As a gamer, you have a lot to consider when deciding between SSDs and HDDs for games and data storage on your computer.

Whether you're upgrading your gaming setup or looking to build a gaming PC, choosing the right storage drive could level up your gaming performance. Let's compare gaming with an SSD vs. HDD.

What’s the difference between HDDs and SSDs?

Hard drives and solid state drives both store data, but the technology between the two is different:

  • Hard disk drives (HDDs) have been around for more than 50 years, and the technology behind them is well known and well tested. HDDs rely on moving parts with an actuator arm moving across spinning disks (platters) to read and write data, and they're generally the cheaper option.
  • Solid state drives (SSDs) are a more advanced form of technology that offers performance advantages for gamers. SSDs use NAND flash memory to read and write data, meaning there's nothing physical to break, and so less chance that you'll lose your games and saves.


Choosing between an HDD or SSD for gaming

There are several factors to consider when deciding between an SSD or HDD for gaming:

  • Form factor
  • Performance
  • Speed
  • Cost
  • Capacity
  • Durability
  • Temperature
  • Noise
  • Energy efficiency

Form factor

HDDs and SSDs come in several forms that determine compatibility and speed.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your gaming storage drive, it’s essential to find the right form factor for your system, otherwise you won’t be able to connect them.

There are three common forms factors for SSDs:

SATA 2.5-Inch NVMe M.2 Portable

The standard form factor for HDDs and SSDs is a 2.5-inch drive such as the Crucial MX500.

It's designed to minimize the need to replace the connecting advanced host controller interface (AHCI) cables making the transition to a higher-performance drive as easy as possible.

The smallest and fastest SSDs on the market are the PCIe NVMe M.2 SSDs.

M.2 SSDs deliver lightning read and write speeds, and are about the size of a stick of gum – perfect for space-constrained desktops and laptops.

NVMe drives can be 10x faster than SATA drives -- with emerging technology (Gen5) can be 22x faster than SATA.

Crucial offers the P3, the P3 Plus, the T500T700, & T705 in this form.

External SSDs such as the Crucial X9 allow you take your games with you on a drive connecting via a USB port.

As well as letting you play your games on multiple, portable SSDs are also great if you’re running out of space on your internal drive, as you can move games instead of deleting them.

To ensure 100% compatibility with your computer, use The Crucial® System Scanner or System Selector.


Performance-wise, SSDs are better for gaming:

Smoother gameplay

In the background, many games make thousands of read and write operations as you play. What you often experience with an HDD or an outdated drive is that your game starts locking up at random intervals, otherwise known as 'hitching'. But the greater bandwidth and reduced latency of SSDs help access the requested data almost instantly and avoid hitching.

Improved graphics

Have you ever noticed gravelling textures that suddenly fix themselves mid-game? Well, this might be a sign that you need to upgrade your storage. An HDD can take a while for high-end graphics to load, which is a bit of a waste if you've splashed out on a high-end monitor or TV. The faster speeds of an SSD will help fix this issue.

If you've ever noticed gravelling textures while gaming, you're not experiencing optimal frame rates per second (FPS). In gaming, FPS can be significantly improved by upgrading your storage from HDD to SSD


If you're frustrated waiting for games to load, upgrading to an SSD will feel like a breath of fresh air. This is probably the most significant difference you'll see between an HDD and SSD in gaming, and over time could save you hours of load times.

The video below shows a side-by-side comparison of loading a game with a hard disk drive and with a solid state drive. SSDs can dramatically improve your system's speed and, and get you into your game faster.


The increased gaming performance and speeds of an SSD comes with a financial cost when compared to cheaper HDDs, but performance versus cost doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.

Depending on what form factor you're looking for, a more affordable option is usually available:

  • For 2.5-inch SATA SSDs, you can go for the MX500 or the BX500, and with external SSDs, explore the X10 Pro or the X9 Pro.
  • For NVMe SSDs, our highest performing products are the T705, and the most affordable is the P3.

All options are fantastic and can offer serious improvements to your gaming system. It's worth exploring their specs and comparing them to what you currently have installed.

The Crucial® System Scanner or System Selector tool will give you a list of drives that are compatible with your system so you can choose the fastest SSD that fits your budget.


Some games can reach over 250GB when you factor in downloadable content, so gamers typically opt for drives between 500GB and 2TB.

Many gamers use a combination of internal and external drives in different configurations to work with their budgets and needs for fast load times.


HDDs are easily susceptible to damage, whereas SSDs can be bounced around without damaging your important files.

Designed to reliably store your data for years, SSDs offer additional shock and vibration resistance for travel-tested durability if you’re gaming on a laptop.


Since SSDs don't have moving parts, they operate at a cooler temperature. You'll be less likely to experience overheating or need to consider upgrading your cooling system.


SSDs use flash memory and so are completely silent, whereas HDDs have noisier moving parts. And because SSDs stay cooler than hard disk drives, your fan doesn't have to work as hard, meaning a quieter overall performance. That humming sound you heard when using a hard drive? Gone!

Energy efficiency

Since SSDs don't have moving parts, they require less energy to operate. SSDs are therefore more energy efficient and consume significantly less power, so if you game on a laptop, SSDs can increase your battery life.

Pros and cons of SSDs and HDDs

  • HDDs are more affordable
  • Flexibility to using an SSD as a boot drive and an HDD for your secondary storage
  • Faster read and write times
    Increased boot speeds
  • Improved graphics
  • Smoother gameplay
  • Better durability and reliability
  • Quieter than HDDs
  • More energy efficiency
  • More practical form factors for newer PCs and laptops
  • Slower boot and load times
  • Moving parts:
    • Easily susceptible to damage
    • Emit noise
    • Overheating
    • More power consuming
  • Larger form factors
  • More expensive than HDDs

A Summary of gaming SSD vs HDD

In the past, gaming developers have been restricted by the capabilities of HDDs, but ongoing improvements in SSD technology means that they are now the norm for new PCs and game consoles.

And Gen5 SSDs promise to deliver amazing new gaming benefits such as DirectStorage, which allows GPUs to use an SSD to boost the performance of games and other data-intensive applications.

If you’re going with an SSD, the good news is that they are easy to install yourself. Use the Crucial® System Scanner or System Selector tool to determine which drives are compatible with your system.

FAQs for SSDs vs HDDs for gaming

How much SSD storage do I need for gaming?

With games' installation size taking up more storage than ever, we recommend getting an SSD with a storage capacity of at least 500GB. Of course, this is budget-dependent, but by choosing more capacity, you’ll be less likely to need to upgrade in the future.

Are external SSDs good for gaming?

External SSDs are a fantastic way of storing large game files and expanding the storage capacity on your computer or console by up to 4TBs. With ever-improving transfer speeds, you can quickly load multiple games straight from the drive.

What does SSD do for gaming?

The main three benefits of using an SSD for gaming are faster load times, smoother gameplay (better FPS), and improved graphics. Upgrading your storage drive is one of the most accessible and affordable ways to boost your system's performance.

Should I install games on an SSD or a HDD?

With SSDs performing more effectively than HDDs with faster load times, smoother gameplay, and improved graphics, it’s best to install games on an SSD rather than an HDD.


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