both. 

When given a choice, you must always opt for an SSD in my opinion. This is because a reasonable storage space of 512 SSD is now almost as expensive as a 2TB HDD.

Having 2TB HDD capacity makes sense only if you are a content creator or you love to archive files and media. If you are an average consumer, then the performance benefit of a 512GB SSD far outweighs the large capacity offered by the HDD.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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