How to Find the Best Hard Drive for Your Gaming Needs

How to Find the Best Hard Drive for Your Gaming Needs

So you want to buy a hard drive for your gaming PC, but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While companies in this industry are attempting to streamline the buying process with specialized cards for different tasks, marketing each accordingly, they’re still failing to grasp the attention or the understanding of the average consumer in most cases. But hey, that’s where I come in. 

Games these days are becoming larger and larger, and with frequent updates (oftentimes very large ones) becoming the norm in the industry, PC gamers are being forced to migrate to larger, faster drives to support it all.  It can be tough to figure out, but here we’ll run through the basics of what hard drive you should be buying for gaming, and why. 

You’ll be a pro in no time, and hopefully have a shiny new hard drive to boot.

First off, are you using a desktop PC or a laptop?

pc

While it often may not cross people’s minds, the majority of laptops do have upgradeable storage. It may not be the most convenient, or simple of tasks, but certainly doable, and there are smaller drives built especially for our beloved portable machines. 

If your laptop does not allow upgrades, or you simply don’t want to get your hands dirty and probably void your warranty, it’s always good to at least know what to look out for when purchasing one. This guide will help you with that. 

For laptops, you’ll want to be looking at what are called 2.5-inch drives, named… Well, after the sizing. They’re smaller and typically offer lesser performance due to this, but it doesn’t stop some seriously good ones existing. You’ll see most consoles using this sizing also, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this is the area to be putting your researching efforts into. 

On the other end of things, we have the larger 3.5-inch drives. These are used in desktop PCs and due to the larger sizing, are quite a bit better in most areas, especially storage sizes.

But what about SSD?  

The big brother, and ultimately the successor to the hard drive, the SSD, is vastly superior in just about every aspect. It stands for solid-state drive, meaning it has no moving parts. 
It stores data using flash memory, rather than reading and writing memory on a disc of sorts, as you would see in a traditional hard drive, or HDD as it is often shortened to. 

SSD is in most cases, vastly more expensive than HDD, but if you’re willing to take the plunge then it is absolutely worth looking into. 

Okay, but what is an SSHD?

ssd

Oh yup, there’s another one. An SSHD, or “Solid-state hybrid drive” is exactly what it sounds like really. A hard drive, with some solid-state memory thrown in there. 

A good way to imagine this is like a hybrid car, so it mostly uses petrol, right? But for kicks into being electric when possible to do so. An SSHD is similarly clever in how it operates. 

The added solid-state memory inside this drive is there to handle the applications you use most frequently. Quite cleverly, it will pick up on what you use the most, and allocate space for operating it within the solid-state memory, so those things you use all the time will run that bit quicker. Handy, right?

It’s a nice middle-ground for those who want a boost in performance in certain areas, but aren’t willing to pay for a full SSD. 

Where to start?

Generally, when looking for a hard drive, most people will go to the likes of WD or Seagate first and have a gander at their offerings. 

This is also, however, where the confusion begins in most cases. Both companies offer very similar products, that do essentially the very same things. Both are colour-coded too, in an attempt to ease the consumers aching head. 
It doesn’t work very well in my experience. My thoughts are usually “If your mom can’t figure out which to buy with any certainty, then your marketing is failing”. 

Colors, colors everywhere

At a glance, you’ll notice that WD and Seagate take an extremely similar approach in tackling the problem of consumer confusion. Both companies line their products up on the page in a similar order, and both colour-code them. 

For instance, WD “blue” drive is their drive aimed at the average PC user, though it offers some decent performance anyway. Similarly, on Seagates side of things, their drives are both color-coded and named after beasts, so for instance, the “Barracuda” is their more basic drive, but in this case, it is fully marketed as a gaming drive. 

The reason for this is that their next offering up the line is the “Firecuda”, which is an SSHD. This would offer better performance, but at the cost of being more expensive, and not having larger sizing options. 
Back on WD’s side of things, the step up from the “blue” drive is their “black” drive. This one is marketed toward those who game and want their drive to be doing some heavier lifting than perhaps the average user would need.

So… You see what I mean? It’s a terribly confusing mess, and in an industry that is forever evolving and expanding, these names get swapped around and changed and for someone who only passively observes, it’s hard to keep up with.  For someone who stays out of the loop altogether, I imagine this guide is their only hope! *sweats* 

What is RPM?

RPM, or “Revolutions per minute” is the rate at which a standard hard drive (HDD) spins. The faster it spins, the faster the hard drive is at reading data.  So if you’re looking for a traditional hard drive for gaming, its important that you pay attention to the RPM, as you’ll want a faster one to boot up those games as fast as possible.

This isn’t a factor when buying SSD though, as there isn’t a disc to spin at all. However, if you’re looking at hybrid drives (SSHD) you should note that the RPM is far less important of a factor. With the added SSD portion of these drives being so efficient at pinpointing the data you use most frequently and conveniently storing it in that section, you’ll find yourself happily reaping the benefits of the much faster SSD section more than you might expect. 

What is cache?

cache memory

Cache, or buffer data, is, in a nutshell, the middle-ground between the hard drive and the PC. Data is sent and held there to be transferred to the PC and vice versa. Therefore, the bigger the cache size, the more memory can be stored and sent at any given time. 

It’s a good thing to have, and worth looking out for if you’re expecting to be doing a lot of file transfers.  As usual with these things, the bigger the number, the better!

So then, what do I recommend?

As is always the case with computer parts, it’s a tricky question. I’ll run through some recommendations for both HDD and SSHD drives, and try to find some price points that could work for everyone. 

