If you’re building a computer for the first time, you might wonder what the
difference is between a regular hard drive and a solid state drive. A
solid-state drive (SSD) has no internal moving parts, making read speeds much
faster than typical platter drives.
Solid State Drive Configurations
Solid state drives come in three main form factors. 2.5-inch SSD drives are
most common in desktop computer builds, while M.2 SSD is most often found in
laptop configurations. You can also buy an SSD add-in card that fits in a PCI
The form factor you need for your build depends on the type of computer you
are building. Some desktop motherboards are now shipping with M.2 drive
slots, so to research the kind of SSD you need before you buy one.
How Much SSD Capacity Do I Need?
The size of the drive you need depends on several factors. A computer built
for gaming will need a high capacity SSD to store games without the need to
uninstall or reinstall. While it is common to see SSD drives below 256GB
available cheaply, you should avoid these drives.
A typical Windows 10 installation takes around 25GB, while most games are
reaching 50GB+ in installation size. Some games like MMORPGs can take up
nearly 100GB in space. That doesn’t leave much room for anything else,
especially if you’re planning to record game streams.
PC Game Install Sizes
- Final Fantasy 15 – 200GB
- The Elder Scrolls Online – 170GB
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 – 112GB
- Middle Earth: Shadow of War – 97.7GB
- Grand Theft Auto V – 65GB
Most gamers should start with a 1TB SSD and move up from there as their
gaming collection grows. Most people pair their SSD drive with platter drives
for general data storage. A good 1TB SSD typically costs less than $150,
while the price for these drives is continuously dropping as the technology
SATA or PCIe Interface?
2.5-inch SSDs operate using the Serial ATA (SATA) interface which was
designed for regular platter drives in 2000. Most add-in SSD drives operate
over PCI Express, which has more bandwidth for operating.
M.2 drives can be either SATA or PCIe, depending on the drive. M.2 drives
can be tricky to identify, so double check that your motherboard supports
them before buying one.
The one limiting factor when comparing SSD drives to standard platter
drives is that they have a limited life span. All flash memory has this
limitation. When buying an SSD, you will see drive makers refer to two points
for a drive’s endurance. Both total terabytes written (TBW) and drive writes
per day (DWPD) are common terms for these drives shared by manufacturers.
Most SSD drives today feature over-provisioning, which means the drive
portions off a part of its capacity as back-up. As the drive detects wear, it
will move data from worn-out cells to new ones, extending its lifespan. Most
modern SSD drives can last from 3-5 years or more with average use.
If you are upgrading your computer’s hard-drive from a standard drive to an
SSD, you will immediately notice a performance improvement. Load times in
video games and start-up time are two areas where improvements will be