What should I put on my SSD and HDD?

When adding an SSD to a computer set up in combination with an HDD there are a lot of options available to you when it comes to the distribution of your data. In order to determine where to put your data across the different types, there are a few things that we should consider.

In general, it is most convenient to use an SSD for your operating system and apps and use HDDs for large data storage of your files, like music, photos, videos, etc… However, there are exceptions to this combination.

The combination outlined above serves as a pretty good standard to work from and is the one I use most often but there are certain files I will favor for one drive or the other that are exceptions to this combination.


Why does it matter where I put my files?

As the market grows for data storage the requirements for different storage solutions increase. This is because not all data is used in the same way and often requires specific requirements from the storage device to function at optimum. SSDs and HDDs offer different advantages over one another for different solutions so there is no one answer that can solve this conundrum, instead, we need to know what these advantages are and how they apply to our own individual circumstances.

On my Laptop I have an SSD start-up disk that houses my OS and most software, as well as an HDD that is home to all the project files I’m working on at the time. I then store all my archived projects on external drives which I periodically plug in to ensure they’re refreshed and all my personal files are stored in the cloud.

What are the benifits of SSD over HDD?

SSDs are a lot faster than HDDs, they are actually faster by a factor of 6. Where the fastest HDDs can read/write at around 0.5GB/s, standard SSDs can read/write at around 3 to 3.5GB/s. This is the first noticeable difference when comparing the two. The next thing to consider is SSDs have no moving parts, This means that SSDs aren’t prone to mechanical wear and are less likely to be damaged from day to day handling. SSDs also come in different form factors, you can buy SATA SSDs as well as M.2 SSDs which use the NVMe PCIe interface which offers optimum read/write speeds. M.2 SSDs are smaller than SATA drives and as a result, you can fit more of them inside a computer, that said this is usually restricted by the capacity for PCIe connections offered by the motherboard. One of the main limiting factors for SSDs is “write wear” which is the effect of high operational use reducing the lifespan of the SSD.

What are the benefints of HDD over SSD?

HDDs have stood the test of time, they were introduced in 1956 and have been the gold standard of data storage since then. They are a known entity and have been improved upon for decades, the latest HDDs are highly capable storage solutions. Although they are becoming less common at the consumer level (particularly in laptops) they are increasing in demand for enterprise data storage. They are very high capacity, this is especially important when you consider the Low price per GB they offer. They are a sensible choice when it comes to the day-to-day storage of information, and although not all HDDs are born equal, the more reliable brands make incredibly reliable HDDs that can have very long lifespans. Although they come with workload rates attached to them these are numbers that are recommendations rather than limits and an HDD can typically handle extremely large amounts of reads and writes.

Pros and cons for SSD and HDD storage.

SSD – Pros

  • Faster read/write speeds
  • No moving parts
  • Different form factors / interfaces
  • Smaller form factors
  • Durablility
  • Reliable
  • Easy to destroy (for security)

HDD – Pros

  • Over 60 years of improvements
  • High storage capacity
  • Low cost per GB
  • Relaiable
  • Long lifespans
  • High write cycles
  • Dont suffer from write wear
  • Easy to recover data
  • Usable in almost every computer

SSD – Cons

  • Higher cost per GB
  • Write wear reduces lifespan
  • Low lifespan estimates (tho based of warrenties not data)
  • Dont require defragmentation
  • Easy to destroy (for data loss)
  • Hard to recover data

HDD – Cons

  • Slower
  • larger form factors
  • reliability dependant on manufacturer
  • suffer mechanical failure.
  • Hard to erase data quickly
  • slow operation during failures
  • Can die unexpectedly

As you can see there are pros and cons on both sides and some of these will be a lot more relevant than others depending on your use case, but in general, we can condense these down to two factors, speed vs large data storage costs. It is pretty much always worth keeping these two things in mind when deciding how to spread your files across a combination of SSD and HDDs.

What files should I put on SSD?