SSD is somewhat of a different market, and for the sake of not making things overly complicated, we’ll discount them from the running in this article.  But again, they’re worth looking into if you have the wallet to back you up. 

Drives for a laptop or console user with (2.5 inch)

Seagate Firecuda 2.5 inch (editors choice)

seagate

If you’re looking to upgrade your internal laptop storage, or simply looking to breathe some life into an older machine, the Seagate Firecuda 2.5 inch variant is a brilliant option, and will certainly serve you well for storing and quickly running a large library of games. 

It’s available in sizes starting at 500GB, ranging all the way up to 2TB, which honestly isn’t so bad, considering it is a hybrid drive (SSHD). 

It comes with a beefy five-year warranty too, so you can buy knowing that your hard-earned cash isn’t going to be wasted in any capacity.

You can check it out here:

(do ensure that you’re looking at the 2.5 inch model, and simply click “find retailer” for an overview of stores that stock it near you).

WD Blue 2.5 inch

WD Blue 2.5 inch

 

Probably the most popular and widely circulated of WD’s drives, the “blue” version, offers decent and reliable performance at a reasonable price.  It’s not tweaked to excel in any particular area and is thus the most versatile I suppose, of WD’s offerings. 

We’re talking gaming here though, and when it comes to that, it’s definitely a good option, but with the “Black” version, which we’ll get to in just a minute, being only a small price jump up, I’d probably recommend that first.

However, some of us are on very tight budgets, and for those who are, this is a perfectly good hard drive. It’s available in sizes ranging from 500GB to 2TB, which is decent stuff for a 2.5-inch drive.

WD Black 2.5 inch

WD Black 2.5 inch

For those who want to go that little bit further. Assuming you can afford to spend that little bit extra, the WD Black will provide you with a faster experience. It’s tweaked to provide the ideal performance for gaming, coming with a nice 7200 RPM. It’s available in sizes ranging from 250GB to 1TB. 

The best drives for gaming for desktop (3.5 inches)

Toshiba X300

Toshiba X300

The Toshiba X300 is one of those drives that’s hard to recommend due to its rather terrifying pricing. This HDD most certainly sits in the more premium side of the market and isn’t exactly aimed at the average consumer. However, that doesn’t make it any less of a great drive. 

It spins at a brilliant 7200 RPM, and… Due to the non-consumer-friendly market, this drive operates in, the storage sizes start at a staggering 4TB, and move all the way up to 10TB. 

That’s a ludicrous amount of storage, and honestly, this drive is a tough recommendation for most people, but for those seeking huge amounts of storage and fast read/write speeds on an HDD, this is the drive for you. 

Seagate Firecuda

Much like the 2.5-inch variant, the Seagate Firecuda offers great performance in a tidy little package.  With the 3.5 inch version, of course, comes much larger drive sizes, ranging from 1TB to 4TB, and with modern games getting bigger and bigger in file size, it’s always good to know that you’ll have space for the next big game in your favorite series. 

The Seagate Firecuda packs in the same five-year warranty as on its smaller counterpart, so you can sit back and game worry-free. 

You can check it out here:

(just be sure that you’re clicking into the 3.5 inch option when doing your purchasing).

WD Black (editors choice)

WD Black

Just like the 2.5-inch version mentioned above, WDs offering here is a standard HDD built with two cores for faster loading of games and large files. It’s available in sizes ranging from 500GB all the way up to an extremely impressive 6TB. 

With a solid 7200 RPM, this is an all-round fantastic drive, with everything you could possibly need for loading and storing your ever-expanding and extensive games library. And with up to 6TB options available, Steam will love you forever. 

 

Brand

Name

Size

Memory

RPM

Cache

 

Seagate

FireCuda

2.5 inch

2TB, 1TB, 500GB

Not stated, but not as important in an SSHD

128MB

 

WD

Blue

2.5 inch

500GB, 1TB, 2TB

5400

8MB, 16MB, 128MB

 

WD 

Black

2.5 inch

250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 1TB

7200

16MB, 32MB

 

Toshiba

X300

3.5 inch

4TB, 5TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB

7200

128MB

 

Seagate

FireCuda

3.5 inch

2TB, 1TB

Not stated, but not as important in an SSHD

128MB

 

WD

Black

3.5 inch

1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB, 6TB

7200 

64MB, 128MB, 256MB

What about external hard drives?

external hard drives

For a lot of people, another great option may be to just go with your typical external hard drive. 

These generally connect via USB and are super portable, so they can be a great option for anyone who has multiple computers and wants to carry their games about with them.

Being external, and not directly attached to the PC itself though, comes with some issues many gamers may be wise to avoid.  The most common of these, naturally, is reduced speed. Having to send the data through a wire into the PC leads to things loading slower, and for games, this may be a deal-breaker. 

Of course, there’s always the worry of a disconnect during gameplay too. However, for many people, the worry of losing or disconnecting the device may not be a worry at all, and for those people, this is a great way to take your games on the go. WD offers a wide array of high quality external hard drives, and you can’t go too far wrong with any of them honestly. 

If you simply want to connect up to the likes of a PS4 or an Xbox One, then this is the most common way to expand storage, and it works perfectly. (I use one myself). 

You need only plug it in and format it for the system, and you’ll be away. So, hopefully, you’re more aware of what to look out for now. Perhaps you’ve even decided on what drive to buy! If not, hopefully, you’re at least headed down a clearer road and have a better idea of what to look out for. 

What do you think? Have I missed any obvious drives, or do you disagree with my recommendations? Well, I’d love to hear what you have to say! 

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