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What Is The Best Storage For A Gaming PC In 2021?

The latest games use more storage than ever before, so we compared the best performing SSD and HDD storage for gaming PCs in 2021.

If a game becomes a huge seller then you can usually assume you’re going to need a huge amount of storage available for the installation. With cloud gaming still gathering steam, PC gamers are still looking at local storage on SSD and HDD for their shiny new AAA purchase. Fast, reliable SSD is coming down slowly in price, but the cost is still much higher per gigabyte than HDD – so the most favourable method among gamers is using a hybrid SSD and HDD solution to get the best of both worlds.

Right now (in 2021) you’re paying anywhere between £16 and £320 per gigabyte for SSD storage. Conversely, SATA HDDs are priced extremely well at around £0.017 per gigabyte for an internal HDD…

CCLOnline.com

 

Purple RGB lit gaming PC with Warzone Modern Warfare loading screen.

 

The Many Curses Of The AAA Game

It’s not just available storage and installation size that cause problems for PC gamers. Even with a gaming rig that could power the International Space Station, you’ll find that the best way to get optimal results is by tweaking everything and doing storage related research on the game you’re planning on buying.

Game Specific Storage Issues

Some AAA titles released in 2020 and 2021 needed up to 105GB (CoD Warzone), so some gamers were left with no choice but to upgrade their storage. Worse still, Call of Duty Warzone actively uses a paging file, which is used even if your PC has decent memory allocations of 16GB RAM. This effectively means if your gaming PC has both SSD and HDD drives, the CoD paging file might be set to use your old/slow HDD and not your faster SSD. This causes in-game stuttering when the game is swapping pages.

There is a solution to paging file errors in CoD Warzone on Reddit for those who don’t know, but these are some of the game specific tripping hazards to look out for.

SSD Causing Games To Stutter

Even when you spend a fortune on a super-fast SSD, using it for daily stuff like spreadsheets and finally writing that screenplay in MS Word will cause you problems later on with big game installs. Some users reported in-game stuttering and BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) errors with games like Cyberpunk 2077 – even with fresh game installs, and after performing Windows Updates.

The reason SSDs cause stuttering in games is down to system file corruption. Again, this can be fixed – this time with an OS reinstall, but it’s the last thing you want when you’re looking forward to playing a £60 game.

Fast PC But Very Low FPS

Apex Legends is a game that needs very little introduction, but one interesting fact is that pro gamers are really only interested in one thing with this game – FPS. By tweaking settings to get the best frames per second, this enables the player to react the fastest and play with optimal performance. We created a guide to boost FPS in Apex Legends if you’re curious about this.

To get the best FPS in your games, you need only check what the pros are doing, and you can do this on websites like ProSettings.net and ProSettings.com.

Everything Else

There are quite a few other problems you’ll face with AAA titles until patches and updates become available, though you can pretty much guarantee somebody else is having the exact same problem. The best option – if you get any problems with your SSD or HDD beside lack of storage – is to look at the publisher’s own forums for help. EA’s dedicated forums and Square Enix support section, for example, both have public forums where gamers share tips and tweaks for their AAA games. Other publishers will have something similar for their titles, too.

Storage For A Gaming PC

I’m not a fan of Gladiatorial combat as a rule, but if there was any way to decide the age-old SSD vs HDD argument by having it duked out by Redditors in an arena, I’d buy a front row ticket.

 

Reddit drama unfolding as users discuss SSD vs HDD for gaming storage.

 

...and this is just a mild example because our blog has younger readers.

To save you some time in sifting through the drama, here’s a brief overview as a buyers guide.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD) – “I Might Be Slower, But I’m Cheap”

The humble Hard Disk Drive (HDD), using lots of moving parts and platters typically made using an aluminium, glass or ceramic substrate, is the oldest storage technology that is still both reliable and cheap. An HDD operates using a spinning magnetic platter, storing and retrieving data at various speeds using a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. The most common motherboard SATA versions are SATA 2 and SATA 3. The latest version - released in 2009 - is SATA 3, which has a cable bandwidth throughput of up to 600MB/s (4.8 Gbit/s).

HDDs are available in large capacities and are also affordable for most budgets, but they take up more physical space in your case and are less reliable than their newer, shinier cousins – the SSD.

Solid State Drive (SSD)—"I’m Fast, But I’m Expensive”

The latest SSD drives are constantly being scrutinised in terms of performance, mainly due to how manufacturers market their technology. Without research, you might end up purchasing a drive that is pitched as being the fastest available, only to realise it’s just the fastest SSD in that specific form factor.

Form factors have a significant difference in terms of bandwidth throughput.

SATA 3 SSD – Very common on modern boards. Good for up to 600MB per second.

PCIe SSD –The fastest PCIe SSD drives such as the Intel Optane can operate at 2400MB/s Read, 1800MB/s write speeds.

M.2 SSD – This form factor interfaces with PCIe, SATA or USB 3.0, so high-end drives using M.2 protocol can transfer at almost 3,500MB/s using the NVMe interface. Favoured by professional or hardcore gamers. Corsair, however, recently smashed this speed record.

