SSD vs HDD for HTPC & Gaming – Performance or Capacity


In recent years solid state or SSD disks have burst onto the scene offering a different angle to storage provisioning in our home computers. Prior to this, desktop storage devices were continually growing in size with ever increasing capacities. Then as solid state arrived capacities dropped with a shift in favor of performance. In this article we will look at the battle of SSD vs HDD for HTPC media center use and how each device can benefit your solution. We also put forward the best ways to take advantage of the different technology types. With an increasing number of HTPC users moving into the gaming arena we will also discuss the SSD vs HDD for gaming options available.

Internal Hard Drive Selection

The price compare table below provides a selection of top SSD & HDD devices.

SanDisk SSD Plus 240GB Solid State
Samsung SSD Plus 240GB Hard Drive
240GB SSD. Faster boot-up, shutdown, application load & response of PC. Up to 20X faster than standard drives. Read/write speeds up to: 530MB/s/440MBs. Cool quiet operation.
Samsung SSD 850 EVO Solid State
Samsung SSD Evo Hard Drive
500GB SSD Storage. Samsung’s 3D-Vertical NAND technology for even better performance. Secure data with AES 256 encryption, Dynamic thermal guard protection.
Western Digital 4TB Green SATA
WD 4TB Green Hard Drive
64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb speed. Reduced 40% power consumption. Low temperature & noise. 4 TB, 800,000 photos, 1,000,000 MP3 files, 300 hours of HD video. 2 year limited warranty.

SSD vs HDD for HTPC & Gaming – Performance or Capacity

When selecting a hard drive for any HTPC device it is important that you decide on the needs of your system. If you are building a device that is to be used solely for online streaming then you will benefit from a high level of performance. If you are building a system on which you are intending to store a vast array of movies, audio files or game installations then your attention should turn to capacity. In the SSD vs HDD for HTPC battle there are key areas of difference; Performance, Capacity & Price and we will address each of these in turn. Before we move on it is important that we define each of the two device types. [Read: Gaming On Your HTPC]


SSD – Solid State Drive

In essence a solid state drive or SSD is a storage device with no moving parts. Data is stored on chips rather than a disk providing much faster access times. [Read: Best Motherboard for Gaming]

HDD – Hard Disk Drive

When we talk about a hard disk drive or HDD we are looking at traditional storage devices with an internal rotating disk. [Read: Top Mini ITX Cases for the Smallest HTPC Build]

Performance & Read/Write Speeds

Without doubt an SSD device will improve the performance of your HTPC system. With modern devices running the Windows 10 OS, storage devices are the most common cause of slow performance. Switching your system to an SSD will provide a noticeable speed increase in all most all operations of your solution. The average boot time of a Windows 10 device running on an SSD is just 15 Seconds from power-on to desktop. for standard HDD devices this is significantly slower at 30+ seconds. You will also find a seamless transition between applications and tools within the operating system. [Read: SanDisk SSD Plus 240GB Solid State Hard Drive Price Compare & Review]

SSD vs HDD for Gaming
Solid State Drive

The performance of solid state devices is significantly better due to the lack of moving parts in the device. Your computer does not need to wait for the spinning of disks and the read/write times are dictated by the performance of the microchips and electrical components. Opt for an SSD if you want a performance system. A solid state device will provide you with speed, fluency and rapid boot times. [Read: Samsung SSD 850 EVO Price Compare & Review]

Storage Capacity & Space for Media Files

Although an SSD will provide you with a fast system the devices are leagues behind HDDs in terms of storage capacity. At the top end of the desktop SSD device range you will find disk sizes of around 1TB. Whereas with standard HDDs you can go all the way up to a 6TB! Larger devices in both categories are available but not at price points that are realistic to the home consumer. If you are looking at SSD vs HDD for gaming options then a standard high capacity HDD may be better suited to you. Game installs can be hefty and large game collections require space! It is the storage capacities of standard HDDs that keep them in the game. It will be some time before the solid state disks catches up in terms of available space at affordable prices. [Read: Western Digital WD 4TB Green Hard Drive Price Compare & Review]

SDD or HDD for HTPC Use
Standard SATA HDD

Price Per GB

More often than not the decision on hardware purchases comes down to price. Both SSDs and HDDs can be picked up in the same price bands but vary in terms of performance & capacity. When you are looking at SSD vs HDD for HTPC consider the price per GB. At the time of writing a 1TB SSD device can be purchased for around $230 (£171.68) whereas its HDD counterpart can be picked up for just $45 (£33.59). That is a total of 17 cents per GB for an SSD device and 5 cents per GB for HDD. With SSD drives you are paying a premium for the transfer rates and rapid read/write speeds that the device delivers. [Read: Best NAS for Plex – A Network Media Server]

Hybrid Devices – A Bit of Both

If you are looking at SSD vs HDD for gaming or HTPC systems that will store large volumes of media files then there is the option of a hybrid hard drive. A hybrid drive is kind of like a combination of both device types. They are intelligent devices that have the ability to identify commonly used files on your system. Each device has a small area of solid state storage and a larger spinning disk. The hybrid device will transfer your most commonly used files to the solid state area and everything else will remain in the high capacity disk. This usually means that your operating system files are given a performance boost and the larger storage area is used for your HTPC content. [Read: How to Make Windows Boot Faster]

If you are considering a hybrid hard drive ensure that you read the reviews and find an option that delivers. Some make little difference to the performance of your system. [Read: How to Auto Logon Windows 10]

HMP Verdict – SSD vs HDD for Gaming & HTPC

Going back to the very start of this SSD vs HDD for HTPC post it is important that you identify the needs of your system before making your decision. If you seek performance, want rapid boot times and want everything delivered to you on command then go with SSD. If you collect movies, music or games and have massive file libraries then take the capacity that the standard HDD offers. [Read: How to Autostart Kodi on Windows 10 with Launcher4Kodi]

We recommend SSD for the following HTPC types:

• HTPC’s for online streaming.
• Digital music jukebox’s .
• Movie HTPC’s with small file libraries.
Retro gaming HTPCs.
• HTPC’s with an external NAS device for media.

We recommend standard HDD for the following HTPC types:

• HTPC’s with huge movie collections.
Gaming HTPC’s
• Media Servers (See our Plex Media Server & Kodi DLNA Guides)

Want the best of both worlds? If you have the space in your HTPC case and don’t mind the additional expense then we suggest that you install both device types into your system. Use a small SSD drive for your operating system files and a standard HDD device for your media libraries. Using this approach you get to enjoy the performance of SSD but with the capacity of HDD. [Read: Best PC Game Controllers for HTPC – Emulators & Steam]