Can you have a Hard Drive and SSD? [Explained]

Everywhere you look you will see articles telling you that SSDs are the fastest most reliable and wonderful things on the planet, and well it’s true, they’re great and can give new life to otherwise useless computers, but you might not want to completely replace that HDD that has done you so well or that came with your computer… there is no sense throwing out a perfectly good hard drive….

You can have a hard drive and SSD on the same computer without any problems. So long as your computer has the hardware to plug in more than one drive, you are good to go. 

In this article, we will explain how to run them seamlessly and how to check what type of SSD’s you can actually use and why you may want to. 

Why should you use an HDD and an SSD?

There are plenty of use cases I can think of that might raise this question, but we are going to reduce it down to two factors, cost, and speed. These are the main two concerns when talking about these different types of drives because their usability is basically the same and for the most part they are just plug and play.

So with that in mind the answer to why you should is pretty simple, SSDs are faster and HDDs are cheaper meaning if you run your operating system off of a lower capacity SSD and store your data on a high capacity HDD you can get the most bang for your buck and have a super-fast operating system with a tonne of storage.

I am writing from my laptop right now that has this setup inside and it is lightning fast, It starts up from the 128GB SSD in around 5 seconds and runs very smoothly and I have 2TB of storage from the HDD. This setup made my laptop so much faster and didn’t cost me an arm and leg to upgrade.

This use case can be expanded further, HDDs make superior backup drives simply because they are cheaper, have a similar life span, and can store a lot more data for your money, making them more cost-effective to maintain and replace.

What types of HDD/SDD combinations can I use?

Well, any. But there are better ones…

I would highly recommend checking to see if your laptop or computer motherboard has an M.2 slot. This is a specific slot for M.2 hard drives which are only Solid State Drives, SSDs. It is a very fast interface, faster than SATA. And, it’s a dedicated SSD slot that will give you more options and more potential for storage from the SATA connections using HDDs.

If you don’t have an M.2 port then a 2.5″ SSD in the primary SATA slot is the best option. You can get a 128GB drive for under $100 these days.

Don’t have a spare slot at all? what about a DVD drive? I haven’t played a DVD for years now and wouldn’t hesitate to use that SATA port to run an SSD. There are plenty of adapters available to use as mounts depending on how your DVD drive is installed. Infact if I had a computer that had a DVD drive I would replace it for an HDD even if I was already running an SSD and HDD together. Storage is king!

Ok, so you have no DVD drive and no spare ports whatsoever! All is not lost as you can buy Hybrid drives, my friend. I have used them and in my experience, they are a pretty good middle ground and a great solution when ports are limited. 

If you are starting from scratch and building a computer then when you install your operating system use the SSD drive as your startup disk (c:).

If you already have a computer and you want to upgrade to an SSD startup disk then you will need to migrate your current one to this drive. This is pretty simple to do and I won’t go into it here. For an idea of how to start, seek out your computer manufacturer’s advice. And there is a tonne of how to’s out there on the internet.

Once you have that done use every other slot you have as HDD storage.

How to get the most out of using an HDD and SSD.

As outlined above, the key to this symbiotic relationship is to divide out the roles early on. So here is how I recommend setting up your drives in perfect harmony.

I am running a Windows laptop, I have an m.2 128GB SSD and a 2TB 2.5″ HDD inside.

Here is why I think that setup is perfect…

For Windows 10 it is recommended to have a (c:) drive that is 60GB or above. I would say above depending on what software you intend to use. This should give you adequate space for all your programs and a decent size cache. I use the Adobe Suite for my media work and they’re pretty hefty programs that require a large cache.

A cache is a folder containing program-specific preview files and metadata. These files are temporary and are generated by the software upon opening a project, or used when reopening a project. you can delete them to save space but they will need to be regenerated when you reopen a project. Most programs don’t use much but video editors use a lot. And when the cache folder gets full the disk slows down and so does your PC.

My operating system sits at about 60 – 70 GB and the rest of the disk is used for the cache to keep things running quickly.

Then we have my 2TB HDD (d:) drive. This is where I keep my footage and project files. I actually use a one-drive folder on this disk to store my data locally so it is also consistently backed up to cloud storage.

The key to this arrangement is to set your default folders like downloads, my pictures, my documents, etc… to reside on the (d:) drive, not the default (c:) drive. This way you keep storage to the HDD and system operations to the SSD.

Recommendations. 

Personally, I try to stick with one manufacturer for my internal drives so that if I need customer support more than once I know what to expect. As the computer industry keeps evolving so too do my recommendations so you can find links here to my most recent best of pages to help you find the best hard drive for your needs. 

Top M.2 SSD drives under $100

Conclusion.

Whatever reason you might have for wanting to use an SSD and an HDD together, rest assured that you can without any problems from doing so. They are interchangeable technology and although they physically work in very different ways their usability is exactly the same.

Each come with their own pro’s and con’s so utilizing both together is an excellent way to get the most out of each of them.  

My final thought, and I’ve said it a million times… BACK UP YOUR DATA!