Given the speed benefits of SSDs, it is a good idea to store data on them that you or your computer need regular access to. For your computer, this means that installing the operating system on your SSD will mean that it has access to all of the program files and OS files it needs in an instant. This results in super-fast boot times and can allow the software to run a lot faster.

Secondly, it is advisable to install your programs on the SSD, particularly data-hungry programs like games or editing software. This is because when you open a program or application it needs to load, the load time can be influenced by a number of things but one of them is how fast it can load from the hard drive, this means retrieving the files it needs and loading them into the RAM for operation.

Space on SSDs comes at a premium so the storage of documents, music, videos, and photos might not be worth the often limited resources we can afford to apply to an SSD. This differs when considering videos for editing, or music and graphics, where access to those files from a fast destination can speed up the entire process.

What files should I put on HDD?

Like an SSD you can put any files you like on an HDD, but there are preferential files to put there when considering using an SSD and HDD in combination. As stated above SSDs should be home to any file that could benefit from fast loading. Where HDDs come into their own is longevity and space. The cost per GB for HDDs is still less than SSDs even today and that means that the storage of films, music, photos, and videos should be allocated to your HDD. Typically you won’t need to access these files constantly and even when you do the humble speeds of HDDs are fast enough to handle them without noticeable delay.

What is the fastest combination to store files on SSD and HDD?

Typically the fastest option is the one that sees long loading time files stored on the SSD and minimal loading time files stored on the HDD. That can be different for different setups so let’s have a look at some examples and see what setup would be most beneficial.

Where should I put files for everyday use on SSD and HDD?

Everyday files can be stored on either and this comes down to a matter of how much space you have. I typically create a documents folder on each drive. In the SSD drive, I keep files that I want access to regularly that require bigger programs to open (though not exclusively), and on the HDD drive I keep everything else. The main thing to keep on an HDD is your cloud sync folder. Most cloud storage services offer a synced folder for your computer so when you add a file to it it is automatically synced to the cloud. This is a background process and most HDDs are going to be able to do this a lot faster than your internet connection can speed isn’t of the essence.

where should I put files for games on SSD and HDD?

If you have the space on your SSD then game files can be stored there. Bear in mind you want at least 20Gb of empty space on your C; drive for your computer to function efficiently. If you are limited on space then games can be stored on HDD without any issues, the only real difference you will notice is slower loading times as all the components of the game are loaded into each level. So long as you have sufficient RAM there should be few other effects on the gameplay itself. In fact, you can run games from external drives, we have an excellent article explaining that further… How to use an external drive for gaming.

Where should I put files for video editing on SSD and HDD?

So in this case your video editor should be installed on your SSD C: drive, your footage should be stored on your HDD and your video editing software cache should be allocated to a space on your SSD provided there is enough space to use it and maintain a healthy 20Gb of space for your OS to use. Most video editors use cached versions of your files that have been reduced in resolution in order to allow everything to work faster and smoother. These cache files are temporary and can easily be deleted without affecting your edit. If space is low on the SSD you can use the HDD but it will be a little bit slower and might have some lag time in playing.

Where should I put files for music creation on SSD and HDD?

Music DAW (Digital Audi Workstation) software uses the audio files directly from the main files, some will create temporary versions of the original file to save on computing. DAWs are CPU intensive especially when effects are added to the audio and can begin to use up big portions of your computer’s resources. Typically they will load the files into the RAM before playing for quick access so the bottleneck here depends on how many sounds you have in one file. I store all of my samples, instruments, and plugins on my HDD and it runs fine. If you have the space on an SSD then use it but bear in mind instrument library can be huge! The Omnisphere Library is 60Gb as standard!

Where should I put files for 3D compositing on SSD and HDD?

Graphics editors, both 2D and 3D can create huge data files. Typically the load times and save times are the only thing affected by which type of drive you use. It can be advisable to save the initial file onto the SSD while working on it and then to move it to an HDD when you have finished with it. This results in the quickest operating times for your software.