 

Intel Optane super fast SSD storage for gaming.

 

NVMe SSD is the best option for performance conscious gamers, and if you’ve been keeping an eye on the news lately, Corsair’s new MP600 PRO XT Gen4 PCIe x4 NVMe M.2 SSD is no doubt in your crosshairs if you want the best of the best, hitting more than 7,000MB/s sequential read, and almost the same in write speed.

The MP600 PRO XT boasts extreme performance paired with exceptional cooling and compatibility, breaking the 7,000MB/sec barrier with up to 7,100MB/sec sequential read and 6,800MB/sec sequential write speeds*, as well as more than one million input/output operations per second (IOPS). The MP600 PRO XT is built with high-density 3D TLC NAND, delivering both great performance and endurance – up to 3,000TB Written. Leading-edge PCIe Gen4 technology ensures that your drive achieves maximum bandwidth, and backward-compatibility with PCIe Gen3 gives you the versatility to bring fast storage to a host of systems.”

Corsair

 

A Corsair MP600 PRO XT SSD with 7100MB/s Sequential Read.

 

Image Courtesy of Corsair.com

The small print isn’t that scary, either, stating “Lower performance on PCIe Gen3.” – which is to be expected.

With no moving parts, SSD is more reliable, but you will pay a premium for that reliability, as you can see. When you factor in super-ultra-mega performance like the MP600 PRO XT, you can expect your wallet to burst into tears. A 2TB version of this drive will cost over £400 according to some sources.

Other factors to consider:

DRAM is also something to familiarise yourself with if you’re in the market for an SSD. You can find out more about DRAM here.

So...Which Storage Do I Need In My Gaming PC?

The simple answer is this: You should have both.

Having both SSD and HDD storage enables you to utilise mass storage as well as running faster SSD technology for the heavy lifting that newer, bigger games demand.

The trick is to ensure you only use your SSD for priority applications and games. The only thing you should store on an SSD (if you’re hoping to use it for gaming) is:

  • Operating System
  • Games
  • Video streaming apps (for games)

No, seriously, that’s it.

Even if you are using your PC for photo editing, video editing or CAD – you don’t need to install them on SSD. An HDD will run these applications just fine and store all the temporary files that are generated on there too. SSD drives are not ideal for temporary files generated by graphics programs or office packages, so you should consider installing them on a mass storage device. You won’t suffer in terms of performance if you have a decent processor and memory (and if you’re a gamer, chances are you check these boxes).

The truth is you will probably only play one or two games at any time, so this method is easier than you think. Plus, if the game does not have giant maps and textures – there’s no point clogging up your SSD with it when an HDD will suffice.

Ask yourself this:

  • What kind of games will I play?
  • Does it really need an SSD?

Loading Screens and Textures Rule

A good rule of thumb is to think about loading screens and textures. If the game has these in abundance, then it would benefit from being installed on an SSD. Anything else is good with HDD mass storage.

As an example, if you play big open world games with gorgeous graphics, then releases such as upcoming game, Dying Light 2 Stay Human, might benefit from being installed on SSD. At around 65GB, this game will fit on any SSD if you have prioritised apps correctly.

In addition, if you play slow paced games such as The Sims, you could install the game on your SSD, while keeping the accessible data folder on your HDD. This benefits you in two ways: you get faster load times and don’t clog your SSD up with data files.

Rocket League is a great example of a game that does not benefit from SSD storage. With few loading screens, this game obeys our little rule of thumb nicely.

Grand Theft Auto is a shining example of the loading screen & textures rule. Rockstar put so many into this game that you would think I created this rule based on GTA alone.

So, how do you know if the game has lots of loading screens and textures? YouTube is your friend. Simply check out a review before you purchase your new AAA title, and you will know right away. Also, check the system requirements (which appear on all games) to see just how much storage you’ll need.

Don’t forget – if you’re only playing two games at any one time, then you will be fine with around 500GB of SSD storage.

1TB SSD drives start at around £70, so they are not really close to bank breaking territory anyway. Considering the requirements of games like Warzone (175GB)/GTA V (65GB), 1TB will cover you for two or three modern games that have huge, Bigfoot-sized footprints.

 

Western Digital Blue SN550 1TB SSD Drive for Gaming Storage.

 

The Perfect Storage Setup For A Gaming PC

To sum up, your perfect storage setup is to have around 1TB of SSD and whatever HDD storage you can afford, allowing you to move games around whenever you need to. 4TB should be enough for most gamers to shelve their lesser played games until they fancy a replay.

CCL’s most popular SATA 3 HDD is the Samsung SkyHawk 4TB, priced at an affordable £80.

 

Samsung SkyHawk 4TB SATA HDD for Gaming Storage.

 

hat means, for an extremely good gaming PC setup that is also extremely efficient – you only need to spend around £150 on an SSD and HDD combo which will last you around 5 years with normal use.

If you’re interested in the SSD vs HDD argument, you can check out our article: SSD vs. HDD: Myths, Lies And Terabytes.