In this article you will learn what you need to know to choose the best hard drive for your gaming PC. The hard drive is where all your files, programs, and games are stored. Obviously, the bigger the better, but there are other things to consider when choosing the right hard drive for your needs.
How Hard Drives Work
Hard drives store information by manipulating magnetic fields over the moving surface of a disk coated with a magnetic material. This use of magnetism to store information is very similar to how tape or video recorders work.
Each individual disk inside a hard drive is called a platter. Large hard drives contain several platters and use both sides of each platter for storage. The drive contains a motor that spins the platters at speeds from 5400 to 15,000 rotations per minute (RPM).
So basically, the faster a drive spins, the faster you can access and transfer data. Most of the best hard drives these days have a speed of 7200rpm. You don’t want anything less than this, as you will notice annoying delays between reading and writing data, eg when loading your games.
Hard drives usually come with extra cache memory built into the drive for even faster loading. Drives with 32MB or even 64MB of cache will usually run very fast, but you don't need huge amounts of cache memory in reality, and picking a hard drive with less cache memory such as 8MB or 16MB is fine.
Hard Drive Interface
The hard drive interface is the hardware that manages the exchange of data between a computer and the hard drive. The most common interface used is ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment). ATA comes in two forms, the original ATA (also known as Parallel ATA, or PATA) and the newer, faster SATA (Serial ATA). When choosing your hard drive, make sure your motherboard supports the interface of your hard drive which will most likely be SATA.
What Size Do You Need?
Hard drives come in all different sizes, but if you are playing the latest games I would get a decent size to store your games as they can take up quite a bit of space. Also consider how many pictures, videos, and music you will be storing on the computer aswell.
For a gaming PC where you will be installing many large games, I would suggest getting at least a 250GB hard drive, or 500GB or more to be even safer and more future-proof.
Stick To Trusted Brand Names
If you want peace of mind that you are buying a quality product and have the best chance of avoiding problems with your hard drive, I would highly recommend sticking to a trusted manufacturer such as Western Digital, Hitachi, and some Seagate models.
What About Solid State Drives?
Solid state drives (SSDs) are fairly new on the scene and contain new storage technology to take loading times to a whole new level. With an SSD you will experience the very fastest loading speeds possible, but they are quite a bit more expensive at the moment.
The price of solid state drives are slowly coming down, but they are a great choice if you have a little extra to spend on your custom PC because the advantages over standard drives are very noticeable. Check out our Solid State Hard Drive Buying Guide for more about SSDs. What a lot of people do these days is buy a smaller SSD for loading the OS, and use a larger standard hard drive for your files.
So to sum it all up if you want the best hard drive for your gaming PC, go for a drive with at least 7200rpm, preferably from a trusted manufacturer, and large enough for your needs. And if you have the money to spend, consider an SSD for better performance.