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SSD vs HDD for Gaming: Do SSDs Make Your Games Run Faster?

SSD vs HDD GamingUnsure of whether you should get an SSD or HDD? In this guide, we discuss how SSDs and HDDs compare to each other in terms of gaming performance and which option would be best for you.

As solid state drives have decreased in price over the last couple of years, more and more gamers are switching from traditional hard drives to SSDs in order to store their favorite games. However, there seems to be some confusion about whether or not choosing an SSD over a hard drive will have an impact on your in-game performance.

So, in this article, we’re going to discuss how SSDs and HDDs stack up against each other in terms of gaming performance and whether or not an SSD will give you a better in-game experience.

What Gaming Benchmarks Say: SSDs Don’t Deliver Higher Framerates

There are a lot of performance advantages of choosing an SSD over a traditional mechanical hard drive. The faster read and write times of an SSD help it load large files faster and also cut down on the boot times into both your operating system and the programs and applications on your computer.

However, in terms of in-game performance, an SSD will not provide any kind of significant performance advantage. In the testing that I’ve done and of the benchmarks that I’ve seen, the results show that the difference between a solid state drive and a hard drive in games is negligible. The reality is that games that are installed on an SSD will not deliver you more frames per second than if those games were installed on a hard drive, all other things equal.

ssd vs hdd fps benchmark
An older benchmark from Tom’s Hardware shows virtually no difference between an SSD and HDD in in-game performance.

So, if you have an aging gaming PC, and you were planning on upgrading to an SSD because you thought that might help you run your games at a more acceptable framerate, you’d be better off using the money you were going to spend on an SSD to get a newer graphics card instead.

But, while SSDs won’t give you higher framerates, that doesn’t mean that they are useless for gamers…

Where SSDs Can Help Gamers

Although an SSD isn’t going to give you a higher framerate in your favorite games, it will offer gamers an advantage over traditional hard drives. And, that is in boot times.

Games that are installed on an SSD will typically boot faster than games that are installed on a traditional hard drive. This boot time will vary from PC to PC and game to game, but in some instances booting a game from an SSD can take less than half the time it would take to boot it from a hard drive.

Also, load times to go from a game’s menu into the game itself are faster when the game is installed on an SSD than when it installed on a hard drive. The load times from a menu into a game are not as significant as the difference between SSDs and HDDs in game boot times, but there is a small advantage for SSDs there as well.

So, ultimately, while an SSD isn’t going to give you an FPS boost, it will significantly decrease the amount of time you spend from the moment you launch your game to the moment you are actually in the game playing it.

Other Advantages of SSDs that Gamers Will Want to Take Note Of

Again, an SSD isn’t going to help your PC run today’s top games faster. However, with its increased boot times, your games will load faster. And, that means you won’t have to sit around as long waiting to play your game.

Another area where SSDs can help is in the time it takes your system to boot up. Just like how an SSD will help your games load faster, it will also help your system startup more quickly (as long as your operating system is installed on your SSD.)

ssd vs hdd windows boot time
This benchmark by PCWorld that shows how much faster Windows boots up when it’s installed on an SSD than when it’s installed on a traditional hard drive.

So, you can further cut down on how long you’re waiting to play games and use your computer by choosing an SSD over a hard drive.

Also, as most gamers do other things on their computers than just play games, an SSD will provide performance boosts in transferring files and opening other programs and applications. For gamers that are also video content creators, SSDs can move large video files much faster than video files and so they offer a significant advantage for video editors.

The bottom line is that, while SSDs aren’t the savior of gamers with low framerates, they do offer a nice performance boost across all applications and use cases.

SSDs & HDDs Aren’t Enemies… They’re Teammates

While it is easy to pit SSDs and HDDs against each other, the reality is that they both have their own flaws. SSDs are fast, but cost a lot more per GB than hard drives. Hard drives are slow, but cost a lot less than SSDs.

Fortunately, since you can use both an SSD and HDD in the same system, the best scenario in terms of the price you pay and the performance and storage capacity you get is to combine an SSD with an HDD.

By choosing a less expensive 250-500GB SSD and pairing it with a larger 1TB+ hard drive, you maximize your budget for both performance and storage capacity. You can use the SSD to hold your most important games and applications, and you can use your hard drive for mass storage of files and less-used programs.

Should You Put Your Games on Your SSD or HDD?

One common question that gamers who have both an SSD and an HDD ask is whether or not they should install their games on their SSD or their HDD. And, the answer to that question is, it depends.

Games that are installed on your SSD will load quicker than they will if they were installed on your HDD. And, so, there is an advantage to installing your games on your SSD instead of on your HDD.

So, as long as you have enough storage space available, it definitely makes sense to install your games on an SSD. If you are working with a limited amount of storage on your SSD, the best way to approach it would be to prioritize your most played games and used programs and install those on your SSD and then put everything else on your secondary hard drive.

Final Verdict: An SSD Won’t Give You Higher Framerates, But They Are Still Worth It for Gamers

If you are looking to build a budget-friendly gaming computer, or you want to upgrade your existing system to improve the performance you’re getting in games, choosing an SSD over a hard drive might not be the best use of your budget.

However, if you have a moderate budget to spend (either on building a new gaming computer or upgrading an aging system), adding an SSD will help your system (and games) load much faster and will help your computer feel quicker overall.

And, the best case scenario for gamers who can afford it is to pair an SSD with a traditional hard drive, as that will allow you to maximize your performance and storage capacity for the money you are spending.

Hey, I’m Brent. I’ve been building computers and writing about building computers for a long time. I’m an avid gamer and tech enthusiast, too. On YouTube, I build PCs, review laptops, components, and peripherals, and hold giveaways.

24 thoughts on “SSD vs HDD for Gaming: Do SSDs Make Your Games Run Faster?”

  1. Such a basic, basic article. It should be treated very much on a per game basis and let’s face it there are thousands of different game engines, game types out there. Texture sizes, world size, game optimisation etc should all come into play. My suggestion from years of experience, install a game on HDD first and see how it runs, if you are happy with load times, in game fluidity and have no other issues then leave it on the HDD. If you notice problems such as long load times, big fps drops when loading in assets etc try putting it on your SSD. If there is still no improvement you then know that it’s either down to the games optimisation or you have an underlying issue with how your PC is configured.

    Prime example of this, the game Sunset Overdrive (an open world action game) will stutter so badly on an SSD. It’s optimised for an HDD as a leftover from it’s console coding.

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